Shedding the Freshman Fifteen: Back to School in Skinny Jeans!
Melissa is thrilled with her new body. She feels more confident, more energetic, she’s happier – and can finally wear skinny jeans! Melissa is 19-years-old and spent her first year at college gaining about fifteen pounds. She was pretty miserable when I first met her in June. But, thankfully, we spent the summer working together to lose those fifteen pounds and she’s exactly where she wants to be before returning. At a slight five feet, one inches, she is a very reasonable 115 pounds. I’m so happy for her because every young person deserves to feel and look their best. It’s such a burden to be young and overweight.
But Melissa’s weight gain is not unusual. A Cornell University study found college freshmen gain an average of 4 pounds in just the first twelve weeks. Some factors adding to this weight gain are…
- Being faced with all-you-can-eat buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner,
- Late-night studying – and the snacking and eating late which inevitably goes along with it… fattening take-out dinners of pizza or Chinese food,
- Alcohol- and lots of it,
- Pressure to take too many classes so precluding physical activity in the regular routine,
- Skipping breakfast or lunch time, then overeating between meals and later in the day and into the night.
I remember the first year I left home for college, I’d eat all my favorite foods any time I wanted (ice cream, pastrami sandwiches, chocolate chip bars, chips). My physical activity level also plummeted. I went from being very physically active in high school – in cheerleading, dancing, and more – to nothing in college. I was getting flabby- and fast – and I distinctly remember complaining to my grandmother how tired I felt. My Grandmother’s unsympathetic admonition, “You’re too young to feel this tired!” shocked me into action and I immediately started changing my ways.
For Melissa and all children and young adults going back to school this fall, there is a risk of falling into unhealthy habits and re-gaining hard-fought results over the summer. This is how Melissa and many of my young clients are handling the challenge:
- Lay out your daily schedule of classes ahead of time, since each day is different depending on required classes and activities,
- Figure out when to fit in a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner,
- Determine when you can be physically active. For instance, will you be able to get your physical activity by walking to and from classes on certain days? Will you need to hit the gym on others?
- Wear a pedometer (The “Omron HJ 303” is the one I currently recommend, or if you have money to burn, try the fitbit) to make sure you’re getting at least the daily 10,000 steps it takes to maintain your weight… More if you want to lose weight,
- Sign up for a Physical Education class for credit (YEAH!). When I was in college, I took scuba diving, rescue diving, deep diving, tennis, fencing – whatever I could to get credit for being physically active and to learn new and interesting sports. This is also a way to meet other people with similar interests (I found the cutest, most interesting guys were into scuba diving… And fencing gave me a great butt – which I still have today!),
- Schedule your routine so that you are not hungry at night. If you must study late into the night, drink diet sodas, green tea (my favorite is Jasmine scented), and munch on fruits and veggies.
- Dump your unhealthy friends (subtly, of course) who push you to overindulge,
- Cultivate new friendships with healthier folks who share your commitment to staying in shape.
I’ve found that many of my teenaged and college-aged clients end up eating healthier than their parents- and they love every moment. Every child deserves to be healthy, fit, and happy – and to wear skinny jeans, if they wish!
For more fabulous tips and simple, effective ways to lose weight,
buy her book, Diet Simple!