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How To Party At College Without Gaining Weight

Updated on August 12, 2018
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I studied neuroscience and adore writing about a large range of topics, including the college/uni lifestyle, nutrition and mental health.

The Notorious "Fresher's Fifteen"

College is an extremely fun time for most young people; living independently and cooking for yourself makes you feel mature and self-sufficient. However, it can be notoriously difficult to control the calories that you consume while away from your parents. Many people gain the well-known "fresher's fifteen" during their first year at college/university, as binge drinking and late night snacks creep up on them.

Fortunately, however, it is possible to enjoy the social meals and drinking culture that college entails without gaining weight. Here are tips to help you stay in shape as a student.

Tofu stir-fry
Tofu stir-fry

1. Ditch Meat and Dairy, And Eat Large Volumes of Vegetables

It is so easy to gain weight at uni by eating regular breakfast fry ups and portions of ice cream. Ditching at least meat and dairy will drastically improve your health and allow you to eat larger portion sizes without gaining weight. Animal products are rich in saturated fats and are very calorie-dense, meaning that each portion contains far more calories than, say, a portion of mushrooms.

Now, a lot of you will be avid animal-product eaters who would struggle to imagine a life without ice cream, meat and butter. However, eating a plant-based diet is not boring or restrictive, and your brain rewires itself after a few months to crave vegan foods. I now find the smell of bacon absolutely repulsive, and adore aubergines, mushrooms, spicy rice, pasta and oven-roasted potatoes.

Trust me on this one - if you base your meals around large servings of vegetables (e.g. a large bowl of stir fry veg with some rice, kidney beans with quorn mince), you will find it easy to stay slim. Regularly eating large volumes of low-calorie foods (salad, carrots, peas, etc.) will result in 1. meal satisfaction and 2. a very well-balanced calorie intake, leaving room for some messy college behaviour (the odd drunken meal).

It's often tempting to eat copious amounts of sweets, chocolate and ice cream at college; your flatmates will probably do so, and you'll snack on their stashes even if you resist buying your own.

By educating yourself on meat and dairy, you'll find that you naturally become so repulsed at these foods that you won't indulge. Dairy contains pus and animal hormones that make you gain weight - does that make those chocolates less appetising?

Vegetarian fish fingers, sweet potato, spinach, peas and vegan mayo
Vegetarian fish fingers, sweet potato, spinach, peas and vegan mayo

2. Choose Alcohol Carefully

Many alcoholic drinks are extremely calorific, coming in at around 150 calories for a small shot (Jagermeister). When combined with high-sugar beverages such as coke and fanta, one can easily consume up to 800 calories from drinks alone.

The body processes liquids differently to solids, meaning that calories from alcohol are particularly bad in terms of weight gain. If you are serious about not gaining weight, you'll need to employ careful tactics when indulging in your college's drinking scene.

I personally would recommend something that sounds worse than it is: mixing spirits with pure water. Even gin and tonic, often considered a "diet drink", comes in around 250 calories. Mixing vodka, whisky or gin with water will dilute the spirit enough to make it drinkable, while avoiding unnecessary weight gain.

You should also avoid all soft alcohol (beer, wine etc.), as these drinks are 1. often extremely high in sugar and 2. have a low alcohol content, so you will end up drinking a lot to get intoxicated.

Good choice, bad choice, good choice
Good choice, bad choice, good choice

3. Don't Eat Rubbish While Drunk!

I have personally witnessed the unsightly weight gain that can occur from regular drinking sessions and drunken eating. If you're going to drink alcohol while at college, you won't necessarily "get fat" as 1. there are low-calorie drink options and 2. you will be dancing and moving around. However, regularly eating a large burger and chips in addition to drinking and your evening meal will pile on the pounds.

Trust me, I have been there. The craving for food becomes so intense at around 5am, when you're sober enough to feel the pangs of hunger but drunk enough desire the filthiest, greasiest food possible.

You just cannot do it, especially not on a regular basis. If you're fine with gaining a stone during your first year at college (it's not the end of the world), indulge to your heart's content. If weight gain is something that would depress you, however, steer totally clear of eating anything deep-fried while fat.

You can eat after a night out, but keep it at 600 calories max. That allows for a stir-fry, medium bowl of pasta, whatever you fancy. Anything home-prepared and non-oily is ideal. You'll sleep through and skip breakfast, eat lunch as normal, and won't gain weight in the long-term.

We all realise it sooner or later: you just cannot eat those 1200 calorie kebab and chips meals without gaining weight uncontrollably.


Vegan chilli con carne (a great post-club meal!)
Vegan chilli con carne (a great post-club meal!)

4. Walk Everywhere!

Becoming someone who walks everywhere is a sure-fire way to burn calories on a daily basis. If you're into the gym, that's amazing and much better than walking, but the reality is that very few college students actually commit to going to the gym regularly.

Deciding to walk everywhere is much more efficient than going to the gym once a month. Make walking your "me" time, and listen to your favourite tunes while you do so. It soon becomes an incredibly relaxing and invigorating habit.

5. Don't Shop While Hungry!

It's beyond difficult to shop while starving and not end up buying a "little treat for the walk home" especially when you're at college and have a limited range of things in your fridge. The supermarket will seem glorious.

The best way to avoid gaining weight at college is to just not buy those moreish, snack foods that you know you can't control yourself around. Shopping with an appetite will make that next to impossible, as hunger will take control.

6. Only Drink Water: No Sweet Drinks

As humans, we are not built to consume vast amount of liquid calories, as these are not found in the natural world. Routinely drinking cola, sprite and sweetened juices will add about 400 calories onto your daily intake, without even being particularly satisfying or filling you up.

Instead of drinking fanta, eat an orange. You will soon stop craving refined sugar.

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© 2018 Lucy

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