Fight off the dreaded Freshman 15

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College should come with warning signs; if it did, some of the signs would probably read something like, “Beware: Midnight snacks, binge eating, and extra pounds ahead.”

People debate whether the dreaded “Freshman 15” is an actual phenomenon or not. Based on my experience gaining unwanted weight in college, it is as easy as oversleeping for Monday’s classes. After my first semester at Carnegie Mellon, my roommate and I both felt the toll of our college lifestyles. Eating at night and hardly at all during the day does not make a healthy body.

For some people, staying healthy and active requires little work; for others, it’s a struggle and requires discipline and sheer force of will. I am not talking to that first healthy group of people; you all can go eat celery and run laps, or whatever it is that you do. I’m talking to the latter group, the people who know they should eat healthier and exercise regularly, but can’t seem to find the will power.

Living a healthy lifestyle in college is hard, but I firmly believe it’s possible; it comes down to discipline. My first two years in college were marked by sporadic bursts of working out with partying, snacking, and studying in between. I worked every day after school and finished homework every night around 2 a.m. And what kept me going every night? Junk food, of course! Ah, those midnight walks to 7-Eleven for chips and energy drinks. Staying up all night and pigging out at Schatz’s all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet did not aid my crusade for a smaller waistline.

Bad habits like these are hard to break, so form good ones while you have the chance. Start this school year by setting aside 30 minutes to an hour every day to work out. Even if you work out for just 15 minutes, it’ll help you stay energized and alert throughout your day. Give yourself no excuse not to exercise; rent out a locker in the UC for your gear, find a buddy to keep you accountable, or put the time that you are going to work out every day in your planner.

For myself, just “working out” never seemed to happen. I mean, what’s the point of “working out”? You don’t go anywhere when you run on a treadmill or pedal an exercise bike. There’s no immediate prize when you lift 10 pounds more than usual or use the Stairmaster for 20 minutes instead of 15.

Many people were fit in high school, where they played sports that have been left behind since entering college. If you are this type of person, I would suggest joining an intramural sport. It’s fairly low-key, can work around your schedule, lets you be a part of a team, and gives defined goals and rewards to exercising. Exercising is actually an easy part of staying in shape during college, at least compared to taking control of what and when you eat.

Eating is the true monster hiding in your tiny dormitory closet. When classes, work, extracurricular activities, social life, and homework are all vying for your attention, what you decide to eat isn’t even under consideration. Carnegie Mellon students lead busy lives where convenience and the weight of our wallets define what we eat.

Still, campus dining does have healthy, or rather healthier, meal options to choose from. For first-years, who have to buy a meal plan, knowing where to get healthy on-campus food is a must. Evgefstos!, in the UC, is a good all-vegetarian option with Totally Juiced and Spinning Salads across the hall. Salads and deli sandwiches to go are also made daily by CulinArt and can be found at most dining locations around campus.

Choosing healthier meal options is just as important as choosing healthier snack options. I used to grab a candy bar or a bag of chips when I didn’t have time for dinner, but all it succeeded in doing was make my body feel greasy. Some alternatives that I’ve found to be just as convenient and delicious are carrot sticks, granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, and yogurt. Most of these items can be bought on campus and stored easily. If you don’t have time for a nice breakfast — and let’s get real, who ever has time for any type of breakfast? — grab one of these items and you’re good to go.

Carnegie Mellon is a demanding school, and your life here will be demanding. Eating smart and exercising can only enhance your time at college, teaching you a level of discipline and dedication that will last beyond your years in academia. Set aside time to plan your exercise schedule and eating strategy, and you’ll find that the monster in your closet is in fact just a dust bunny.