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Back to School Edition: Tips for Avoiding the Freshman (Sophomore, Junior and Senior) 15

This summer, H3 was filled with young men and women gearing up for the beginning of a new life chapter – while others were here brushing up on their health to return back to their college career.  Let’s just say, they had a different kind of summer school – a hands-on health, fitness and nutrition class!


As a (proud) college graduate, I often look back to my habits and think that if I only knew then what I know now – I would be in good shape (literally).  A former high school cheerleader and athlete, I stayed active and ate dinners with my family at night.  The transition to college for me was quite the wakeup call – no set schedule, no formal physical activity and best (or worst) of all – the buffet dining hall right outside my dorm room!


Not until my sophomore year did I realize that my unhealthy behaviors were eventually going to catch up with me in a BIG way – but when I did, I made a few changes and put the extra pounds from freshman year in reverse.  Nothing too crazy – but just putting a bit of ‘structure’ back into my life helped in a big way.


So, if you are entering college this fall or simply returning, here are a few ‘lessons learned’ to keep you fit, healthy and enjoying the ‘best four years’ of your life! 


Just because the dining hall is all you can eat – doesn’t mean you need to take it literally.  The tagline to my alma mater’s dining hall was ‘Let the Big Dawg Eat’.  Now, anyone who knows me knows that I take great pride in my university, but that is not the best way to encourage healthy eating!  As for my friends and I, we never missed a meal.  The dining hall was ‘the’ place to be, and with 10 different buffet lines featuring made to order pizzas, sandwiches, pastas, and even the ice cream bar – it was hard to make the ‘best’ choice.  Key here:  practice portion control and moderation.   Yes, you can occasionally have a slice of pizza or a few chicken fingers – but enjoy it with a side salad or fruit.  And, once you are done eating, take the socializing to a group walk or activity – just LEAVE the dining hall.


– Create a schedule.  One day, class at 8 am, the next day, class doesn’t begin until noon.  Plan a regular sleeping schedule – meaning go to bed at a reasonable hour and get up at the same time every day.  If you don’t have to be at class until the afternoon, take the morning to catch up on homework, exercise or clean.  Creating consistency in your life will help you keep a routine of healthy habits.


– Take advantage of the FREE fitness center.  As a health education major, most of my classes were inside the fitness center, and I still managed to leave without breaking a sweat.  (Talk about excuses!)  Most schools have a great fitness facility, complete with personal training, group fitness classes and even recreation.  If you don’t think you can motivate yourself to work out alone – join a class or even an intramural sports team (don’t worry, talent is not required – just fun!).


– Don’t drink your calories.  As a graduate from the most recently awarded #1 party school, there were lots of options for alcoholic consumption.  Beware of the added calories (and unwise decisions) that come along with drinking.  I’m not saying never enjoy a drink, just again, practice moderation.  As well as alcohol, coffee and soft drinks are available on every corner.  If you HAVE to get your caffeine fix, choose regular coffee and diet over regular sodas.


Have fun.  Lastly, college was one of the best times of my life.  I made best friends, earned a degree from a great university, and learned a lot about myself as a person.  Try new things, join clubs, and take random road trips.  Study hard, but don’t over stress.  Stay positive.


Circa 2005: My intramural Flag Football team - keeping fitness fun!

Circa 2005: My intramural Flag Football team - keeping fitness fun!


If you are past the glory days of college – pass this on to all of your college-going friends and family members!

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