Everyone jokes about the freshman 15—those 15 dreaded pounds you gain in your Freshman year of college due to eating too much and being sedentary.
Me? I had the Freshman 100. But before I get into that, a little backstory.
In high school I was your typical nerd (not saying I’m still not a nerd, just not typical). I studied well, kept a fairly high GPA, attended class and played video games. In fact, there were quite a few LAN Parties. Notice that I never said that I was involved in athletics or sports or anything physical for that matter, I had better things to do.
After four years of this life style, I looked like this:
Yup, living the good life right there… So that was life. I was happy…enough. At my peak, I think I was near 300 pounds.
Off to College
After those four years, it was off to college! Virginia Tech here I come. Did you know that Virginia Tech’s dining program has been rated as one of the top in the country? It’s been number one for several years. It made me happy to know that the food wasn’t going to drop to Animal House levels.
Getting back to the Freshman 100. It’s not quite what you think, in fact it’s the complete opposite. I lost 100 pounds my Freshman year of college—that’s a pre-teen or a very small woman. My pants no longer fit, I was constantly swimming in my shirts and I had to buy all new clothes—which was one of my happiest expenses to date.
After my first year, this is what I looked like:
The Beginning of the Loss
How did I lose all of that weight with the country’s best college dining hall program calling to me? With fast food always being far more convenient and easier to get then a good clean meal? Well, actually, it’s kind of funny. I ate the food from the dining halls (far from balanced) and had the fast food too (Chick-Fil-A, Barbecue, Pizza Hut). Those first 100 pounds were lost when I stopped drinking soda and started walking everywhere. The combination of those two small changes made me lose that much weight.
Continuing My Downward Spiral
Since then, I’ve lost more weight, I’m down to 180 pounds at the moment and gaining. Gaining? Why am I gaining? After I saw the progress from those small changes, I started to make more changes.
Today, I eat a lot healthier, mainly from eating in more often and making very conscious choices about what I eat. That’s not saying I never have a burger or chips, I do. I just keep it to once or twice a week.
The other change was going to the gym. It was hard to start, but I had a support system: my room mates. I forget how often we went, but we went regularly and that got me in the habit of setting time aside for exercise. Nowadays, I go to the gym four days a week: three days of normal workout and one day of instruction. At the moment, I’m doing CrossFit because it effectively kicks my ass. I’m putting on weight again, but it’s all muscle. After all, muscle weights about two and a half times more than fat. I’m okay with those pounds.
Here’s what I look like now:
In all of this there are a few things that stick out to me: creating a habit, figuring out your style of giving things up, how to make time for these new habits.
Creating a New Habit
There are several ways to start a habit of going to the gym, but I’ll detail two: solo and with a friend.
I recommend going with a friend: they’ll motivate you to go, give you pointers on your exercises and congratulate you on your gains (or maybe it’s losses?). Just start bugging your friend about going, they’re probably not going to approach you about it: how would you like it if your friend said you need to go to the gym?
Having said that, I understand some people aren’t going to want to do all that and would rather go solo. It’s going to be harder and you’re going to have to hold yourself responsible. First, get an empty calendar grid with at least thirty days on it. Your plan is to go every Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week. Put that calendar somewhere nice and visible and for every day you go, mark the day with an X, if you miss a day no X for you. It seems kinda stupid, but that calendar will keep you feeling responsible. At the end of those thirty days you’ll have gone to the gym around 12 times, which is fantastic! Keep it up, don’t stop now and don’t make excuses.
Even if you’re going with a friend, you should also have a calendar to motivate you so you can see what you’ve actually done and hold yourself responsible for when you don’t go.
Giving Things Up
The first thing you need to do is determine whether you’re an abolitionist or a moderator. Are you the kind of person that finds it easier to give something up cold turkey? Then you’re an abolitionist. Are you someone who fares better by tempering your consumption lower and lower until you aren’t consuming anymore? You’re a moderator.
Me? I’m an abolitionist. If I don’t give something up completely, then I’ll never really give it up. I need to sever ties and wish it well along it’s way. When I stopped drinking soda, I just started drinking water, milk and occasionally fruit juice. Nowadays I’ll have a soda every now and again, but it’s a once or twice a month sort of thing.
If you’re a moderator and drink three sodas a day, for the next week drink only two. The week after that just do one, then maybe one every other day after that and so on. Push yourself enough for it to be challenging, but never enough to give up.
Next up, is probably the biggest issue. Time is a problem for most people. We never have time or get time, we simply use it. It’s like a river: even if you own the river, that water is barely yours, you simply use what you can at the time and let the rest roll on by.
So what do I do to get to the gym?
First, I go in the morning. This gets rid of the tendency to shirk going to the gym because your tired and its the end of the day.
Second, I go every Monday, Wednesday and Friday: stick to this schedule for a month (you can do a month…) and after that, it’ll be habit.
Third, vary your exercise regiment: I’ve seen tons of people come into the gym (usually around January) and run for thirty minutes on the elliptical every day. That’s pretty damn boring. I like CrossFit, but some people might see it and think they can’t do that….well yes you can, you’ll need to scale it, but you can do it. If that’s too much, you might just use different machines, try different cardio (rowing is fun) and try different lifts. Bodyweight exercises are good too.
These three things will get you to the gym and keep you coming back.
These methods have worked for me, granted they’ve taken a lot of time to find and start using. Don’t beat yourself up if it takes you more than a month—it took me my whole life to get to this point. It’s all about starting with small steps and working up to the big steps.
Need a first step? Either give up soda or start weaning yourself off of it.
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