by Yvonne Liu
The Freshman 15-ever heard of it? It's when college freshmen gain an average of 15 pounds (about 7.5 kg.) after their first year in school. Not everyone is afflicted, but not everyone can prevent it. And that includes international students. One of the things you didn't do when selecting a school was take food and meals into consideration. Are you on a meal plan? Do you find yourself grabbing fast food a lot because you aren't used to dorm food or are too tired to cook once you come home?
Studies have proven that restaurant cooking may be much higher in fat and calories than home-cooked meals. You never know just how much oil was used to stir-fry your chow mein or how much salt was in that hot dog. Food in America also tends to be sweeter than food in many other countries, which translates into additional calories and unnecessary fat. By eating more frequently at home, you can not only control how much fat and sodium you consume but save money as well.
Whether you end up eating out or staying in, try to follow a well-balanced diet. This includes eating lots of fresh fruits, leafy green vegetables, legumes (beans), and grain products (breads, pasta, rice, and potatoes) every day. Make sure to eat fish, poultry, or even tofu a few times a week. Try to keep your red meat, sweets, and high-fat dairy intake to a minimum, perhaps once or twice a week, and in smaller amounts. Oh yeah, sodas and other sugary drinks count as sweets. Your best bet? Water, and plenty of it.
On the one hand, what you eat matters in maintaining a healthy weight. But on the other hand, it's not about what you eat-just how much. Following the trend of eating out, restaurant portions tend to be bigger and heavier than the ones we may cook for ourselves or the ones served in your home country. One thing that Americans love to do is bring the leftovers home, so don't feel pressured to eat more than you can stomach. You can always ask for a "doggie bag," take it home, and finish your meal another time.
Following a well-balanced diet is only half of what you must do to stay healthy and fit. One of the most important components which people often forget is exercising. We know, we know. It's always too hot, too cold, or just plain inconvenient. And as someone pointed out, part of the reason international students gain weight is because not only do they have so much schoolwork to do and so little time, but they may also read slower than their American counterparts. Great excuse for not exercising, huh?
But you don't have to join a gym or take a class to work out. Instead of driving to class, walk if it is within a reasonable distance. And rather than taking the elevator, take the stairs every once in a while. You'd be surprised how much little things add up. One of the most beneficial forms of (free) exercise is walking. If you prefer something more bouncy and sweaty, exercises that get your heart rate up are even better! This includes jogging or running, playing organized sports such as basketball or tennis, and even aerobics. If you belong to a gym, you may want to consider some of the trendier workouts such as tae bo and kickboxing.
So there you have it. We can't guarantee weight loss, but if you keep some of these factors in mind, we believe that you will be able to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Sure, staying in all the time sucks, so we encourage you to venture out and try different foods you may have never tasted before. Just eat smart and watch the amount of food you ultimately chow down.