Health: Ask the Expert: Drop Pounds at College

Dear Jenna: I am starting my first year of college and I want to lose weight, but I am having trouble getting motivated. I want to lose the freshman 15, not gain it. Any advice?

College can definitely be tough with all of the late-night pizza runs and endless, not-so-good-for-you options at the dining hall. But half the battle is being aware that you need to be on the defense against extra lbs. when you hit campus, so kudos to you! There are plenty of easy, healthy ways to stay fit — and even shave off a few pounds — your first year.

 


College can definitely be tough with all of the late-night pizza runs and endless, not-so-good-for-you options at the dining hall. But half the battle is being aware that you need to be on the defense against extra lbs. when you hit campus, so kudos to you! There are plenty of easy, healthy ways to stay fit — and even shave off a few pounds — your first year. Just remember, the biggest challenge will be in the first two weeks, until these tips become habits. So stick with it, and good luck!

1. First of all, locate the gym. Today’s college gyms are (usually) virtual fitness complexes, with everything from great treadmills to fitness classes to basketball courts. With all the options, you should be able to find at least one exercise that you’ll enjoy. Hate the idea of doing 30 minutes straight through on the elliptical? Break it up: do 10 minutes each on the treadmill, elliptical and stair climber, or whichever workout machines you like best. You’ll be shocked at how fast the time goes, not to mention that you’re keeping your muscles guessing, which helps stave off plateaus. And if you’ve got a test coming up, read over your notes on the stationary bike instead of sitting idly at the library. You’ll burn off stress and extra calories.

2. Take a good look at your schedule. I am a strong advocate of morning workouts, simply because life has a tendency to come up and find ways to thwart later-in-the-day sweat sessions. Friends, homework; there’s always something that seems more important—or truthfully, more fun!—than getting your daily 30 to 60 minutes of exercise. Not a morning person? Then make sure to schedule your workout the way you would a class. Write it down and try to do it at the same time every day. And if you’ll be running there after class, tuck a small snack, like a granola bar or an apple, into your bag so you’re not tempted to skip due to hunger pangs.

3. Carry water with you. Make sure to stay hydrated so you don’t end up eating when you’re actually just parched. I love Nalgene bottles because the mouth is wide enough to toss in lots of ice and a few slices of lemon (although, now that I no longer eat all my meals at the college dining hall, I have to cut the lemons myself). Find them at Chestnut Hill Sports (8628 Germantown Ave., 215-242-6167) or nalgene.com.

4. Find the salad bar. No doubt the dining hall will be one of your biggest obstacles, but with the right game plan, it can actually be the best thing for you! With everything pre-cut and -diced, it’s easier than ever to load up on veggies. Fill your plate with dark, leafy greens, toss on some lean protein, such as grilled chicken or turkey, and drizzle a low-fat dressing over top. (I would avoid the fat-free dressings. A little bit of fat will keep you feeling fuller longer.) Just as you probably already know, try to avoid fried foods, desserts, and most of all, repeat trips to the food stations. The more you put on your plate, the more you’ll end up eating.

5. Stock up on snacks. Keep low-cal treats stashed around your room so that when your roommate starts dialing for pizza at 1 a.m., you’re not tempted to blow your whole day. I love instant sugar-free hot cocoa for a chocolate fix, and part-skim string cheese, lite yogurt and fresh fruit (I would always grab an apple or banana from the dining hall after each meal) are great to keep in your mini fridge. Also, 100-calorie packs and single-serving cereal boxes will keep you from mindless munching—and from waking up the next day with a "food hangover!"

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