How to

How to lose weight while in college?

It is very common for college students to gain weight during their first year in college. In this article we explain what you should do in order to reverse the situation and actually propose 6 weight loss tips on how to lose weight while in college.

Question: Hello! I’m 18 years old and just returned home from my first year away at college.  I’ve always been very skinny (5′ 3″ and 110 lbs), but my first year of college I gained the dreaded freshman 15, more like 20.  I’m home for summer now and weigh 132 lbs.  I’m so devastated that I gained that much weight that quickly, especially considering I was more physically active at college than I had been my last year of high school. I took up running as a hobby and even ran my first 10K race.  With that in mind, I cannot believe the amount of weight that I gained.  The areas I am most concerned with are my tummy, love handles, thighs, and rear. It’s now almost summer and I’m embarrassed with my weight, especially given all of the running I’ve done.  I want to lose this weight as quickly as possible. WHAT CAN I DO? Please help.


Thank you for your question and apologies for any delays in responding to you. I have calculated your BMI and as far as I can tell from the information you have provided you are within the normal range. At your pre-college weight (110 lbs) you were actually borderline underweight, which is not actually very good. I understand that it may not feel right to you as you are used to be thinner but is not always healthy or good to be too thin. Therefore, if you do want to lose a little bit of weight I would suggest you don’t aim to lose more than a stone (14 lbs). Also you do not need to be embarrassed about your weight. As I said you are within the healthy weight range and I am sure that with all the running you are quite fit as well.

You mention that you did quite a lot of running this year. That would mean that you have probably put on some more muscle on your legs. Muscle does weigh more than fat and I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of pounds are due to developing muscles. This is a good thing though and it does not mean to say that you have put on weight.

It is sometimes common that people who take on exercising such as running to increase their carbohydrate intake. You do need to have an adequate carbohydrate intake to fuel exercise however, if you have overly increased your carbohydrate intake your diet could be consisting by more calories than you need and therefore gaining weight. Also things like alcohol can add calories which you may not think were there.

It very good that you have been exercising and I would hugely recommend you keep with it and don’t let your weight gain put you off. If you can keep on doing some of your running at your holidays as well it would be even better not only because is good for you but also if you stop exercising you would decrease your energy expenditure which will make losing weight harder.

Weight loss tips for college students

1. I always suggest that people keep a diary of their food/drink intake and their activities for a few days or 1 week. This will give you the opportunity to see what you eat or drink which may contribute in putting on weight. You can also see what could have changed in what or how much you eat in comparison to pre-college time.

2. You could add some resistance exercises as well targeting the areas which you are most worried such as tummy, thighs and waist (love handles). You don’t have to join the gym you can spend 30min before you go running (recommended before as it helps with fat burning) in the house. Some example exercises are:

crunches (for you tummy),

the bridge exercise (works bottom, hamstrings which are the muscles at the back of your legs and tummy)

side leg circles (thighs, tummy and bottom),

flatter kicks (hamstrings and tummy) and push ups.

You can find information about these exercises in the internet, but if unsure about performing any of these do consult an exercise professional i.e. gym instructor to avoid any injuries (see also 28 weight loss tips with exercise). Also do exercises according to your own ability and level and increase intensity and/or difficulty as your ability and fitness increase. You don’t need to do a lot of repetitions, maybe start with like 10 crunches, and 2-3 push ups and 5 reps for the other exercises. You will find that by toning your torso and hamstrings it will help you with your running and also will create a balance in muscles and can help to avoid running injuries such as knee injuries which can be common with runners. Most of all it will help to condition the muscles in the areas you want to target and get rid of the fat around. You can also look on my answer for ‘How can I get rid of love handles’ for more ideas. Always have a day off from exercise though to allow your body to rest and rebuild.

In terms of food:

3. 1st look at your diary to see what could be that you can cut out. It may be the extra biscuit or one too many cereal bars (not as good as they meant to be). Start by making these little changes.

4. Have a delayed protein breakfast. When I say delayed it doesn’t mean to say wait for hours, just delaying your breakfast by 30min is enough. This helps to burn more fat. Example of protein breakfast could be eggs, bacon (grilled not fried), cheese, ham and yogurt. You can see more information on ‘How can I get rid of love handles’.

5. You do need carbohydrates if you are exercising, but you can opt for healthier options such as brown rice and have plenty of vegetables and salads. For example you could have a chicken salad for lunch and rice with tuna and veg/salad for dinner. You don’t need to starve yourself or deprive yourself from things you may like. Just make them healthier. Have a take away but make it be only once a week. Have a fruit salad or a handful of nuts instead of a cake (eat nuts with caution. They are very nutritious but also they have high calorie content); avoid too many coffees with sugar and cream or too many sugary fizzy drinks (coke, orange drinks etc). Some studies suggest that green tea helps with weight loss, you can add some in your day; don’t fry your food grill it instead or have roasted potatoes (in moderation) instead of chips.

6. If you keep on exercising you will not need to lower your calories dramatically in order to lose weight. You do need to have adequate energy intake. By making some of the above changes, such as eating smaller carb (i.e. pasta, potatoes, bread) portions with salad instead of one big carb meal such as pizza, you will find that you will be eating fewer calories anyway. The good thing about veg and salad is that you can eat loads of it and they have low calorie content, and off course they are healthy. However, try not to drown them in salad sauces such as mayonnaise. Opt for a bit of oil, vinaigrette, lemon instead. Women in average need 1500 – 2000 kcal. If you are exercising you are probably in the higher end of the range if not more. Calorie requirements for each individual can be different and can depend on age, activities, environment, build etc. To lose weight you just need to have a small calorie deficiency, and use more energy than you burn. As long as you don’t consume massive amount of calories exercise should create that deficiency. However, always make sure that you don’t create a massive deficiency as you need the energy for exercising and you don’t want to make yourself ill either.

If at any point you have any concerns, health complaints or if you do suffer from any health conditions always consult a medical professional before making any changes in your diet or exercise.

About the author

Hara Hagikalfa

Hara Hagikalfa completed her BSc(Hons) in Health and Exercise Science, Sports Science and Medicine. She is a certified Personal Trainer and Pilates instructor. You can learn more about Hara and connect with her on Facebook