How To Not Gain Weight When You Study Abroad
You've all heard of the notorious "Freshman 15" in college: during freshman year, you stop eating mom and dad's home cooked meals and binge on the unhealthy options in the cafeteria, followed by late night pizza, lots of beer (#college! woo!), and taking a break from the sports you used to do in high school. By Christmas break, you've gained a few pounds and then resolve to hit the gym first thing in the new year.
There's also the notorious weight gain for going abroad - the "Study Abroad 15." (When I went to Florence, we called it the "Florence 15"). Trying every food under the sun, drinking lots of wine...and beer...and tequila shots...and long island iced teas...plus literally not having any time to go to the gym could be a recipe for weight gain.
You don't have to gain weight when you study abroad. Just like there are ways to avoid the "Freshman 15" in college, there are ways to avoid the "Study Abroad 15" as well.
So, want to know how to not gain weight when you study abroad?
Here are some super helpful tips - that don't involve traditional gym workouts - to help you maintain your weight abroad!
1. First, think about your current lifestyle and how you're maintaining your figure.
When you were in high school, you might have been involved in some type of sport or physical activity. Also, you probably were eating balanced meals three times a day. When you started college, things changed a bit. You have a more flexible schedule (more time for random snacks) and you might not have been as physically active. Also, no curfews and more freedom can mean more parties and drinking.
Think about how you've maintained your figure in college despite the lifestyle changes of high school: for me, I walked a lot more on average every day around campus. I was on the dance team, so I had practice 3-5 times per week, in addition to my regular workouts.
While I found myself snacking more between classes, I wouldn't overeat if I was full. Therefore, I avoided the Freshman 15.
Apply this mindset to when you're studying abroad, just like when you transitioned from high school to college!
2. Walking everywhere provides plenty of cardio.
When I went abroad, I had a small internal freak-out about not having time to go to the gym. Everyone that did my program before me said there wasn't time to go to the gym, but I swore I would. Here's the thing - I didn't go to the gym!
There simply wasn't enough time, and that was okay. I was walking everywhere, and much more than I did on campus. Also, one of the best views of Florence is at Piazzale Michaelangelo, which is earned by walking up a big hill - great for cardio (and toning up those calves)!
Walking everywhere will help you stay away from the Study Abroad 15.
3. Experience the food of the culture, but try not to overeat.
We stayed in pensioni (like dorms) where the owner would cook us breakfast and lunch every day. The food was all natural and made from scratch. Eating out in Italy in general was more natural and less processed than foods in the US, so that's already a good start.
However, it would be easy to have a giant plate of pasta, plus bread, meat, fruit, and gelato every meal for every day. But when you're at home, you wouldn't normally continue eating if you're already full, right?
Enjoy the pasta and gelato, but try your best to recognize when you're full. Get a take away box and save the rest for later (leftovers are the best!). Since you're studying abroad you'll be living in your city for a while, so you have more time to try different foods.
As far as alcohol goes, red wine, light beers, and clear liquor tend to be lower in calories.
4. If you have spare time and motivation to exercise, do some calisthenics, Pilates, or yoga in your room.
Do you ever randomly get in a mood where you just really want to exercise? Nope, just me? Well, okay. Exercises that don't take up space are great for traveling. I like planks, crunches, leg lifts, squats, and lunges. I also like doing Pilates videos on YouTube (Blogilates is my favorite!).
5. Look into some fun activities you can do abroad that sneak in exercise.
Hiking is a great way to enjoy the scenic nature of a new destination. If the weather is nice, take a trip to the beach and swim or play frisbee. If it's winter, head to the gorgeous Swiss or Slovenian alps to go skiing or snowboarding.
During the week, see if your program offers any intramural sports to sign up for - a fun and social way to sneak in exercise and meet people from other schools.
If you do end up gaining some weight, it's not the end of the world!
Maybe you ended up gaining a few pounds from your study abroad. Instead of dwelling on it, know that you experienced life, and look back on all the great memories you made! The gym (and your "regular life") will be there when you get back to campus.
I hope these tips have been helpful for when you study abroad or go on an extended trip. Don't spend all your free time inside the gym when you can sneak in exercise by using these tips! Your reason for studying abroad is to experience living in a new city and to make new memories. Have fun and enjoy every aspect of the culture.
Photos: We Heart It