Avoid the freshman fifteen

Tips to stay healthy in college from the perspective of a college student.

October 4, 2016 - Author: Sarah Sleziak Johnson, Michigan State University Extension and Torei Kulpinski, MSU Extension Intern

Most have heard of the freshman fifteen, in reference to the pounds that college students gain during the first year away from home. The weight gained by college freshman when entering college is often attributed to the lifestyle changes that occur as a result of the move.

Helpful tips from Michigan State University senior, Torei Kulpinski

Eat right. Get enough sleep. Avoid caffeine. Exercise. Don’t stress. These five tips to staying healthy sound pretty simple, right? Well, I can tell you that from a college student’s point of view, it’s not easy. When you’re up at 2 a.m. cramming for an 8 a.m. genetics exam, the last thing on your mind is how unhealthy it would be to eat about 20 pizza rolls... trust me, I’ve been there.

I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I’ve been able to come up with some better tips from the perspective of a college student.

  1. Make a routine: High stress can cause a number of different issues from gain weight to sleeping less, and if those issues can lead to even more stress, it can be an ugly cycle. For me, schedules put my mind at ease. If I can get myself to follow a routine, I feel a lot more relaxed. For example, get up and eat breakfast, go to class regularly, set-up a study plan to avoid last minute cramming, and squeeze in a quick workout.
  2. Have healthy dinners: I know how easy it is to put a Hot Pocket in the microwave and call it dinner. I’ve learned that it’s much easier when living alone to drift towards that kind of eating habit. But I’ve come to realize that if I make a large meal at the beginning of the week and portion it out for the rest of the week, I’m eating healthier, saving money and saving the time I would have to spend cooking each night.
  3. Walk or bike: I know Michigan State’s campus is huge, but try to find the time to walk or bike to class. It’s an easy way to get 20 minutes of exercise and avoid the crowded CATA bus. It’s also a way to help clear your mind if you’re feeling a little stressed out.
  4. Find a workout buddy: It’s so much more fun to work out if you have someone to do it with and someone to encourage you. Try to get your roommate to go to the gym or maybe someone who has a similar schedule, it’s a great motivation booster.
  5. Take study breaks: Cramming for exams can put a lot of stress on your brain. If I have a long day of studying ahead of me, I make sure to take plenty of study breaks. Get up and walk around, go socialize with your roommates or maybe go grab some dinner; these are just a few ways to give your brain a break. I also make sure that while I’m studying I drink plenty of water and have nuts or some vegetables to snack on. Avoid the caffeine and energy drinks, they will make you crash.

Making sure to eat healthy food and drinking water are important for a healthy body. The United State Department of Agriculture has its own tips follow for students: 10 Tips for the Dining Hall, 10 Tips to Stay Fit on Campus, and 10 Tips for Your Mini Fridge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers Tips for College Health and Safety as well. Hopefully these tips will help make staying healthy at college a bit easier. For more information about reducing stress, physical actitivy and making healthy food and beverage choices visit Michigan State University Extension.

Tags: food & health, msu extension, weight management

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