Crash course for first-year students: Defeating Freshmen 15

James Jaskolka, Assistant Online Editor

You’ve heard its name before. You might even know someone who has been affected by it.
Its legend lives in infamy, filling young men and women alike with the same kind of pale-faced terror, sending shivers down the spine of students across the country, and if you aren’t careful, it could sneak up on you when you least expect it.
I’m speaking, of course, of the notorious Freshmen 15.
If you’re not familiar with the folklore, the freshman fifteen refers to the weight students sometimes pack on during their first year of college.
Between the SUB’s sometimes limited options (“Do I want pizza, or French fries?”), the convenience of fast food and a love for late-night snacks, it’s not a big surprise that many students leave a little heftier than they arrived.
However,  there are ways to cheat the system: Not only can you avoid gaining the weight, you can easily drop some extra pounds —  most of the time without any dramatic changes to your diet. Just by just subtly adjusting your habits, you can surely see progress.
While I am by no means a health expert, these small changes really can help make a big difference, and if you keep these three simple tips in mind, you’ll at least be successful in warding off the freshmen 15.
1. Be Conscious of What You Eat: If you grew up in a stricter household, you ate whatever was put in front of you, whether it’s salad or a cheeseburger. In college though, you get to decide what to put in your body. This means you should try to really be aware of what you’re eating.
Start trying to incorporate fruits or vegetables into every meal you eat; have an apple with your eggs in the morning or hit the salad bar on your way to the pizza line. After you get used to doing this, try to take it a step farther by recognizing when you’re eating poorly and substituting healthier options.
2. Don’t Drink Your Calories: The average college student burns about 2,000 calories a day. So if you’re trying to avoid putting on weight, it’s important to monitor the amount of calories you take in.
When working with a limited number, you want to avoid empty calories – food or drinks without nutritional value, like donuts or sugary drinks. So cut back on the soda. Better yet, cut it out completely. Didn’t you listen to your parents? It’s liquid sugar, and it rots your teeth. Instead, drink water. If that’s too bland, pick up some Crystal Light for a low-calorie soda substitution. Coffee is practically the lifeblood of college students.
That’s fine. But maybe cut back on the large iced mocha-french-caramel-cinnamon-bun lattes (or at least hold the whipped cream).
3. Be More Active: If you’re the kind of person who thrives off physical activity, then hit the gym and you’ll see great results. However, you can become more active without straining yourself.
It’s as easy as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking advantage of  a beautiful day to walk across the bridge to Kirby Park. Find a friend and play a pick-up game of basketball — anything to keep yourself moving.
Conquering the Freshmen 15 isn’t like passing organic chemistry — it’s doable. Eat better, but don’t stress yourself out. Watch your calories, take the stairs and cut back on the soda.
If you’re persistent and smart, you can overcome the beast and soar into next summer looking as good as you did when you left.