The Freshman 15 is no longer just some sort of stereotypical image associated with entering college; it’s becoming increasingly common for students. While not everyone might gain exactly 15 pounds, most college students have certainly heard of the Freshman 15’s notoriety.

How can you prevent it from happening to you? Contrary to popular belief, weight gain cannot simply be prevented through one method, such as dieting or exercising. In order to stay in good health and shape, it is important to keep a careful watch on both your exercise regimen and nutritional intake.

Running Away

When school inevitably hits you hard and different academic and social obligations come up, exercising might be the last thing on your mind. But did you know that it might be more conducive for your studies if you take a short 20-minute break to refresh in between study sessions, as opposed to trying hard to focus for 20 more minutes while you already felt mentally fatigued?

The point being is that, in order to combat the Freshman 15 it is important to make exercise an integral part of your lifestyle, instead of an option to pass time whenever it strikes your fancy. Once you have internalized it and made it a part of your weekly or daily routine, then exercising no longer requires you to exert extra effort to shift your timetable around.

However, how do you do that?

A common myth is that you have to allocate a long period of time to exercising, but that is not true nor conducive to establishing a lifelong routine. Exercise time can accumulate, and by doing a lot of small short activities, can help you stay active during the day. In the middle of studying, a break of 20 minutes to do something active, such as running or playing ball, can help you regain focus afterwards and study better.

There are always small intervals of time where you ended up procrastinating and didn’t use that small period of time wisely. You could have used that time to exercise and made that a part of your daily schedule. It’s all about being willing to make an effort to add it to your daily routine rather than finding excuses.

As to which exercise to do, it is completely up to your personal preferences. Whether you are a runner, swimmer or you like playing on a team, the great thing is that being in California, weather is more often than not wonderful for exercising. There is no form of exercise that is the best, as long as it keeps you active.

Temptations

In order to complement a healthy exercising regimen, it is also imperative to eat healthy. The Freshman 15 is said to be caused not so much by a sedentary lifestyle, but by the abundant fast-food resources and around the clock availability of unhealthy food options in cafeterias, food trucks and your fridge.

When college starts, the last thing we have time for is cooking. Choosing convenience over health, we usually end up buying cheap and tasty food, ignoring the health aspects of the things that we are putting in our body. However, an average hot dog that contains approximately 350 calories (even without the cheese or bacon) can easily mitigate the hour you put into exercising and sweating. And just think about how little time it actually takes someone to finish a hot dog.

People always complain that it’s difficult to eat healthy in college. While that’s true and there are inevitable times for midnight pizza eating, you can prevent and do as much damage control as possible.

1) Make health-conscious choices: Yes, that piece of cake looks extremely good and those nachos simply smell delicious, but it is not OK to always eat whatever your body is craving or whatever you feel like eating. But I am not saying to cut junk food out of your life completely, because over-abstinence can cause a rebound effect that will lead you to crave it even more. What I am suggesting here is to give into your cravings occasionally, but most of the time, take one minute to really think twice before putting that donut in your mouth. Sometimes, I like to take a picture of what I am about to eat just to reassess what I am about to ingest and make me reflect on its consequences.

2) Stock up on healthy snacks: Many times our midnight snacks accumulate and eventually lead up to the extra pounds we carry. Snacking is not bad, but snack choice is very important. Whether you decide to snack on carrots dipped in hummus or chocolate Oreos, they can make a huge difference at the end of your day. If you don’t have unhealthy snacks in your cupboard, chances are that if you do end up snacking, you will at least snack on healthy food that won’t cause as much damage to your weight and cholesterol like a Twinkie can.

3) Read up and try to stay nutrition and health conscious: While you can try your best to make healthy choices, the selections might not be that healthy after all if you don’t know much about nutrition in general. Reading up on occasional health articles or about nutritional intake recommendations can prove to be infinitely helpful. This way, you will be able to build up your knowledge on general nutrition and help you to prioritize your own nutritional wellbeing.

Motivation

How do you stay motivated? When exams come up, people just forget about exercising, and there are times when you inevitably feel groggy. You put off working out until later, but will later ever come? Old habits can never be fully eradicated with conventional methods. This is when you have to get creative and be hard on yourself with the following methods that will help your exercising on track.

Use visual aids as reminders by posting photos of people with figures you envy in every space possible. Every time I look at the background wallpaper on my laptop, I see numerous Miranda Kerrs dancing away in her perfect figure (effect maximized by setting background in mosaic format). Your cell phone or fridge door are also convenient places to set your hot-figured-person wallpaper. There might be times when you are tempted to remove the photos because you feel discouraged by the huge disparity between your actual and ideal figure. In times like this, do not remove it completely, just change the photo to someone with a figure that is closer to your own.

Surround yourself with motivation in any way – even watch weight-loss or makeover shows. Watching people literally sweating, panting and struggling hard for better health and looks will make you want to do the same.

Many of us have clothes that we bought but have never worn because they’re too tight. Hang that outfit up in front of your wardrobe. Work out in front of it and try it on often – use that piece of clothing as a way to track your progress.

Don’t forget about the post-workout high. We all know the great feelings that we get, whether it’s after a short game of Frisbee or a cross-country run, our bodies are programmed to release endorphins after we move. Remind yourself of how good you’ll feel after exercising.

But Be Careful…

It’s easy to become obsessed with keeping in shape, and sometimes people can take it too far. Remember, beating the Freshman 15 is not a short-term goal. Being in good shape is an endurance marathon; it will always be important to stay healthy and make smart choices.

Pressure from peers, physical insecurities and all these things we typically associate with adolescence, can come back and still haunt us in college and beyond. You might laugh at the prospect of getting overly addicted to exercise, who wouldn’t want that? It may seem like a wonderful addiction to have, but it’s not good when obsession with weight and exercise take over your life. Forms of anorexia and bulimia are examples of horrible disorders people begin to develop through vigorous exercising and weight control. Tell your friends or family when you decide to keep in shape in college. Let them know that you are going to implement a healthy exercise and eating plan. This way, you will keep yourself in check by having someone to regulate your exercising and eating if they notice it becoming too extreme.

At the End of the Day

It’s not so much the Freshman 15 that should prompt you to begin exercising; it is simply a good habit for anyone to stay healthy and happy. The amount of endorphins exercising creates is incredible. It may initially seem daunting to start a complete overhaul of your previous lifestyle, but what better time is there than when you start college?