Guest Blogger: Donna Garron
The Freshman 15 can and will sneak up on you quickly, it is very real. If you aren’t careful - one morning you will wake up and the next thing you know you are on the phone crying with your mom when your favourite jeans no longer fit. It doesn’t have to be that way though. With some planning, knowledge and discipline you can win the war while at the same time still having the time of your life. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. You’re life has just taken a drastic change, your world is bigger, your responsibilities are greater and your desire to experience University life is at it’s strongest. If you are ready to wage war against ‘The Freshman 15’, read on for strategies to help you with your success.
Your plan of attack should be written out.
This is your map, your go to when things get crazy and the last thing you want to think about is food. Having it written out beforehand takes away the necessity of having to think about it. Print it off, post it on your wall (one of your real walls in your dorm room, not your FB wall!), have it handy on your cell phone.
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to always be prepared. Cravings will hit at the most unlikely times - but also at predictable times. Keep things handy like a bowl of fresh fruit - apples and bananas are great for an energy boost. Peanut Butter (don’t go nuts and eat the whole jar in one day), a tbsp full will give you energy derived from healthy fats. Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop popcorn - resist the temptation to add butter, just eat a small bag on it’s own. Craving ice cream? Hit the local grocery store - read the labels and find something low in fat and in sugar. There are some really good selections out there now - Skinny Cow, Superstore Blue Label Greek Smoothie Popsicles - just don’t eat the whole box! That beer fridge you have in your room … take a small section of it and fill it with low cal green veggies, bell peppers, cucumbers, etc. The margarita blender sitting in the corner - use that to start your day off right making a protein smoothie. Just throw in ¾ cup nonfat greek yogurt, 1 scoop of protein powder, some fruit (out of your handy basket - 1 banana is perfect), ice cubes if you have them and some water … In a matter of seconds you have a balanced meal to start your day off right. If you have a mom that likes to send you baked goodies - ask her to find a protein enriched recipes that are low in sugar (there are tons of them out there). Keep protein bars handy, there are some really great ones now that satisfy the craving of a chocolate bar - just don’t rely on them as a substitute for real food. One per day is great! Too much of anything at one time is never a good thing - everything in moderation.
Don’t forget to eat!
Many people think that by skipping meals it will help them to lose weight. It’s quite the opposite actually. Your body needs fuel to function. If you are not taking in enough your body will take away from itself to provide the fuel you need - hence muscle loss and fat gain. Spread your meals out throughout the day, ideally every 3 to 4 hours, this will help you to avoid binging. Have quick go to items like protein bars (a good one will have a minimum of 20g of protein), protein cookies, or protein drinks handy for when you’re in a time crunch. Note the one word I keep repeating … Protein! Make sure you have protein with every meal - the deep fried kind doesn’t count! Keeping the fuel steadily coming in helps to avoid insulin spiking, feelings of hunger and low energy which then make it more likely that you will overeat at your next meal. When making your meal selections in meal hall, choose a protein, veggie and carb (try to stay away from the white carbs). Limit any sauces, but don’t worry too much about seasonings. If you are trying to lose weight, eat your protein first and your carb last. That way if you become full you are less likely to have eaten too many carbs in a day.
Drink water - lots and lots of water. I personally drink at least 4L per day along with black coffee. If your hydration levels are low, guess what? Your energy levels will drop. Again increasing the likelihood that you are going to grab the highest empty calorie boost you can find for that quick fix.
Avoid Energy Drinks!
Don’t roll your eyes, don’t make excuses that some are natural, some have no sugar, but I like them, they work, etc. Just don’t do it. If you eat a healthy balanced diet throughout the day, drink lots of water you will never feel that energy crash making you want one.
Don’t forget some form of physical activity
I’m sorry, but beer pong does not count! Go for a run, hit the gym, grab some friends for a game of soccer - lift some weights. Increasing muscle mass increases your metabolism - losing muscle mass slows it back down. Side note - Girls don’t be scared to lift more than the weight of your purse! You aren’t going to wake up one morning full of muscle and looking like a “man”. It takes time and a whole different level of dedication to build muscle like you see on female competitors and bodybuilders - trust me it doesn’t happen by accident. Going to the gym for an hour a few times a week can be a great outlet to keep your stress levels manageable, energy levels high and to meet new people.
Going out for a night of fun - enjoy it!
Have a couple and enjoy your night! You only get this experience for a very short time of your life. Being aware of what you consume - both alcohol and food - can make a huge difference in that experience. I hate to be the bearer of bad news - but there is no such thing as a healthy choice when it comes to alcohol. So the next time a bubbly girl at the bar tells you that you should be drinking Vodka Cranberry because it’s healthier for you - roll your eyes and go ahead and order the Vodka Coke because the difference is minimal. Alcohol is metabolized by the body in very much the same manner that sugar is … but I will get into that further in another post - just trust me on it for now. Always remember - everything in moderation and nothing in excess. If you can live by that simple rule it can make the difference between a great experience and an “oh my god I can’t believe I did that” experience.
Probably the most under-utilized tool in combating weight gain, building muscle or fat loss is sleep. Ideally you want to get at least 8 hours per night. I understand this can be an unrealistic goal especially when it comes time for exams, so just try to do the best you can.
With thought and planning you can win this war. There are lots of sites online that can help you to prepare a meal plan for your week that will be easy to follow even in University. If those Freshman 15 do hit - don’t panic or get upset … just make some changes.
Donna Garron | @DonnaGarron
Canadian National Figure Competitor l Owner of Titanium Fitness & Contest Prep