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When we were little, our parents filled our heads with fabulous tales of fancy and fear. Between the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, children learn the delight of giving — or rather, receiving — money and gifts merely because a tooth falls out or the calendar displays a particular date. Stranger-danger was created to scare children away from approaching, or being approached by, an unfamiliar person. The Bogey Man was… actually, that one is an enigma. I have no idea what purpose he served, other than a sadistic need to see kids squirm every time they’re left in the dark. For me, the “Freshman Fifteen” always seemed like a made-up tale, passed along to ensure young co-eds stay on their toes and maintain their svelte, girlish figures. Unfortunately for me, I did not heed the warning, and early into my first semester of college, found myself blaming the dryer for shrinking my jeans.

Let me give you the scoop as far as this extra padding is concerned. There is no bizarre hormonal change that is instigated by higher education. You do not have a newfound thyroid problem, and I assure you, the dryer is as responsible for your “amazing shrinking pants” as a sleep disorder is preventing you from making it to class on time.

OK, here are a few realistic explanations regarding this fat-suit-of-a-body so many find themselves wearing. For 18 years, assuming the way you were raised fell under “traditional” standards, your parents, grandparents, or some other semi-responsible parent-types were able to control what entered your mouth (to a certain extent). Hopefully they forced veggies, fruits, and grains down your throat in hopes of keeping you healthy and teaching you good eating habits. Upon your arrival to college, you will find yourself surrounded by delicious, yet fat-laden, food. Many campuses boast a wide variety of fast-food options which always provide a quick and easy meal between classes. Your choices are limitless, and in most cases, a spy kit is required when searching for healthy options on a college campus.

So how can you avoid this tantalizing trap? Try to eat when you have plenty of time to survey your options. Avoid fast food, pasta bars, and anything high-carb or fried. Of course, carbs are essential to a balanced diet, but in moderation. Eat breakfast. Cereal, oatmeal, or fruit are great options. This jump-starts your metabolism for the day and always takes the edge off, preventing a feeding frenzy later in the day.

Another possible culprit for your newfound hips, butt, and waist could lie in the consumption of alcohol, late-night partying, and the subsequent late-night feasts. I know this may not apply to everyone, but for many, it is a player in their sudden expansion. Beer is fattening, bottom line. Getting plenty of sleep helps with weight maintenance, so late nights at the bar or SAE house are major contributors to the Freshman Fifteen. Eating after an evening of boozing is a common occurrence, and rarely have I stumbled home from a night of indulgence and satiated my hunger with an apple or bowl of brown rice. Pizza, Mexican food, and other greasy alcohol-absorbents tend to be the ideal candidates for booze-induced stomach grumblings, which sucks, because until all that alcohol is metabolized by your body, that greasy food is just sitting in your belly turning into fat.

Here are some suggestions. Partying is fine, but if you’re going to drink, stick to light beer or certain types of liquor, like vodka. Mix it up every other drink or so and rehydrate with some water. Drink lots of water the following day to clean out your system. Try to limit your late nights, and on nights you stay in, try to get as much sleep as possible. Lastly, if you MUST eat, try to choose something somewhat decent. Even better, drink a couple glasses of water. This will provide the “full” feeling you are looking for, as well as begin the flushing out process without pumping you full of salt, grease and fat. You can still enjoy your nights out without putting your body through hell.

A third and final explanation is simple — a decrease in activity level. Many of us played sports of some sort in high school, but few are skilled enough to progress to the collegiate level; therefore, our activity levels drastically decrease in an extremely short period of time. Try to counter this by taking advantage of your school’s gym facilities. Nearly all colleges come equipped with top-notch weight rooms, cardio equipment, pools, outdoor tracks and so on. Get off your ever-expanding butt and enjoy these amenities! After all, you’re already paying for them in your tuition, so you may as well get something out of it. You can also join an intramural sports team, which still allows you to enjoy the competitive nature of sports without feeling the pressure to live up to college athlete standards.

These are just a few causes of a monster so nasty and mean, not even the Grimm Brothers were brave enough to confront it. The formula for avoiding it is simple and merely requires a little effort and thought. Avoiding the Freshman Fifteen is a much easier task than attempting to get rid of it. Take it from me: Hell hath no fury like the Freshman Fifteen.

For more information on the Freshman Fifteen and how to avoid it, visit Weight Reduction Coach.

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