Often associated with the first year of college, “The Freshman 15” (those annoying extra pounds a new student may gain) is actually something that can happen during many of life’s transitions. Whether it’s the post-summer slump (bye-bye bikini!) or the stresses associated with a new home, new marriage, new baby, you name it – many times when our lives are changing, our bodies do a little changing as well. We caught up with Junelle Lupiani, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Supervisor at Miraval Resort & Spa, who shared the three biggest causes of Freshman 15, which go way beyond our college years, and the ways to beat them!
Lack of sleep and snacking when we should be sleeping
Whether you’re starting your first year of college, moving to a new city, starting a new job, or beginning any new life experience, you’re often met with late, sleepless nights be it from stress, work overload, or just trying to get used to a new routine. Unfortunately, many times when we find ourselves awake in the wee-hours of the morning we also find ourselves raiding the fridge. “I think people make too big a fuss over what happens to our appetite hormones when we don’t sleep,” explains Junelle. “Sure, they are likely higher the next morning, making you artificially hungrier than you ought to be, but the bigger issue here is simple… you don’t eat when you sleep!” Eating when we’re supposed to be asleep is a bad habit to get into. “It’s not because of the time of day,” she says. “Understand this now and forever, time of day doesn’t matter since calories can’t tell time. The fact is, it’s 1am and you should be asleep.”
Junelle uses this example: “Let’s say you create a pattern of staying up late to study [or work] and each night and at 1am you take a break and eat a 100-calorie snack-pack. That extra 100 calories every day adds up to almost a quarter pound of weight gain each week! Bottom line, if you start a pattern of late-night eating and you are consuming more calories than you ought to, you’re going to gain weight. So either create a solid bedtime or draw the line on when you stop eating each night and stick with it.”
Venti mocha-licious frappucinos with extra whip
New chapters in our life, and the lack of sleep that comes with them, usually lead us to making a new tall, dark, and handsome BFF – coffee. “Caffeine is an artificial stimulant and at times, this can be very beneficial, if not essential,” Junelle shares. “If you see value in it, learn how to drink your coffee black.
Here’s the breakdown, a Grande Frappuccino or Grande Mocha is going to give you, on average, 330 – 400 additional calories each day. So if you make no other changes to your diet and add this in, you’re looking at about a ¾ pound increase in weight each week. If you drink black coffee or tea with nothing added your calorie increase is ZERO.”
Neglecting the gym and finding excuses to not break a sweat
When we start new ventures finding time for the healthy habits that used to be routine becomes more and more difficult and finding excuses for skipping out on our visits to the gym or our early morning runs become more and more easy! “Sadly, most of us don’t go to college on a sports scholarship so playing our sport of choice on a collegiate level is out of the question,” Junelle says. “This can affect a person’s weight and health in a big way. In high school we had to go to practice every day no matter what. If we had too much homework, if our friends were doing something more fun, if our grandparents were in town, we still had to go to practice [or at the very least to gym class]. That created an exercise regimen that we were forced to adhere to, elsewise we were benched on game day.”
Junelle explains that once college begins and every year that follows as we grow into adulthood “we’re able to decide when we exercise and when we don’t and often times when we get busy or something more fun is going on, exercise is omitted.”
She uses the example of being a high school athlete and going to soccer practice 5 times a week for 90 – 120 minutes and therefore burning 750 calories, 5 days a week. “If you drop this and add no other exercise, that’s an increase of over a pound each week,” she explains.
“So keep moving! Choose whatever exercise works for you and stick with it. Some choose 6am treadmill/elliptical workouts before class at the rec center, some play intermural sports on campus, others go for walks after dinner before studying. It doesn’t matter what you choose, it doesn’t matter when you choose to do it, just make it habitual.” The same can be said for later in life as we start working and even eventually start families. Whether its carving out 30-40 minutes, 3-4 days a week for cardio and always making sure to do a little strength-training when you have the time (hello, squats while cooking dinner!), making weekly sweat-seshes enjoyable and habitual is key to keeping off the pounds that can creep up on us during those first few months of any new chapter in our life!
Have any advice on how you keep well during life’s transitions? Share them in the comments below!