Many college students know the feeling: one day during your freshman year, you wake up and your pants feel tighter than normal. Dismissing the sudden uncomfortable feeling, you quickly resort to blaming the washing machine for ruining your favorite jeans, sweatpants, and skirts. Your clothes clearly shrunk. That just has to be the culprit! Or at least that’s what you think…until you eventually step on your bathroom scale only to realize you’ve gained 10, 15, or even 20 pounds! The horror! Yes, you’ve become a victim of the notorious freshman fifteen.

If this rings true to you, don’t fret. There are simple steps you can take without making major changes to your daily routine to help you not only avoid the dreaded freshman-year weight gain, but also get rid of it as quickly as possible.

Step One: Beware the student cafeteria.

There’s a good chance that you’ll be required to pay meal plan fees in your tuition. Eating on campus is convenient, but keep in mind that not all of the options available to you are healthy. In most cases, actually, the cafeteria is not your friend. Yes, pizza, spaghetti, and all of the chocolate cake you can eat is enough to make your mouth water. Unfortunately, it’s probably what’s contributing to your expanding waistline, so approach those buffet counters with caution.

Step Two: Understand that in your 20s your metabolism will change.
Most of us didn’t have to think twice about what we ate when we were in our teens. You’ll realize, however, that when you get into your twenties, your body starts to change. A part of this has to do with newly found freedom, a new lifestyle, and a new environment. Much of it has to do with the physical changes our bodies undergo at this stage. Know that your body will change, but you have control over how much, and you exercise that control by making smart decisions.

Step Three: Make use of campus resources.
Chances are, you’re already paying for campus resources with your tuition, so it’s a good idea to take advantage of them. There will likely be a gym on campus, places to walk around, a museum to roam about on the university premises, and even a dietician you can make an appointment with.

Step Four: Don’t deny yourself, but make healthy choices.

Being healthy doesn’t mean you have to live exclusively on a diet of carrots and lettuce. Even the pizza, spaghetti, and chocolate cake mentioned earlier are fine in moderation. It’s the amount that you have and when you eat it that correlates to your recommended daily caloric intake and how much exercise you should be getting.

Step Five: Keep a food and exercise journal.

No one likes to feel like they have to stress about everything they eat. The idea is not to obsess about what you’re eating or how much you’re working out, but record what you are doing to motivate yourself and keep yourself going. When you write down your goals and meet them, you’ll feel encouraged to continue leading a healthy lifestyle.

Step Six: Never stop being active.

Maybe gyms just aren’t your thing. I admit, they aren’t mine. I personally like hiking, or low-impact exercise, like walking around a park outside. There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to go to a gym to be active. You don’t have to drink protein shakes to be get in-shape. The idea is to keep moving in an enjoyable way.

Step Seven: Don’t make fitness and healthy eating a negative thought.
Always think positively about your fitness and healthy eating goals, and try to make those goals fun and rewarding for you. If you view working out and exercising as a chore, you will be less likely to stick with it, even though it is good for you. Have a positive relationship with your body and do the things you need to do to make your experiences more comfortable and enjoyable, whether it’s rewarding yourself afterward with a special coffee you don’t normally have, a nice post-workout sauna visit, or by playing music you enjoy while working out.
Step Eight: Always be mindful of your environment and choices.

If you think about the things you do before you do them, you’ll be better apt to make smarter, healthier choices. Limit your alcohol intake, cook at home more, throw away your ramen, and start grilling stuffed peppers at home and enjoying your life to the fullest.

What are your hacks for keeping weight off and staying healthy in college? Tell us in the comments below!