By Bea Smith

Everyone dreads the “Freshman 15.” Studies show that college students gain an average of 3 to 10 pounds their first two years of school. Students are on their own for the first time in college and new temptations arise. Students can now eat whenever they want and whatever they want. All-you-can-eat food at cafeterias or sorority and fraternity houses, fast food, and midnight snacks to help make it through study sessions, are suddenly the new normal. It doesn’t have to be, though.

College is a big change for students and taking care of their bodies is not always a top priority. Exercise habits and poor diets in college can set students on a path that could possibly lead to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, or obesity. Freshman year is fun, and college is one of the most rewarding times in life. Use this time to take advantage of not having to work or take care of a family all day and find time instead to keep yourself healthy and active!

The best way to beat gaining the “freshman 15” is to prevent it. Starting good habits like keeping a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep while in college can help you stay on a path of having a healthy lifestyle even after you graduate.

Here are some simple tips to help beat the freshman 15:

  • EAT BREAKFAST! The saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is not an old wives tale. It’s a fact. Studies show that weight gain is more common among individuals who do skip meals.
  • Limit your caffeine intake. Coffee can be your best friend when you hit that wall at 11:30 p.m. the night before a final, but try and stay away from the soft drinks.
  • Late night pizza is inevitable—just don’t order it every night.
  • Avoid eating while stressed, watching TV, or studying.
  • Keep healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, yogurt or trail mix, on hand in your dorm room.
  • Choose low-fat options when you can. Things like light salad dressing or low-fat milk can make a difference.
  • Get outside! There is nothing better than going for a walk around your campus with your best friend on a sunny day.
  • Go to your university’s fitness facility and take the group exercise classes. You’ll get a great workout by participating in the class, and get an ab workout from laughing at your friends.
  • Find a running buddy and train for a 5K, 10K or half marathon together.
  • Play an intramural sport. Whether it’s flag football, soccer, or kickball, intramural sports are a great way to exercise and have fun. You’ll also meet a lot of new people.