Throughout your freshman year of college, you’ll probably spend a good about of time in the dining hall. It’s a place where you can meet new people, hang out with friends, or take a quick, refueling study break. The dining hall provides plenty of yummy options, which can make it hard to control your eating habits. Going from the hearty, healthy, home cooked meals from mom, to a bonafide smorgasbord with unlimited options at your fingertips is quite a leap. Odds are you’ve probably heard the term, “freshman 15” – the dreaded, unavoidable, 15 pounds that every college student is warned about. But, not to worry, College Raptor is here to provide you with 8 ways to avoid the weight in the dining hall and to prove that it’s only a myth!
1. Pace yourself. Don’t eat everything in sight just because you can or because Mom and Dad aren’t around to say no. With freedom comes responsibility. Relax; though it’s served buffet-style, don’t stuff yourself until you’re absolutely full and hardly able to move. Physically, that is not a fun feeling! A better option would be to eat until you’re no longer hungry vs. until you’re full. There is a difference – you know yourself, so pace yourself.
2. Don’t skip meals. This can be a little difficult to swallow (pun intended). Campus life can move at a pretty fast pace sometimes between classes, jobs, and extracurricular activities. However, skipping meals is not recommended. It’s only a set up for binge eating later on in the day to make up for that missing meal. Some of you might say, “I’m not a morning person, or I don’t have time to eat breakfast with my schedule.” Well, make time! You don’t necessarily have to sit down for three full meals in the dining hall every day, but it’s important to keep your body fueled. Taking 5 or 10 minutes out of your day to have a piece of fruit or yogurt, a small sandwich will make a difference. We would strongly advise you to never to go to class hungry, like never going on a road trip without gas in your car – there’s nothing to run on. So, find the time for the things that are important…like eating!
3. Make smart choices. We’ve all heard the saying, “everything in moderation.” When it comes to avoiding the Freshman 15, eating healthy is half the battle. It starts with making smart choices when it comes to what we put in our bodies. For example, if you walk into the dining hall after a mind-boggling exam wanting comfort food, help yourself. However, instead of piling on that mountain of fries with it, go for a small salad instead. If it’s Friday and you’ve been craving ice cream, see if your dining hall has a frozen yogurt option. Frozen yogurt tastes just about the same and can be topped with just about anything including fresh fruit and granola. The goal is not to deprive yourself of the foods and treats that you love, but rather help you learn healthier alternatives that you can have on a regular basis.
4. Don’t Drink Your Calories. The dining hall of your college campus is not only filled with SO many different types of food, but also some of your very favorite drinks. Sodas, iced teas, lemonades, and more will be at your disposal and it’s easy to be tempted. Be mindful that most, if not all of these can be high in calories and sugar. If you’re craving some kind of sweet drink to quench your thirst, try flavoring your water with flavor packets!
5. Ask questions and read nutrition facts. Along with making smart choices, don’t be afraid to ask questions about what you’re being served in the dining hall. Most campuses have the nutritional information for each meal, item, or station readily available for students. Take advantage if you can. If that’s not available where you are, try striking up a conversation with the person serving you or the one that works your favorite food station. It may pay off in more ways than one in the long run. Knowledge is power after all!
6. Say No To Diet Trends. It’s so easy to get caught up in the new wave of information put out by your favorite celebrities or your friends. From waist training to no-carb dieting, it’s hard to find information that is actually beneficial to your body. Keep yourself grounded in your dieting and eating habits and don’t fall for the latest fad.
By the same token, don’t follow your friends when it comes to their bad eating habits. You might have a friend that can eat literally whatever they want and not gain an ounce. However, you have to realize that eating the same way that they do could affect your body very differently. Focus on what your body needs to stay healthy.
7. Don’t use food to manage your emotions. As a freshman in college, you will probably be living away from home for the first time. Being on your own can be intimidating. Adjusting to campus life takes time between balancing school, work, and a social life. Your freshman year can sometimes feel like an emotional rollercoaster. Life changes, stress, or anxiety can cause you to stress-eat. It’s important to keep yourself in check when you’re feeling overwhelmed! To combat that, make sure you know why you’re eating in the first place. Are you really, genuinely hungry for a meal/snack? Feeling homesick? Give your parents a call to ramble on about your day or grab a friend and explore your new surroundings. Find a way to relax without a trip to the dining hall.
8. Don’t forget your physical activity: Eating healthy and exercise go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. In college your overall physical health is your own responsibility. Typically a recreation fee is included in your tuition, allowing you to use the campus gym facilities freely. So, grab a friend and take full advantage while you can. Get your body movin’ between classes, on the weekends or whenever you need a study break. Physical activity is not only good for your body, but your brain too!
On the days when you can’t make it to the gym, take a stroll around campus or take the stairs instead of the elevator on your way to class. Make your body earn that piece of cake after dinner in the dining hall!
We hope that you find these tips useful and are able to apply them. If you have any questions or have discovered any that methods that work for you while living in the dorms, sound off in the comments below!