Weight gain among college students isn’t uncommon. One study found that 70% of college students gain at least a few pounds during college. Other people might have much loftier weight loss goals.
College can be one of the best times of your life, even if you’re trying to lose weight. Regardless of why your weight gain happened, I’m here to show you how to lose weight in college.
Why should you keep reading? Because I was overweight in college. During this time, I spent many months browsing fitness forums, medical websites, and reading nutrition books. Yeah, I lived a pretty wild life in college.
Let’s get away from talking about how lame I was in college and get into the tips!
1. Walk a few times per week (or more)
If you don’t want to or can’t lift weights, another great way to lose weight in college is by walking. Most college campuses have security on-site and plenty of paths that are perfect for a nice morning or evening walk.
Walking is a great physical activity that’s also beneficial for your mental health. It’s also the perfect thing to do to combat gaining weight in college.
Taking a walk helps lower your blood sugar, which is great for weight maintenance. Since walking is a physical activity, it also burns calories. Walking or jogging also helps improve your mental health, reducing feelings of anxiety and depression.
Instead of indulging in emotional eating or binge drinking, think about getting out of your dorm room and taking a nice walk when you feel stressed out.
2. Quit drinking (or at least cut back a little)
Let’s be honest, drinking and college go together like peanut butter and jelly. A good portion of my college life (at least part of it) was spent drinking alcohol.
But, if you’re looking for a reason to quit drinking, alcohol consumption is well-known for making people gain weight. There’s a reason for the term beer belly. And it’s not just beer, many liquors are full of sugars and empty calories. Mixed drinks are even worse!
If you prefer, you can also lower your alcohol consumption. For instance, you could drink on Friday nights but not Saturday. Or skip drinking every other weekend. By swapping out margaritas for water or diet soda, your total calorie intake will plummet. And, that’s how you lose weight.
Here’s more information about how many calories are in your favorite alcoholic beverages:
- 1 shot of whiskey – 90-110 calories
- 1 glass of red wine – 120-165 calories
- 1 can of beer – 130-155 calories
- 1 margarita (small, four ounces) -160-180 calories
3. Start writing a food journal
I know college students do a lot of writing. But doing a little more writing or typing by making a food journal is one of the best ways to lower your body weight.
Creating a food journal helps a busy college student track their eating habits. This journal also holds you accountable when you’re ditching healthy foods for fast food.
Having a food journal isn’t about feeling guilty. Instead, over time, food journals help people make healthier eating habits. I’ve done it before, and having a food journal doesn’t take as much work as you might think it does.
What you track in your food journal depends on your goals. Since you’re reading this, it’s likely that your main goal is weight loss.
So with each food and beverage you consume, you’d want to track:
- Total calories
- Saturated fat
4. Replace junk food with a few healthy snacks
There’s almost no easier or faster path to weight gain than poor dietary choices. I’m nowhere near perfect, I have several junk foods that I can’t resist.
Fortunately, you’d be amazed at how quickly you can achieve serious weight loss by replacing a few unhealthy foods with healthy snacks. Plus, having some nutritious foods in your dorm or apartment stops you from loading up on fast foods or extra trips to your dining hall.
Nutrient-dense foods typically also keep you feeling full longer. When this happens, it helps you avoid late-night munchies or extra dining hall trips.
Something that helped me avoid excessive weight gain in college was making trying new foods like a game. Did I like every healthy food I tried? Hell no. But there were several healthy snacks I ended up loving, like Greek yogurt!
5. College students: learn how to cook.
One of the most effective ways to manage your weight is by avoiding junk food. And how do you avoid the temptation of an always-open McDonald’s or Taco Bell? By learning how to cook.
Don’t worry – you don’t need to become the next Gordon Ramsey or dedicate your life to cooking. But learning how to make a few meals at home not only helps you save money, but it can also help you lose weight!
Plus, being a good cook can make your dating life a lot better. Try even a week of cooking at home instead of getting fast food or hitting up the dining hall. You’ll be amazed at how much better you look and feel.
Plus, ditching fast food or cutting back on it saves you a lot of money. The average fast food meal can cost anywhere from $5-$20 depending on what fast food place you choose and where you live.
Eating fast food a few times each week adds up fast. Getting a $10 fast food combo meal a few times per week means spending a few hundred dollars each month!
6. Sit out during the next round of beer pong
If you like to party, your weight gain might be coming from drinking alcohol. I get it. It’s fun to play beer pong and all of the many other college-drinking games. But you can still have a great night by letting your buddies drink excessively and pay for it with the next-day hangover.
7. Try to avoid eating before bed
Many people fall victim to gaining unwanted weight by eating late at night. As a creature of habit, I must admit that I deal with this problem almost every night.
Eating processed or packaged foods full of sugars can raise your blood sugar levels before bed, keeping you from getting a good night’s rest.
With all that said, some people’s bodies are wired to feel hungry late at night. If that’s the case consistently, you don’t have to starve yourself. Just maybe reach for fresh fruits instead of Oreos or cheesecake.
Something that helps me avoid midnight snacks is eating a filling dinner. By the time I go to bed, I’m still full and can wake up to enjoy a nice breakfast in the morning.
8. Drink more water
You can do something great for your physical health by drinking more water. When you drink water, you quench your thirst without reaching for sugary sodas or calorie-filled beer. If you don’t like water, maybe sipping on lightly sweetened decaf coffee is more your thing.
If you want to cheat a little bit, check out the beverages aisle at your local supermarket. Chances are, you’ll find a bunch of products you can use to flavor your water to give it some taste.
Staying hydrated with water can even sharpen how your brain performs, which is great since college students tend to use their brains a lot.
9. Get more sleep
If you need a reason to get more sleep, losing weight is a good one. Best of all, this isn’t a myth. It’s actually backed by research. According to the University of Chicago Medicine, people who went from about 6 hours to 8.5 hours of sleep each night consumed (on average) 270 fewer calories per day.
Getting enough sleep won’t give you a six-pack overnight. But consuming about 300 fewer calories by getting more sleep sounds like a win-win deal to me.
You don’t need to force yourself to sleep 12 hours a day or anything like that. Just try to get enough sleep so that you feel well-rested when you wake up.
10. Buy a Keurig machine
One of the things I most often remember during college is needing caffeine – a lot of caffeine. If you’re one of many college students preparing for an upcoming exam and need caffeine, you can save a small fortune by making coffee at home.
Most energy drinks and fancy coffee beverages are expensive. These drinks also typically contain a lot of empty calories from excessive sugar. Cutting out all that sugar by making coffee at home is a great way to lose college weight if you love caffeine.
There are also many, many flavors of K-cups (what goes into the Keurig machine). It’s fun!
And, no, I’m not a Keurig spokesperson or anything. I just happen to have an older Keurig in my kitchen.
If I can successfully make coffee by using a Keurig machine, I have no doubt that you also can!
11. Breakfast won’t help much with weight gain or loss
If you read almost anything about maintaining a healthy body weight, you’ll see something about eating breakfast. One website says not to skip breakfast. Another website suggests you should avoid breakfast in the mornings.
As it turns out, according to Harvard Health Publishing (yes, that Harvard), skipping breakfast won’t have that much of an effect on your weight. In its study, Harvard Health Publishing studied a group who ate breakfast and one who didn’t over seven weeks.
At the end of the almost two-month study, the breakfast eaters weighed, on average, only 1.7 pounds more than those who didn’t eat breakfast.
12. Start a weightlifting program
Weightlifting is a great way to lose fat. Notice how I didn’t say lose weight. It’s safe to assume that you’re reading this because you want to be skinnier or lose body fat. When you lift weights, you’re burning a lot of calories.
But I don’t recommend judging your success with weightlifting based on what the scale says. That’s because muscle weighs more than fat. But I promise you’ll lose body fat and trim down (don’t worry about the numbers on a scale during a weightlifting program).
Lifting weights releases dopamine, which is great for naturally improving your mental well-being. It’s also a great way to improve your stress levels, especially if you’ve been in your dorm room stressing out about upcoming exams.
Check out this list of great workout supplements for beginners.
13. Begin losing weight with a friend
Do you know anyone else who wants to lose weight? Then, this person could be your weight loss buddy. The term is cheesy, but it’s another way to describe another person who wants to lose weight with you.
This person doesn’t have to follow you around every moment of every day. But you two can enjoy healthy foods or working out together. Trust me, having someone who’s going through the challenges and accomplishments of losing weight with you is a great thing.
It’s also much easier to be physically active when someone’s either cheering you on or telling you to get off the couch. Both attitudes work for motivation purposes.
Going to your dining hall for ice cream is easy when you’re by yourself. But when you have a buddy who’s snacking on fresh fruit, sneaking off for ice cream is going to be tougher.
14. Speak with a professional
When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, everyone’s bodies and goals are different. If you’re dealing with college weight gain and want it to stop, seek out help from a medical professional.
A weight management specialist can help you form a meal and exercise plan. These people can also refer you to someone who can provide emotional support in a professional setting.
As you can see, there are many ways for college students to maintain a healthy weight. Do I think you have to follow all of these weight loss strategies? Maybe in time, but definitely not starting out. I included so many tips because, when it comes to things like this, I find a few tips to be easier for me than others. Then, I use them.
So, try these tips and see which ones are easiest for you to follow. The key to success with weight loss is to build sustainable habits. If you’d rather gain weight in college, check out this post about bulking up on a budget.