How To Avoid The Freshman 15

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When first embarking on the life-altering journey that is university, there are many things on your mind.

Leaving home for the first time, finding your way around campus, keeping your grades up, making new friends–eating healthy and getting regular exercise might not make it to the top of your list of priorities.

A healthy and active lifestyle however, is essential to your peace of mind and overall well-being.

Make it a FRESHman 15

“Setting healthy food as a priority can help to improve your mood and performance.” –Rena Mendelson, professor, Ryerson University’s School of Nutrition

Fresh food that is.  Instead of surrendering to the curse of the Freshman 15 opt to welcome only fresh produce into your life.

Living on your own you will find it much easier just to grab convenience items to eat such as Kraft Dinner or fast food.  This is often a much easier way to go when you’re trying to cram for an exam and write three essays at the same time.

Rena Mendelson, a professor of the School of Nutrition at Ryerson University, suggests setting aside time each week to plan your own meal schedule. “This will help you to shop more efficiently and to make one meal that can be used for leftovers.”  Eating this way you will definitely reap more benefits in how you feel, physically and mentally. “Setting healthy food as a priority can help to improve your mood and performance,” says Mendelson.

Snack wisely

Stressing out over schoolwork can quickly make you a victim to many snack attacks, and these are likely the times you will throw caution to the wind health-wise and reach for the foods that are worst for you.

Mendelson says, “Eating mindlessly while simultaneously working on a paper can enhance your anxiety. Eat a good meal before starting and then drink only water while you work. This will help your concentration and keep you focused on the task at hand.”

For those times that you simply can’t stop yourself from snacking, make it a habit to eat healthy. Keep healthy food at hand and declare a war on junk food in your kitchen.  Chop up carrots and celery so they’re the first thing you see when you reach for a snack.  Other healthy snack options are nuts, popcorn or apples sprinkled with cinnamon (cinnamon is great for you!).

Use every excuse in the book to exercise

Make it your mission to stay as active as you can, no matter how small your living situation may be.  Most school campuses have great gyms, and most of your necessities can be reached by foot or by bike.  On those frigid winter days when you don’t feel like braving the cold to go to the gym, there are many exercises you can do in the comfort of your dorm room or apartment.

Tobey Reimann, personal trainer and developer of the Essence of Balance studio in Cambridge, Ont., strongly recommends investing in a heart rate monitor.  At about $79, it may not be the first tool you invest in, but it could be a great gift.  Reimann describes it as a “brilliant tool” that allows you to keep your heart rate at a certain level.  This brings awareness of what’s going on with your body–if you are working out too aggressively or not working hard enough–and you will always get results.

“If you wake up and don’t feel like going crazy,  just go for a walk–somewhere with hills or stairs. The key is to have fun with it as well.”
Tobey Reimann, personal trainer

Another tool that Reimann recommends is the TRX cable, found at fitnessanywhere.com.  This is useful for small spaces as you can attach it somewhere like a door jam and exercise in the comfort of your room.

Reimann suggests making up a circuit to go through 20 minutes a day. Perform an activity, like jumping jacks for example, and do the very best that you can do for 20 seconds.  Then take a 10 second break to follow. This, she says, will render phenomenal results, and you can create a circuit that’s as long or short as you want it to be.

Other exercises she recommends for this circuit are squats, lunges or bicep curls.  Reimann maintains that 20 minutes is an ideal amount of time, especially for students who are stressed out and have a limited amount of time to space.  This time frame is attainable but she always strongly recommends to listen to your body as much possible, don’t force yourself.

“If you wake up and don’t feel like going crazy, just go for a walk–somewhere with hills or stairs.” Trying to stick too closely to a routine might not be good for your motivation.  Reimann says that there are no rules, you shouldn’t be afraid to exercise your own way, and you don’t have to stick to a rigid program.  “The key is to have fun with it as well.”

Make time for motivational reading material

Read health magazines to get motivated–they have really great tips on exercise and healthy eating.  If you don’t want to spend your extra cash on magazines, your school or local library should carry them, or you could ask for a subscription for a holiday or birthday gift.

Most magazines have accompanying websites as well, and while visiting these sites not only will you be able to save or print the recipes or exercises you come across but you can also join their mailing lists and receive emails on healthy eating and exercise–the more motivation the merrier!

For more tips, tricks and must-dos for students heading back to school this fall, check out our Back to School series.

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About the author

Katherine Rageth is the assistant editor managing the Entertainment and Style sections of the Career Incubator. She graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University's Honours Arts Communication Studies program last spring and is now studying journalism at Sheridan College. She recently had two guest columns published in The Kitchener-Waterloo Record and The Cambridge Times, and is always looking for new things to write about.