15 Ways to Fight the 'Freshman 15'

PHOTO: A college student keeps a journal in this undated file photo.
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For many teens, the excitement of being away at college often wanes with the reality of weight gain during the first few semesters of school. And while that the Freshman "15" may indeed be a myth, research shows that college freshmen can still count on a weight gain of about 5 pounds during their first year, and some may even gain more. In one study, about a quarter of freshmen gained an average of 10 pounds during their first year at school.

If you’re heading back to school as a college freshman (or sophomore, junior, or senior, for that matter), below are 15 tips you won’t want to miss.

1. Rent a mini-dorm refrigerator

Having a mini-fridge is a great way to keep your diet in check while on campus. Skip the stash of cookies and brownies, and stock up on healthful snacks that you can grab on the go, such as apples, pears, string cheese, low-fat yogurts, hummus, and carrot sticks.

2. Avoid the 4th meal of the day

Breakfast? Yes. Lunch? Definitely. Dinner? Absolutely! Late night pizza or insomnia cookies? Not so fast. All too often, the pounds creep on quickly from post-studying or post-party eating episodes. Instead of indulging in high-fat fare at 2 a.m., try drinking a 12-ounce glass of water first and immediately brushing your teeth.

3. Watch out for all-you-can-eat dining buffets

Helping yourself to the taco bar, cereal bar, and the self-serve ice cream machine can turn into a freshman five every week! Make only one trip to the buffet, be super-selective, and watch those portion sizes. Additionally, most dining halls have salad bars; make a habit of filling up half of your plate with salad and get the dressing on the side.

4. Buy an extra notebook and use it as a food journal

Writing down the foods you eat (and where you eat them) can give you a unique perspective on your eating habits by enabling you to pinpoint problem areas during the day. If you find that you tend to snack a lot while working in your dorm room, it may be time to think about switching to the library.

5. Count your aerobics class as any other class

A great way to avoid weight gain worry is to join the school gym. Many schools have athletic facilities that offer a wide variety of fun classes (even dance classes, if you wish!). Breaking a sweat keeps your mind off of food and is a fantastic stress reliever as well.

6. Don't take the easy route to class

Take advantage of campus life by being physically active. Walk or bike to class, and take the stairs instead of the elevator in the dorm and in class buildings. A brisk morning walk can help to energize you and get your mind focused before sitting during that hour-long lecture.

7. Ask for extra help if you need it

Whether it's studying for midterms or finals or working through homesickness, college life can be a source of stress and emotional eating. If you’re having difficulty, get help from a teaching assistant or other professional before turning to unhealthy eating habits.

8. Avoid bringing snacks into the library (even if you're allowed)

"Unconscious eating" doesn’t only occur when we’re watching television. Munching on jellybeans or chips while studying for hours in the library can lead to major weight gain, especially if it becomes a daily habit. Go for a walk and grab a cup of coffee or tea if you need a break from the books.

9. Don't aspire to be the beer pong champ

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