Freshman 15 (Unwanted Weight Gain) – An Effective Method to Lose that Weight

First Time as a College Student

Like many students, I was happy, excited, scared, nervous, and a mix of many emotions when I was starting college. I was preoccupied with adapting to the college life while trying to balance out many things like getting good grades, making new friends, joining student organizations, and many 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 year in college which is typically 15 lbs, more or less. This does not have to apply to the freshman college group only but includes anyone who has gained unwanted 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! I was fairly fit for my age and weight and so I did various forms of weight training, bouts of high intensity interval training (HIIT), and ate all kinds of vegetables, fruits, and protein. I avoided as much foods and drinks containing 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 an easy task. 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 would come up often such as potlucks and it felt torturing to have to avoid such delicious foods because of the strict diet and exercise 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 just 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 (and hence the high ketones in our urine when doing a fasting blood test). Fat is stored, unused energy after all and that is EXACTLY what we want to use up. The body also breaks down old, dysfunction proteins into smaller, usable parts (kind of like spring cleaning 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, and then eating regular on the other 5 days)

Here is a YouTube video that can explain it in more detail:

And now, here is a YouTube video of those with some amazing results:

My Experience with IF

Starting out with IF can be difficult initially 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 was focused on removing breakfast from my daily routine. I slowly reduced 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 since it only contains 1 g of sugar when compared with some other brands and it still tastes great (especially when compared to soda with 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 by 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

When implementing this diet change, you do not necessarily need to exercise to see the pounds shed but it does help speed up the process. Some people avoid exercising due to knee pain from the wear and tear caused by their weight. 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. 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 but it also means you’ll be more hungry and wanting to eat more.

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 always key). These still add up calories and it is still better to eat more nutritious foods (Another reason why I like the protein shakes since it has high nutrient content). Also, 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 the targeted weight would require the addition of something extra like reduced eating window, an 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 originally started packing on much weight approaching 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 (I guess you can say I currently have a slightly visible 3 pack?). Regardless, 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

Summary

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!

 

22 thoughts on “Freshman 15 (Unwanted Weight Gain) – An Effective Method to Lose that Weight”

  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!

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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!!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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,
    Jordan

    Reply
    • 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. 

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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 🙂

      Reply
  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. 

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply

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