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How to Lose the Freshman 15

How I Gained 30 Pounds in College (and Then Lost It)

In college, I was no stranger to the "Freshman 15." In fact, all that newfound freedom to eat whatever and whenever combined with the all-you-can-eat dining hall and late-night pizza runs made it the "Freshman 30." Now that I've been at a healthy weight for a while, I can look back on all the mistakes I made. I'm sharing these mistakes now in the hopes that I can help someone else avoid the sadness and insecurity that comes with weight gain.

Good-bye, Home-Cooked Meals
With no one to cook me healthy, balanced meals, or tell me to eat my broccoli and not a brownie sundae for dinner, I quickly made my own — unhealthy — meal decisions. This included ordering take-out, devouring junk food, and eating way more food than I did when home.

Is That Cookie Vegan?
My school population was 90 percent hippie, and I was already a vegetarian, so it's no surprise that becoming vegan was my next move. I didn't miss milk or eggs at all. Why miss it when there's decadent vegan ice cream, dairy-free cheese, and even a pizza place downtown serving vegan pizza? I was a total junk-food vegan and must have gained 10 pounds on vegan cookies alone. The late-night candy runs for Swedish fish didn't help either.

No, I Don't Need a Bowl — I'll Eat Out of the Bag
Chips, cookies, crackers, cereal; I ate a lot of my snacks with no plates or bowls because I was too lazy to do the dishes, which often meant polishing the entire package in one sitting.

Carrot Cake Counts as a Vegetable
I may have been vegan, but I hardly ate vegetables, unless you count tomato sauce on pizza, carrot cake, and greasy french fries. My diet was based around these four food groups: pasta, bagels, cereal, and cookies. Come to think of it, I hardly ate fruit either since it wasn't that easy to find on campus (or rather, not that appealing).

Continue reading to see the other reasons I gained weight, and more importantly, how I lost it.

I'm Jenny Sugar and I'm a Juice-aholic
We had no sink in our dorm room, but we had a minifridge. Instead of stocking it with bottled water, I was all about orange juice, fruit punch, lemonade — you name it. Another 10 pounds was in liquid calories.

Why Walk When I Can Take the Bus?
Aside from eating crap, and lots of it, I never exercised. I didn't even walk to class. I'd hop on the campus bus, even for classes that were a 10-minute walk. Laziness easily tacked on the last 10 pounds.

I knew I had gained some weight, but I didn't realize I was overweight until I saw a photo of myself. I was shocked at my round face, my bloated belly, and my all-around swollen five-feet-two frame. I was unhappy about how I looked, but more about how poorly I had treated my body. I knew some major changes had to be made in order to get my body back.

The first thing I did was ditch all the candy, cookies, ice cream, and other nonnutritional junk food. I was all about food that was fresh, not found in a box. My meals were centered around protein, whole grains, and fruits and veggies. I also watched portion sizes and started counting calories. A food journal was really helpful because I had to be honest about everything I ate. I still enjoyed fresh orange juice occasionally, but water became my beverage of choice.

Adding exercise was the biggest factor in my weight loss because I needed to burn calories to lose overall body fat. I joined a yoga studio, and practiced Ashtanga three days a week, but it wasn't enough. My muscles were strong, but I still had flab covering them. That's when I took up running. The first few months I did more walking than actual running, but after building strength and endurance, I was doing 30-minute runs.

Of course, these changes didn't happen overnight. It's tough to break old habits, and it took several months before I was eating right and exercising regularly. The hardest realization to swallow was that, as hard as I was working, the weight came off slowly. I counted on my own determination and the support of my friends and family to stick with it, and am so proud of the new and healthier me.

Source: Flickr User stevendepolo

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