Remember the Freshman 15? There is a similar, lesser-known college-related weight gain: the Study Abroad 15. Y0u don’t think about it when you’re leaving, or even while you’re away. But suddenly, one day, you realize that your jeans are a little bit too tight, and that everyone in your program is just a little bit chubbier than they were at the beginning of this semester.. Avoid this aha moment by following these tips.
1. Pack right. It’s hard enough trying to find the motivation to exercise while studying abroad. Don’t complicate the situation by having to by workout gear too. Make sure to bring your regular workout wear with you, whether that’s sneakers or a swimsuit, cap, and goggles. The one thing you probably want to buy abroad is a yoga mat. Most countries will have them, and they take up too much room in your suitcase.
2. Sign up for a gym your first week. This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people neglect to do this (myself included). You’ll be overwhelmed your first week, but signing up for a gym during this crucial time will ensure that exercise stays high on your priority list. Gym membership also encourages you to make good use of all that money you paid.
3. Take a class. An exercise class is a fun way to keep fit, adds routine to your hectic schedule, and holds you accountable to staying fit. Even if you don’t know the language, it’s easy to follow the movements in a Zumba or kickboxing class. And if you’re studying the language, you can practice with other native speakers i.e. your classmates.
4. Drink responsibly. Studying abroad, for many college students, means finally being able to drink legally. Not to burst your bubble, but drinking that often also means consuming tons of empty calories. Try sticking to light beer, dry white or red wine, champagne, and low-calorie cocktails. (Think gin and tonic, not a chocolate martini.) Also, stick to 1 or 2 shots a night.
5. Drink responsibly, part 2. Speaking of empty calories, soda and juice are exactly that, and they don’t even provide you with the buzz that alcohol does. Buy a canteen, fill it with water, and carry it around with you. It’s cheaper, and better for you. As for coffee, stick with the classic drinks, not frothy Frappuccinos. The coffee probably tastes better anyway.
6. Vacation wisely. When my friends and I went to Mendoza last semester, we went on a wine tour by bicycle. Look for good-for-you options like this one on your own vacations. Think winter sports, hiking, or bike tours for the more urban-minded.
7. Treat yourself, but wisely. It is likely that you will find a treat that you find yourself wanting every day, whether that is gelato in Italy or macaroons in France. It’s OK to indulge yourself once in a while, but eating them all the time is overdoing it. A good way to control your intake is to only eat these sweets on the weekends.
8. Chew 10 times. If you follow nothing else on this list, follow this one. It takes time for your body to communicate to your brain that it’s full. So eating more slowly means that you eat less. This alone won’t keep you fit, but it helps a lot.
9. Walk around. You may take a car everywhere in the US, but follow the locals’ lead while you’re away. This likely means walking and public transport. Also, see if the city that you’re studying in has a free bike share – another fun, easy way to get fit.
10. Keep a food journal. While you’re abroad, you’ll be trying lots of new food. By keeping a food journal, you’ll be able to remember what you liked, and what you really really didn’t. It also helps you keep track of what you’re eating, so you can balance your super-heavy dinner with a light lunch the next day.
Sasha Graffagna is a current junior at NYU studying Journalism and Comparative Literature. She studied abroad in Argentina last semester, and will be studying in Puerto Rico this semester.