So here's the deal.. some say that gaining the Freshman 15 isn't legit. Yes, you may gain a few pounds, they say, but it won't reeeeeally be 15 pounds. These people are most definitely wrong. When I went home for Thanksgiving break, I stepped on the scale for the first time since leaving for school to the harsh realization that I had gained 17 pounds. A WHOPPING 17 pounds. And for a small person (I'm 5'2'') who had never thought twice about my weight, I was astonished. How could this happen? My eating habits weren't that different. I wasn't exercising any more or less than I did at home. I was getting a similar number of hours of sleep. 

pizza, tea, coffee, beer
Meghan Flynn

But then I started to think. The dining hall froyo machine. The late night sushi burritos. The alcohol and sugary chasers. It was way more than I had been eating or drinking at home. And I realized that it really took a toll on my body.

fish, sashimi, wasabi, avocado, tuna, crab, salmon, rice, sushi
Isabelle Caine

So on Thanksgiving, I vowed to end the year the same weight with which I had started it. I drastically changed my lifestyle, and I did it. I accomplished my goal. Plus, I learned valuable life skills that I would never have been forced to learn if I hadn't gained the dreaded freshman 15. Here are some of the most important lessons I learned: 

First, don't eat late at night

This may be a given, but it really does take a toll on your health. I used to go out for the night and come back, only to eat an entire bagel or sandwich, a bunch of cookies and a glass of milk and cookies, a sushi burrito, pizza with penne vodka, mozzarella sticks, Ben and Jerry's, chips, Kit Kats, and more. This added an ENTIRE meal to my day. Sometimes we don't even realize what we're doing, but eating after going out typically consists of eating an exorbitant amount of food. And most of the time, it's extremely unhealthy. Let's be real, who comes home after a long night and craves carrots and celery? 

cookie, chocolate
Isabelle Caine

Second, drink lots of water (and green tea)

I never used to drink water during the day, but it really helps to filter everything out of your system. Now, I drink three large Swell bottles a day, which seems crazy, but it really does help to make me feel (and look) better. 

hot chocolate, chocolate, cream, cappuccino, tea, milk, espresso, coffee
Julie Lau

Third, you don't need to go on a crazy diet to lose weight

Sometimes people think that in order to lose a lot of weight, they need to go on a restrictive diet. But that's not a healthy way to lose weight! Our bodies need carbs and fats and sugars and proteins to function. Instead of going on a juice cleanse or a no carb diet, try to dedicate yourself to clean eating. Limit processed foods and stick mostly to wholesome ingredients. In the long run, this can lead to a lifestyle change rather than a diet that you neglect once the weight is gone (or even before that). 

pepper, lettuce, kale, broccoli, vegetable, salad
Isabelle Caine

Fourth, find a workout you love

I never used to work out. Ever. The idea of going to the gym was equivalent to sticking needles in my eyes. I found running to be so boring, and I didn't know any other type of workout. However, during my winter break, I discovered hot vinyasa yoga. I fell in love with it. The heat, the music, the camaraderie, the cardio, and the stretching. Instead of dreading working out, I began to look forward to it. Whether it's running, yoga, spin, barre, pilates, kickboxing, lifting weights, or something else, once you find a workout you love, you will be so much happier. 

cake, coffee, beer
Isabelle Caine

Fifth, you can find a healthy option (almost) anywhere

It's really difficult when you are trying to eat healthily and your friends are not, especially in college, where there's always late night eating, trips to restaurants, and free food everywhere. But you don't have to be "that girl" that won't go somewhere because she is watching her calorie intake. If your friends are going to the farmer's market, go! Yes, it's tempting to see lots of fresh baked goods, but there's also plenty of fresh salads and produce. If your friends are going to an Italian restaurant, go! Just order a salad instead of a ginormous pizza. 

salmon, pesto, scrambled, spinach, omelette
Isabelle Caine

Lastly, believe in yourself

You may slip up. You may get down on yourself if you aren't seeing the results you want, but don't stop believing that you can achieve your goals. Confidence and a positive mental state is a large part of weight loss. Be proud of yourself instead of down on yourself because you CAN do it!