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How to Manage Your Weight While Studying Abroad

3 min read , November 24, 2023
A student working on her laptop - Source: pexels.com

On top of grades and socializing, weight gain is another concern many university students have. So much so, in fact, that the "Freshmen 15" phenomenon is widely known and dreaded. Unfortunately, students are at risk of gaining up to 10 pounds in their first two years of university alone. For students abroad, though, there is a higher risk of gaining excess pounds. According to research on the effect of studying abroad on dietary changes, foreign students who struggled with acculturation to their new environments exhibited negative changes in their nutritional habits, which led them to consume meals high in fat and processed foods. Additionally, other studies show that students adopted the host country's negative eating behaviors.

Though you shouldn't obsess over weight, maintaining a healthy weight is important, as gaining too much can lead to being overweight or obese. Overweight refers to a body mass index (BMI) with a range of 25 to < 30, while anything over that is classified as obesity. Obesity is a serious progression of being overweight and can lead to health complications. Given these differences, weight loss and management isn't a one-size-fits-all endeavor. This is why the most effective weight loss program is one that makes it a point to personalize the experience to make weight loss and health gains happen, which looks different for everyone. One person's diet and exercise regime may not be effective for another. As such, it's important to know simple and effective ways to maintain a healthy weight that works for you. Here are a few tips that a student studying abroad can try:

Sleep in more

With all the excitement of being in a foreign country mixed in with your studies and social life, sleep may be the least of your worries. However, this shouldn't be the case if you want to manage your weight properly. This is because sleep deprivation triggers changes in hormones like ghrelin and leptin, which increases your food cravings. With that in mind, lose weight naturally by squeezing in more sleep and moving up your bedtime to ensure you get the recommended seven to eight hours of quality sleep a night. This will help regulate your metabolism, energy, and hormones so you can burn fat more efficiently while also avoiding binges. As a matter of fact, a study shows that adults who were overweight ate 270 fewer calories each day after sleeping correctly.

Find a workout buddy

If you're looking for things to do with your best friend, try making time for exercise. It's challenging enough to muster the motivation to manage weight independently, so having a workout buddy can definitely help. Whether you and your buddy want to go running around campus, try yoga exercises in your dorm room, or head to the school facility or local gyms, the extra motivation will always help. In addition, exercising together will help you stay accountable for your fitness. In a foreign country, working out is also a great reason to explore more of the city and try out local classes.

Consume home-cooked meals

Understandably, cooking for yourself on top of your responsibilities can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be a chore. For starters, since cuisine is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in your host country's culture, you can even try exciting cooking local dishes. Aside from this, you can also arrange cooking sessions with your friends. This can be a way for you all to bond and enjoy freshly cooked food with less additives. Doing so is much better than always resorting to pre-made meals. After all, the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to urge governments to promote healthy food in public facilities. This is because of studies that prove preventable diseases can result from excessive consumption of sodium, sugars, and trans fats—all of which are common ingredients in commercial eateries.

Don't neglect your water intake

Your body is made of 70% water, which is vital to metabolic processes and moving waste materials. Surprisingly enough, not consuming enough of it will lead to water retention, which will make you bloat and binge more. Furthermore, dehydration causes your brain to misinterpret this thirst into feelings of hunger instead. On top of this, dehydration slows your metabolic rate to the point that it can lead to weight gain. To prevent this, bring a reusable water bottle wherever you go and be mindful of your water intake. This ensures you can easily take a drink no matter where you are. In some cities, there are also public fountains, so there is no reason why you can't refill and hydrate.

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