First-Year Fifteen is the New Freshman Fifteen

If you’re in college right now, you already know that “First-Year” is the new “Freshmen.” Many colleges have opted for the more inclusive language of “First-Year” to describe new college students of all genders. We love the term and are committed as a company to inclusivity, community, and well-being. And while we hope that the new term does not bring with it the extra fifteen pounds that “Freshman Fifteen” carried, we fear it might. But with a little bit of mindfulness, you can stave off the weight gain many of us fall prey too in our first year at school.

This week, we’ll explore realistic ways to avoid First-Year Fifteen (and Freshman Fifteen). Some studies show that the average first-year weight gain is closer to five than it is to fifteen pounds, such patterns of even small weight gain can become problematic overtime resulting in the bad habits that can lead to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and bone and joint disease. We’ll look at four things that can help you keep your weight under control: stress, sleep, hydration and consistency.

Your first year at college might be your first chance to eat as you wish. Without your parents or siblings hounding you to eat a particular way at a particular time, you might be tempted to throw caution (and your waistline) to the wind. Don’t do it. Explore your newfound freedom in healthier ways.

The stress of leaving home and finding your own way is a huge contributor to first-year weight gain. While some stress is inevitable, and even healthy, too much can trigger weight gain. A high level of the stress hormone cortisol has been shown to increase the appetite and drive cravings for the sweet and salty flavors of junk food, and might even cause the body to burn fewer calories. Engaging in simple, enjoyable stress reduction can help you maintain your healthy weight. Meditation is a great way to reduce your stress. Here are some easy way to bring meditation into your daily life, even at school.

Sleep is also an important factor in weight gain. Some claim that even as little as a 30-minute sleep deficit can contribute to weight gain. Sleep is essential to repair and restore the body and brain. When sleep-deprived, we succumb to higher levels of cortisol (yes, the stress hormone) and seek the comfort of carbs, which when sleep-deprived we are less able to process. “When you’re sleep deprived, the mitochondria in your cells that digest fuel start to shut down. Sugar remains in your blood, and you end up with high blood sugar.” (http://dailyburn.com/life/lifestyle/sleep-deprivation-effects-weight-loss/)

Hydration is our favorite soapbox. It is the key to healthy brain activity and staving off weight gain.Your body can easily mistake hunger for thirst. The mix up happens in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls the autonomic nervous system and things like body temperature, thirst, and hunger. So if you feel hungry and have not had plenty to drink, wait 15 minutes and instead of grabbing a snack, grab a drink. Your hunger will probably subside.

Consistency is not boring, it is essential. Consistent easting habits, consistent study habits, a consistent bed time, and consistent exercise all contribute to better decision making and stress reduction.

Take care of yourself. Have a great first year!