Money College: The freshman 15, from a guy's-eye view

college foodEditor's note: On Feb. 9, Money College writer Megan Cottrell talked about the "Freshman 15" from the perspective of losing weight and gaining in the wallet. Now it's the guys' turn, as Bill Burman takes on the topic most males would rather not think about as they wolf down nachos and blow bucks at the convenience store.

Getting that first taste of college freedom can be delicious: No restrictions, no rules, no problem. Everything is different now, and you're not just living large, you're living fat.

That last part, actually, is the problem. Many college freshman, once free of a structured environment, have a tendency to go nuts on doughnuts, and more. The "freshman 15" is a cliche for a reason: It happens more often than you think, and nothing can put a damper on a really fun first year of adult life and college experience than coming out the other end of it a chubby, sweaty, tired and broke sophomore.

This Is Why You're Fat

We hate to say it, but that whole "no rules," thing we were talking about above doesn't exactly help you stay slim and trim. A little of that dreaded self-discipline can go a long way toward making sure you aren't the campus fatty. Here are a few common sense things to watch out for in your fight against those 15 freshman pounds just waiting for you.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Alcohol has a lot of calories, and we all know how easy it is to drink way too much of it. A typical beer has 150 calories or more, and a mixed drink usually starts at about 50 calories and goes up from there. If you're out some night and end up having four or five beers and a shot, you've consumed nearly 1000 calories, or half the calories you should consume in a day.

The Results: When you do this three or four times a week: Love handles, a puffy face and an empty wallet. Sexy!

The Defense: Drink less! You can still go out with your friends, but take it easy by drinking a glass of water with each drink. You'll get full faster, be less hungover the next day, and you'll take in fewer overall calories. Use part of your savings to be classy and tip your bartender a buck.

Lazy Sunday (or everyday)

Many a blissful college day is spent in a dorm room playing song after song on Guitar Hero with friends, and snacks, be it pop, the pizza you've ordered, chips, whatever. It's great that you're standing and playing that plastic guitar, but you're going to have to move a little more than that if you're going to stay in shape.

The Results: You're hungover, barely moving, and eating junk food. You're piling on the calories and not doing anything to get them off. You spent whatever you had left at the 7-Eleven or Pizza Hut, too.

The Defense: Get the heck out of there. Go for a walk for an hour and see what's interesting about your town. Hit the campus gym. It's great fun to hang out and play video games with friends, when done in moderation, but your friends probably need to be active as much as you do. Suggest an athletic activity. If they aren't down, look around, and you'll find people who are. It's cool to have different groups of friends with different interests.

Dinner, but not thinner

Time to eat, so you head to the school cafeteria. You don't have much time, so it's going to have to be something quick. Burger and fries? Tacos? Pizza? Big sandwich? Maybe you're trying to be healthy today, so you grab a salad and load it up with bacon, maybe a ton of Ranch dressing. Oh, and you've gotta grab a roll and a pat of butter. It's all processed food and filled with preservatives, loaded up with fats and sugars. But what are you gonna do? It's right here on campus, and you don't have time for anything else anyway.

The Results: You spend day in and day out eating food that can only even be called food in the strictest, most technical sense. There's no way those Nachos Rancheros are organic, or, at the very least, even good for you. And the diced tomato and shredded lettuce swimming in the cheese and sour cream don't count as a vegetable serving. It's never too early to start thinking about food-borne carcinogens, trans fatty acids or processed foods that can accelerate the aging process.

The Defense: Learn to shop. Eating healthy doesn't mean you have to choose between your life and your wallet. Research your area and find out when the local farmer's markets take place. You can often find the freshest vegetables (and sometimes even meats!) straight from the farm. If their schedule doesn't work for you, look into "subscribing" to a food co-op. Food co-ops charge a set price to regularly deliver batches of fresh veggies, like subscribing to a magazine that shows up weekly. They're often inexpensive, but if you can only find pricey ones, ask a friend to go in on it with you.

Secondly, learn to cook! It's a skill that will serve you well your entire life, and everyone appreciates having someone in the group who knows their way around a kitchen. Not only does cooking give you practice at an extremely marketable skill, but it can greatly aid your love life: particularly skilled cooks use their talents to impress and seduce. It's a fair bet that the object of your affection is going to be much more impressed with your finely crafted, home-cooked meal than your ability to order a pizza and call next for a turn on a fake plastic guitar.
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