My first day of college, I couldn't wait to get started on my new life. I had new clothes, new accessories, a new attitude and, a year later, a new layer of fat. With all the changes that happen in college, it isn't surprising so many people gain weight. And that weight gain doesn't just affect your college years. That weight gain also sets you up for weight problems that could follow you into adulthood.
Our sedentary society affects all of us, but as a student, you can do things to stay fit and avoid gaining the freshman 15.
Plan, Prepare and Attack
Going off to college means finally being in charge of your life, but it also means dealing with temptations that can cause you to gain weight. The best way to handle that is to think ahead and have a plan for dealing with the most common pitfalls:
1. Drinking. Binge drinking is a growing problem on college campuses around the country and it can cause brain damage, memory loss and even death. Drinking too much can also cause something else: Weight gain. Alcohol doesn't contain fat, but it does contain calories -- 7 calories per gram as opposed to protein and carbs, both of which contain 4 calories per gram. Add in other high-calorie extras like juice, mixes or sugar and the calories can start to pile on. The average 12-ounce can of beer has about 148 calories so, even if you only have one beer a night, that's an extra 1,000 calories a week you're adding to your diet. That means gaining more than a pound a month.
Kicking the Habit. Underage drinking leads to a host of problems, often much more serious than gaining weight. So avoiding alcohol altogether offers your best protection for staying fit and safe. If you do drink, moderation is the key, though that can be difficult with endless parties and tremendous pressure to drink to excess. You can make it easier by having one or two glasses of water for every alcoholic drink you have, which will keep you hydrated and help avoid a late night greasy food-fest. It also helps to avoid drinking every night. Save it for the weekend and, when you're at a party, avoid the trashcan punch which usually has Everclear, or some other hard liquor, which contains more alcohol. The more alcohol in a drink, the more calories.
2. Pizza. Nothing is more soothing than digging into a warm, cheesy pizza in the middle of an all-night cram session. The truth is, pizza isn't the worst thing you could choose for a late-night dinner. If you opt for veggie toppings and avoid the deep dish extravaganza, you can enjoy the nutritional benefits of pizza -- the cheese satisfies your dairy needs, the tomato sauce/veggie toppings satisfy part of your vegetable requirements, and the crust provides nutrients from the bread and grain food group.
Kicking the Habit. Pizza becomes your enemy at 2:00 in the morning after you've already had dinner. Staying up late usually means eating more, and late-night snacks tend to be on the unhealthy side. You're better off planning for late night snacks by eating a little less throughout the day. You'll enjoy your pizza a lot more knowing that you're not adding extra calories to your diet.
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