Fighting the Freshman Fifteen - A College Woman's guide to Getting Real About Food and Keeping the Pounds Off


Excerpt from Chapter 1: Welcome to Campus!

Join us for an orientation around campus that promises to answer the one question every freshman girl has: "How can I avoid gaining weight in my first year away at college?" We know you have anticipated this semester with a mixture of joy and fear, and we are prepared to put those fears to rest. Understanding how and why the Freshman Fifteen happen is half the battle in keeping them from trying to squeeze into your jeans with you by Christmas break.

Too Much Food

First there is the little matter of the pre-paid dining card. Eating in an all-you-can eat buffet every meal is a like holding a one way ticket to the freshman fifteen if you don't observe some self-control. In your college cafeteria you will face endless quantities of bagels, pasta, frozen yogurt, muffins, French fries, and chocolate chip cookies, and you may take all that you want. Your mother is not going to be at the end of the line to check your tray and make sure you also took a piece of fruit and some protein to balance your meal. How about a carton of milk with that Cap'n Crunch? Truth is, you can eat nothing but carbs morning, noon and night , but if you do, the freshman fifteen will follow. Your best hope here is look at your tray after you've been to all of the cafeteria food stations but before you check out, then ask yourself, "Does this look like a meal my mother would approve of?" If the answer isn't a resounding "Yes", then you must return some of those empty calories and replace them with foods your mom or another significant other would approve of. There's no doubt about it, self control is much easier to practice when a second pair of eyes are on you.

Too Many Parties

Even if you find the food detestable in the cafeteria and are wasting $500 a month on a meal plan you never use, there is still the matter of the college parties. Anytime of day, for any reason at all, people are ready have a good time on campus. This isn't at all like high school where you had to wait for the weekend and hope someone's parents were out of town to find a good party. More beer than you ever imagined is available, literally, all of the time somewhere on or around campus.

But, alas, too much of a good thing usually turns bad, and all that drinking will definitely add to your girth if you're not careful. Try to think of each can of beer as two slices of bread – both have about 150 calories. Every six pack you put away is close to eating a loaf of bread! Or imagine each glass of punch or blender drink as a big scoop of premium ice cream worth about 300 calories. After two or three of those drinks, you're into hot fudge sundae territory with whipped cream on top. How many of those do you think you can get away with eating in a night? In a week?

When it comes to parties, it may help to imagine your dad is watching you pump that keg. If that isn't a Kodak moment you'd like to share, find some seltzer to keep the freshman fifteen at bay.

Too Few Meals

One of the built-in safe guards against totally irrational eating while living at home and going to high school was the unshakable routine. Your alarm rang at the same time every morning to start your day. Then a bell rang at school to tell you when it was time to go to lunch and when it was time to go home. Your parents may have stocked the fridge and cupboards with a lot of healthy, low fat stuff to snack on, and they may have told you when it was time to come to the table for a dinner of more of the same. As much as you may have hated living under the tyranny of such a schedule, you also couldn't get into too much trouble with uncountable calories, either.

But all that has changed now that you're in college. With any luck, there is some similarity to your Monday-Wednesday-Friday class schedule and the one you follow on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If not, you probably have no two days that start and end at the same time. Without some kind of structure to your life, meals just seem to fall off of the radar screen and an ad lib feeding plan takes its place. To an experimental lab rat, that means it gets to eat however much it wants, whenever it wants. And although rats are a lower life form and have yet to start socializing with other rats over drinks and hors d' oeuvres, they can become fat if given access to too much of the food they like without having to forage for it. And if they get fat on an ad lib diet, so can you. Eating regular meals is your only defense against that portion of the freshman fifteen that can be directly attributed to grazing. The calories you don't consume at breakfast, lunch and supper are more than made up for at all those other pit stops throughout the day. No matter how wacky your schedule may seem, you have to divide each day into evenly spaced periods where you plot a time to eat every three to four hours. If you don't, you better devise a plot to explain to your parents why you need a new wardrobe by second semester!

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