Back to School: Pack Your Things, Not the Pounds

It’s that time of year; car trunks are packed, gas tanks are filled and parents may be shedding a tear or 20. School is back in session. It’s all so exciting, nerve-wracking and everything in between, but it doesn’t end after you’re finished unpacking your dorm room or apartment. College in itself is overwhelming, and this leads to weight gain for 70 percent of students.

It’s more complex than the infamous “Freshman 15.” The truth is most students don’t gain 15 pounds their first year of college. It’s incremental, continuous weight gain that occurs throughout your four (or more) years of school. According to WebMD, weight gain is merely a manifestation of the problem – not the problem itself. When you lack your normal support system – your friends, family or teammates – that you had in high school, socialization is difficult. This can result in emotional eating and alcohol consumption, which are habits used to ease socializing.

On the other end of the spectrum, some may fear weight gain so much that they begin to over-exercise or dangerously decrease their caloric intake. Ultimately, both problems can be resolved in similar manners.

Here are a four simple tips for maintaining a healthy weight in college:

Opt for water. There are hundreds of empty, unnecessary calories in sodas, sweetened teas and creamy coffees. So limit them! Especially if you are going to partake in some other caloric delights for those of age (which we don’t endorse). Staying hydrated will satiate hunger cravings and make you feel better in general despite the stress of school.

Eat regularly. Sometimes it’s not necessarily what you eat but when. Although consuming nutrient-dense meals is vital to a healthy weight, options are limited if you’re on a meal plan or don’t have a kitchen. But by making a point to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, your metabolism will benefit. Especially when you make a point to eat when you wake up!

Watch your portions. Eat right, eat regularly and eat reasonably. According to The Huffington Post, taking the time to measure out proper portions sizing can trim your waistline and bulk up your wallet since you’ll be spending less on food.

Bring a scale to school. To better track your weight, buy a scale for your dorm or apartment. While it’s important to realize that healthy isn’t a number, a scale does provide a quantifiable way to gauge your weight. It’s also less alarming than realizing your weight change when you can’t fit into your favorite pair of pants. You’ll also help your roommate(s) stay healthy. In fact, research suggests that your weight is influenced by those around you. So sharing your scale with your roommates may help you in the long run!

Limiting stress will help you avoid emotional or disordered eating, so in addition to these tips, find activities that you enjoy. Whether it’s intramurals, a club or group or simply having fun with friends, always schedule time to blow off steam.

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