Freshman 15 (Unwanted Weight Gain) – Weight Loss Strategy

Like many first time college students, I was happy, excited, scared, nervous, and a mix of many emotions. I was preoccupied with adapting to the college life while trying to balance out grades, friends, organizations, and other events.

One experience I had that many can probably relate to is the Freshman 15. The “Freshman 15” is a term commonly used to express the amount of weight gained during one’s first college year which is typically 15 lbs, more or less. This does not have to apply to the freshman college group only but can include anyone who has gained extra lbs over the years.

What I Did About “Freshman 15”?

I did just about what many would typically do: Exercise really hard and eat healthy! For my age, I was pretty good in terms of my health and weight. I did various forms of weight training, bouts of high intensity interval training (HIIT), and ate all kinds of vegetables, fruits, and protein. Simultaneously, I avoided as much foods and drinks that contain too much sugars. Of course, I started to lose weight and saw some results within a short time.

Something That Came Up

Although I lost a significant amount weight, I came to later realize…exercising really hard and eating healthy was NOT easy. It worked very well in the beginning stages (when I had A LOT of free time) but it was EXTREMELY difficult to maintain long term. Social event gatherings like potlucks and birthdays would come up often. It was painful to have to avoid such delicious foods because of the strict regimen I put myself through.

Of course, I eventually caved in to the foods and lost motivation to exercise hard and eat healthy. My goals at the time were just unrealistic. I felt heavy, bloated, and tired often. I did find motivation again later to exercise and eat right. But like the first time, I regained all the weight back plus extra. It was quite a discouraging experience.

What I Do Today that Works for Me?

Just as it seems almost hopeless for me to lose weight, I eventually ran into something that DID started to work for me accidentally: Intermittent fasting (IF)! I say accidental ONLY because I got frustrated with dieting and losing weight one day so I started to “starve” myself but eventually caved in later that very same night to eat. Who would’ve known that this was pretty much IF in disguise except IF has a more positive connotation!

Anyways, when trying out IF, you are essentially putting your body in a fasted state for a certain period of time throughout your day with a certain time window for eating. During that fasted state, your body still needs energy to function and so it starts to break down certain molecules for energy and the most readily form is that “unpleasant” looking fat in undesired locations.

A common belief is that muscle is broken down significantly first when in a starvation mode. To some degree, there is a small amount of muscle breakdown but breaking down fat is much more efficient.  The presence of high ketones in our urine when doing a fasting blood test is evidence that fat is metabolized. In fact, fat is the energy that is stored and unused so that is EXACTLY what we want to use up. The body also breaks down old, dysfunctional proteins into smaller, usable parts (kind of like spring cleaning for our bodies).

Intermittent Fasting Tracks

  • 16/8 method (16 hour fast with an 8 hour window of eating) is the most popular IF track
  • Eat-Stop-Eat method (fast for 24 hours and eating 1 meal a day)
  • 5/2 method (Eating 500-600 calories on 2 NON-consecutive days, then eating regularly for 5 days)

Here is a YouTube video of those with some amazing results:

My Experience with IF

Starting out with IF can be difficult if you are accustomed to eating 3-5 meals a day with snacks in between. Here’s what I started out with.

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What I did initially was try to remove breakfast from my daily routine. I started off by reducing my breakfast meal size from the regular amount to half. After a week or so, I would reduce to about a fourth of the regular amount. Eventually, I was able to feel satisfied with a protein shake which you can check out here.

By the way, I really love Premier Protein. This product only contains 1 g of sugar when compared with some other brands and it still tastes great. It feels almost as sweet as soda except soda has 20 or even 30 g of sugar). I personally really like caramel and strawberry flavor!

Anyways, I eventually trained myself to skip breakfast. When I became accustomed to skipping breakfast, I eventually trained my body a bit more through even replacing my lunch with these protein shakes. If you are looking to go more into the muscle build, you can check out my other post here and take Whey Protein. Currently, I alternate between the 18/6 and the Eat-Stop-Eat methods.

Some Tips and Recommendations

You do not necessarily need to exercise to see the pounds shed on this diet but it does help speed up the process. Some people may avoid exercising due to knee pain from the wear and tear. Click here to find out how to manage knee pain.

I exercise about 1 to 3 times a week depending on my schedule and mood. The types of exercise depends on your preference. Keep in mind though that higher intensity exercise like HIIT means more burning of calories due to increased metabolism, and this is good. Unfortunately, it also means you’ll be more hungry and wanting to eat more, which is not so good.

In terms of types of foods to eat with IF, you can pretty much eat whatever you like and still lose weight but DO be aware of the foods that are higher in sugar and bad fat content (so moderation is key). These still add up calories and it is still better to eat nutritious foods (Another reason why I like the protein shakes since it has high nutrient content).

Keep in mind the intake (ingestion of calories) and outtake (burning of calories). Focus on reducing intake and increasing outtake. The weight loss will be VERY fast in the early stages but will start to plateau once you approach your targeted weight. To go beyond that would require the addition of something like reduced eating window time, additional day of exercise, etc.

Try to use sleep to your advantage and incorporate it during your fasting hours. Click here if you have trouble sleeping.

My Results

I started packing weight through Freshman 15 and approached close to 210 lbs. But after trying out IF? I am currently standing at about 180 lbs. I am satisfied with my weight for now and I haven’t tried too hard to push below 20% body fat with a visible 6-pack. You can kind of say I have a slightly visible 3 pack. Still, this was one of the few health changes that worked consistently for me and it has already become my lifestyle. It doesn’t take too much effort from me anymore to go through my IF routine.

Benefits of IF

In addition to weight loss, one can also experience:

  • Reduced Insulin resistance
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Improved heart health
  • Cancer prevention
  • Improved brain health
  • Slowed aging


IF is a really great way to help you become or even stay healthy especially for those with really busy and stressful schedules. It can be difficult to transition right away so the protein shakes can be used as a meal replacement until you are ready to cut one complete meal like breakfast. As with anything, if you are never sure whether a change in lifestyle is safe or right for you, always check with your physician. Hope IF works out for you too!

Did you enjoy this life hack on how to lose weight? Please leave a comment below!


28 thoughts on “Freshman 15 (Unwanted Weight Gain) – Weight Loss Strategy”

  1. I am really surprised by the benefits of IF, such as the prevention of cancer and aging slowly. i agree with your final opinion that this type of diet regime is perfect for those who have busy schedules, however i would say this diet regime is a killer!! i have tried the 5/2 method and this type of diet was really hard for me to get used too, and i ended putting the weight back on straight away. 

    However i do think IF can work for most people and the article is a really good insight!

    • Hello Joe! I have experienced the same thing as you did so you are not alone! I managed to get myself to eat only one meal a day but doing that consistently is a real killer like you mentioned. There are also even days where I ended up gaining weight as well. I think when I hit that plateau of not losing any more weight (or even ended up gaining), I would switch back to the 16/8 and eat smaller, consistent meals within that time window (and also healthier foods over fast food). When I did the eat-stop-eat method, I think my metabolism became way too slow, to the point where my intake of calories was nearly equivalent to my output. By switching to the 16/8 method, I was able to speed up my metabolism again and when I returned back to the eat-stop-eat, I started to notice more improvement again. When improvement ceases, it’s either back to the 16/8 or increasing my workout frequency and/or intensity. It’s a bit of a slow process and a lot of trial and error when you are getting closer to your ideal weight. Hope that helps!

  2. I’m glad I came across a text like this. I have been at IF for a year and I am very satisfied. I use the 16/8 method which involves fasting every day for 14–16 hours and restricting your daily eating window to 8–10 hours. Within the eating window, you can fit in two, three, or more meals. Doing this method of fasting can actually be as simple as not eating anything after dinner and skipping breakfast. For example, if you finish your last meal at 8 p.m. and don’t eat until noon the next day, you’re technically fasting for 16 hours. I am very pleased with the effect and would recommend it to everyone.

    • Hello there! That’s great to hear! I really love how convenient IF is and I am still doing it. I believe I lost another 3 more lbs since this post.

  3. Yup this is exactly what happened to me as soon as I started college when i had just graduated from high school. I was literally an athlete in highschool and in the best shape ever but as soon as the college stress hit, that all changed immediately. This has been a very insightful article for me to read and I appreciate this information. I can’t believe it’s free!!

    • Hello Misael! Thanks for your comment! I am glad to hear that we share similar experiences and that this was an insightful article for you.

  4. AHHHHH. the freshman 15.

    Its easy to forget about proper nutrition when you first step out on your own. And especially the influence you schedule friends and activates can really take a toll on your overall health.

    The information you presented in this article is easy to read and understand. I really enjoyed a walk down memory lane.

    Best Regards,

    • Hello Jordan! Thanks for your comment! I definitely forgot about proper nutrition when entering college (or at least I learned more about it after making dieting mistakes and gaining unwanted weight). Made me appreciate what my parents did even more when they provided more nutritious food at home. 

  5. As of today, unfortunately people begins to eat to much “junk food”since five years old.

    Fortunately, the person that written the article, says that he combined diet with exercise with a healty diet. He mentions three ways for a 24-hour diet. If I were asked to choose which I like, definitely the 16/8 method, and don’t like the 24-hour method.

    Regardless this, one have to be careful with the diet method used. The method I use is: Breakfast: 2-slices of bread, 1 egg every other day, a cup of coffe and 1 fruit; Lunch: Full meal, mostly with chicken or fish, potato, sweet yam, or matured plaintain, and a lot salad. Sometimes add Ice Cream after Lunch; Dinner: Usually a Sandwich, burger or Quesadilla, with either juice or diet soda. Acutally I have lost 10 pounds.

    • Hello there! You are right about junk food being too common. I hear a lot about how even teenagers (and even younger than that) are developing later adult life conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol now. Junk food tends to have way more calories than nutrition leaving one to not feel full or satisfied(due to lack of nutrition), so they tend to eat more than they should until their stomachs are overly stretched. However, the calories still stack up and nutritional needs are not met. Nothing truly beats healthier, whole, nutritious foods. 

      The 16/8 method is the best intermittent fasting (IF) track in my opinion. It’s almost as simple as skipping one meal a day (usually breakfast). BUT, in the end, intermittent fasting may still not work for everyone. It just happened to work for me out of all the diets I tried. I was still gaining weight and plateaued hard when eating 3 meals of whole, nutritious foods similar to the ones you mentioned. I lost about 10-15 lbs with healthy eating (3 times a day) and about 30-35 lbs with IF. 

      Again, everyone’s bodies are different. If what you are doing is still working for you, please continue to do that 🙂

  6. I think this article is not just for college students. I find it useful for reading up about Intermittent Fasting. In my circles, I know 2 people who practice fasting. I do not know whether I am capable of not eating for 16 hours straight which is my preference. The other 2 methods that you suggested does not seem to work for me. 

    • Hello there, Richard! You are right in that this article is not just for college students! To not eat for 16 hours straight can sound intimidating but a simpler way to think of it would be that you will be eating dinner (let’s say at 7 PM), sleep until the next morning and wake up at 7 AM (for example), that is already a 12 hour fast. If you can manage to get yourself to skip breakfast, then you will most likely be eating around 12 PM, so that’s an additional 5 more hours which totals to about 17 hours!

      Initially this WILL be difficult. The best way would be to slowly reduce the breakfast meal size from a full meal, to a half meal, to a quarter meal, to a snack, etc. (and hence I recommended the protein shake replacement). By that point, you would already have reduce so much of your regular meal size that you can just completely skip. You can have a glass of water or cup of black coffee to trick your mind into thinking it is “full” too, that will still count as fasting.

      I also recommend skipping breakfast because the moment you start eating is the moment your metabolism will kick in. If you choose to skip dinner, you will feel really hungry due to your early metabolism kick start with your breakfast meal. Lunch is an awkward time to do a full 16 hour fast. It would be good to take advantage of the sleeping hours (easy 8 hours). Hope that helps!

  7. Hello Mike! This was such a beautiful story! Really glad to have come by it. Big thanks for sharing this with us. Loved it. I have heard quite a bit about IF in time past but never really knew it had such amazing benefits like Slow Aging and Prevention from cancel. Your diet interval seem okay, however I can’t judge rn

    • Hello Rorodote, thank you for your comment! I am glad to hear you enjoyed the article. The diet interval may not work for everyone since each person’s body functions differently. IF is just another option if other diets have not been working for others. The only other diet I know of that can potentially work well is keto but I haven’t tried that yet.

      I realized the 24 hour fast doesn’t work as well for me when I did it for too long. The weight loss just pretty much plateaus. It’s really tough on the body and there’s no benefit after some time. 

      This is because my metabolism essentially just becomes too slow. I also didn’t have enough energy to exercise which further slows it down. Thus, I had to switch back to the 16:8 method to try and speed the metabolism back up again by eating more often. Once the metabolism speeds up, I can do the 24 hour fasts again and it will be more effective again. This is why I alternate between the 2.

  8. Thanks a million times for sharing freshman 15 how to lose unwanted weight, have had a lot of troubles during my freshman year on how to cop with class, social gathering and my walk out, due to lack of time, most time I eat junks. But knowing about intermittent fasting, I think I will try that out, hoping for better results, but on the norms I eat a lot when I end a fast.

    • Hello there, Williams! You are welcome. That freshman year can be quite difficult trying to adjust to everything. When I first started fasting, I too had that issue of eating too much when I end a fast. Something to keep in mind would be that it takes about half an hour before one can start to feel the sensation of being full. So there’s a couple things you can try. 

      The first is to drink a glass of water before you eat when about to break the fast. That should take up space and there will be less room to fill up with food. Another thing is to eat as slowly as possible. After fasting for such a period, it is easy to want to “inhale” the food. But try to focus more on chewing the food more thoroughly before swallowing. Lastly, eat as if eating many snacks during your eating window, with a break in between each item you eat. Hope that helps!

  9. Hi Mike. Very interesting article. New year, new me – time to loose some weigh. So definitely I found your post in perfect time. But of course its not easy especially with covid, quarantine and all related issues. Looking forward to use some your advices and recommendations, and I hope results will come soon.

    • Hello Cogito! I’m glad you to hear you enjoyed the article. I too packed on a few pounds from all the quarantining so it definitely hasn’t been easy like you said. Currently trying to find ways I can increase physical activity. Most of the weight I realized my weight gain was from water weight because I pretty must lose everything I gained after a session of exercise. To me this means intermittent fasting is still working, just need to be careful with my sodium intake.

  10. If only I came across this while I was a freshman myself. Looking back, I am sure i gained way more than just 15lbs at that time lol! But yes, I have tried IF and it definitely works. At first, i used to get a lot of headaches and stomach cramps and felt very dizzy. But those were all normal because my body was getting used to the “starvation stage” as you mentioned. The benefits of IF are vast and results are even better! Thank a lot for sharing this insight so all the freshman this year can avoid the unwanted weight gain!

    • Hello there, Sasha! Good thing is that this concept doesn’t just apply to freshman only but actually people of all ages (perhaps not children and pregnant women). I am glad to hear that IF worked for you. Starting out, it definitely wasn’t easy since it felt like we were starving ourselves. Eventually though, our bodies got used to it and IF is now working in our favor.

  11. I think one thing that would be a good complement to IF is meditation. I know, this advice is probably not suitable for a college student, but I always say: get the internal right, the external follows. By all means, continue to follow the diet as long as it does not harm your body, but quieting the mind for 15-20 minutes a day would work wonders for your health.

    • Hello there, Clark! I think that’s a great idea to supplement IF with. I actually feel like meditation (especially the music that goes with it) uses binaural beats technology. You should check out my article on brain fog when you have the chance also.

  12. It is very common for youngsters to pick up weight when they leave home for the first time, but it is then difficult for them to loose the weight again without a proper plan and exercise. 

    Intermittent fasting is a very effective way of controlling your weight and I have been using it for a number of years now. Although, at first I did not realise that it was called intermittent fasting. I only eat fruit for breakfast and not before 10 am, often later, and dinner is usually by 7pm. This works very well for me and is very doable. 

    • Hello there! I also did intermittent fasting without realizing what it was. It’s amazing how effective it is in controlling one’s weight. Glad to hear you had success with it and still going.

  13. Thanks for this very useful information on intermittent fasting.

    I have been doing this for the last 6 weeks or so along with exercise.  As I have been building muscle, the weight loss has not been dramatic, but it is reducing slightly.  But I have not been cutting out any food.  I have just eaten in a shorter period.  While reducing breakfast to a shake may work for you, it is not recommended.  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  You should replace your lunch or dinner for the shake instead, as it would be much healthier for you.

    • Hello there, Geoff! You are welcome. That’s great that you have been doing this for the last 6 weeks or so with exercise. I do noticed more weight gain with weight training while on IF. 

      I think cutting out food has been the biggest problems with most diets because after the program, there is a tendency to go back and eat the food that was cut out in a binging manner. It takes a really disciplined person to stick to a diet as a lifestyle.

      I used to do the shake diet too for breakfast with home cooked nutritious meals for lunch and dinner too, but I was never successful in breaking past a certain point in my weight. It wasn’t until I skipped breakfast that I noticed a breakthrough in my weight and more improvements in my health. But then again, everyone’s bodies is different. 

      I also think that our bodies just learn to get used to things so I think if I switch it up once in a while, it can potentially work.

  14. You have no idea how many diets I went through just to try and lose weight. Initially yes, I did lose some. But with time, my body just got used to the routine and no progress is seen. It sucks! My diet also gets ruined whenever I see people eat my favorite foods in front of me and also because of social events. It’s like nearly impossible to avoid food at that point!
    I’ve been hearing A LOT about intermittent fasting, haven’t had a chance to look more into it. Maybe I’ll give it a try now! Your explanation of how it works was very clear to me. Thanks for this.

    • Hi Larry! Like you, I also went through many diets, lost weight in the beginning and gained back more! From my experience, diets are very temporary and requires you to sacrifice some food type or group or at least restrict it. However, I don’t believe anyone would ever truly want to sacrifice certain foods for good. Therefore, rather than focusing on temporary diets, it would be better to work on something that is more lifelong or long term. I.F. doesn’t restrict you from certain food groups (unless you choose to!), but the main focus is on different time frames of eating. I still eat anything I want, but I try to include more nutritious foods. This “diet” has been the only one that works with me and also fits with my busy work schedule. Hope you see great results from it soon!


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