advice

The Weekend Five: Networking Tips for Introverts

246Six years ago, if you came up to me and said that networking would be one of the keys to my success after college, I would have slapped you across the face.

Okay, I definitely wouldn’t have slapped you across the face (that would be pretty awful, wouldn’t it?), but the idea of networking was terrifying to a shy college freshman like me. The word “networking” evoked images of ill-fitting professional attire and awkward encounters with high-level executives who would never give a college student the time of day. To me, “networking” required an overly assertive, almost aggressive demeanor. How could an introvert like me ever compete with those big personalities?

What I didn’t know at eighteen years old, however, was that networking was not limited to professional development events and a formal exchange of business cards. By joining clubs on campus, making friends in my classes, participating in internships and getting to know my professors and advisors, I was actually building my network without even realizing it.

Networking ultimately led to my first job out of college and continues to play a huge role in my career today. I may be an introvert, but I have found ways to network that have worked well for me. To all of my shy or otherwise introverted readers out there, this article is for you!

The Weekend Five: Networking Tips for Introverts

awkward-small-talk1. Don’t think of it as “networking.”
Think of it as relationship building. By genuinely getting to know people, you not only create a stronger network, but you also improve your own quality of life! Your conversations don’t have to revolve entirely around a business pitch. As I mentioned before, networking doesn’t always take place at a formal networking event — a lot of times, it can happen in a classroom, an elevator, a club meeting or your dorm building. Talk to people and get to know them one-on-one. Start with people you may already cross paths with or with whom you may share a few mutual contacts. A lot of times, this is far less intimidating than walking right up to a complete stranger from the get-go.

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2. Get involved in an organization.
Whether you enjoy professional student organizations or community service projects, join a group (or two) that introduces you to new people. By working toward a common goal or sharing a similar interest, you have an easy way to break the ice while doing something you enjoy. I still keep in touch with many of my fellow officers from the organizations I was involved with in college, and today I am getting to know new people in my college’s alumni association by attending their events and meetings as well!

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49d6977a63d509aaed85f0147d44ba793. Find commonalities.
Networking doesn’t have to mean diving headfirst into a conversation about your company’s products and services. Sometimes, a great way to build your network is to start by finding things you have in common. At one networking event, I found myself talking with a guy about our recent travels, and by the end of our conversation, I was invited to be a guest speaker in one of the classes he taught. At another event, I bonded with the lady behind me at the buffet over our shared interest in some of the food. It turned out she was a very important person on the board of an organization that I worked with, and now she knew who I was! Pro tip: If you’re feeling really lost at a formal networking event, head over to the food table and strike up a conversation with one of the people nearby. People love talking about food (and trying to guess what some of the interesting looking appetizers are!).

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4. Attend events.
Leave the house. It’s not easy to meet people and form lasting connections from the comfort of your couch. (If it were, Tinder would have a much higher success rate!) Attend events that interest you – not just networking events, but professional development workshops, guest speakers, social events, etc. Find a friend to attend with you if it will bring you out of your shell a bit more, but if your friends aren’t interested in the types of events you like, go by yourself. Because most of my friends did not have my major in college, I attended a lot of club meetings and agency tours on my own, and I don’t regret it for a minute. I made new friends that way, and learned a lot about my major and the industry that I wanted to go into!

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Comfort Zone5. Get out of your comfort zone.
Sometimes you will need to do the things that scare you, and that’s okay. I say “yes” to opportunities constantly, even when they seem intimidating, because I know they will help me to grow. That’s why I take on so many public speaking engagements and try to break out of my shell at events — I never want my nerves to keep me from meeting people or from growing personally and professionally. I draw my energy from within and require that time to myself to recharge and refocus, but that shouldn’t limit me from getting to know others and setting goals for myself outside of my comfort zone. You don’t need to do anything that conflicts with your personal values, but I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone the next time you attend an event and get to know someone new.

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What are your networking tips for introverts? Share yours in the comments section below!

A Perfect Match: Four Steps to Discovering Your Dream Career

logotransparentEver get stuck when people ask you what you plan to do after college? Hint: Even many adults don’t know what they want to do when they “grow up.” It’s a tough question – especially in your late teens and early twenties!

Luckily, I’ve put together a little guide for Career Camel highlighting a few ways to narrow down your career search and figure out what you want to do with your life. If you’ve read my previous Career Camel guest articles, then you’ll love this one!

So pop on over to Career Camel now to discover my four steps for discovering your dream career. Be sure to drop a comment to let me know what you think!

Guest Post: Four Vital Skills for Landing Your Dream Internship

logotransparentHi there, readers!

My latest guest article for Career Camel is now up! This post is all about the skills you’ll need to land your dream internship. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think!

Oh, and in case you didn’t know: I was named Writer of the Month last month by Career Camel! I love writing for this awesome online publication, and am so happy to share my latest article here.

Happy reading!

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know For a Successful Freshman Year

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearIt’s hard to believe that just six years ago, I was packing up my childhood bedroom and moving to Orlando for college. At times, I still picture myself as that awkward 18-year-old girl who was so excited to take those first few steps toward adulthood. In many ways, mine was the traditional college experience: four years of changing majors, making friends, hosting theme parties, interning around town, cramming for finals, dating the wrong guys and joining more clubs than a sane person should. My undergraduate years still hold some of my favorite memories, and taught me more about myself than I ever cared to know.

For many of you, those first few days of freshman year are just around the corner, and you’re probably having a lot of mixed feelings. Whether you’re nervous, enthusiastic or somewhere in between, this blog will guide you through some of the most important aspects of your college experience, from A to Z.

A – Appearance
As superficial as it may sound, it’s important to put an effort into your appearance! Your university’s dress code may technically allow you to roll into your lecture hall in pajamas… but that doesn’t mean you should. The way you dress plays a big role in the first impression you give off in class, among new friends and in front of professors and potential employers.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearB – Books
Unless your professor requires some special edition that isn’t offered elsewhere, don’t buy your books at the school bookstore. Rent them through third-party vendors, visit local used bookstores or buy your books online. It will save you a ton of money in the long run!

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C – Choosing a Major
Don’t worry if you don’t have it figured out right now. Take some time to enjoy your general education classes and to take an introductory course that interests you. For more tips on how to choose the right major for you, click here.

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D – Dorm Life
This may be your first time sharing a bedroom or bathroom with someone, so make sure you talk to your new roommate(s) about your expectations and responsibilities. A new dorm room is also the perfect excuse to decorate, so have fun personalizing your new home!

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E – Extra Credit
If your professor offers extra credit, always do it. You might not think you need it, but when your grade is dangling at an 89 at the end of the semester and you need that extra point, you’ll thank yourself.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearF – Friends
Open yourself up to the possibility, and you might meet your best friend in college. Get involved, talk to people in your classes and in the dorms, say yes to social outings and don’t be afraid to step out of your bubble.

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G – Greek Life
Rushing a fraternity or a sorority can be a great way to make an overwhelmingly big university a whole lot smaller. If the idea of Greek sounds interesting, talk to older friends who have gone through the process and decide if it’s right for you!

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H – Health
Above all, you must prioritize your health. Avoid the typical Freshman 15 weight gain with these helpful pointers, and remember to take care of yourself when illness strikes. Utilize the gym, health center, counseling facilities and other campus resources to maintain your physical and mental health. Because college can be a stressful time for many, staying healthy and happy is often at the bottom of our lists.

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I – Independence
If you are living in a dorm room or away from home, college is a great opportunity to test out your newfound independence. It will be fun to make more of your own decisions and to not have a curfew, but it will also teach you the importance of finding a balance.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearJ – Joining Clubs
Joining clubs on campus will allow you to meet likeminded people, have a good time and possibly even develop yourself professionally. It’s a great way to connect with your university and find leadership opportunities early on. Find organizations that interest you and attend the info sessions – you have nothing to lose!

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K – Kindness
This should go without saying, but remember to treat others with kindness. You’ll meet people whose lifestyles, beliefs and upbringings are radically different from yours, so it is important to be openminded and still respect others regardless of your differences.

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L – Learning For Learning’s Sake
You’ll get so wrapped up in prerequisites and major classes that you might forget that college is, among other things, a place to learn. Take a few elective classes in areas that interest you regardless of what requirements they fulfill. Enjoy the act of learning.

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M – Mentors
Find an older student, a community member or a professor who inspires you, and turn to that person as a mentor. This is a great way to start building your network, and you’ll also have someone to ask for advice on classes, internships and more. If you don’t know where to start, see if your school offers any organized mentorship programs to pair you with someone!

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearN – Networking
I cannot stress the importance of networking enough! It may sound terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be. Get to know people every chance you get. You never know who will be able to help you out in the future — or whom you’ll be able to help. Networking helped me land a job right out of college! Read more about my experience here.

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O – Office Hours
Your professors are required to hold office hours, so attend them. They can be a great resource when the class material just isn’t clicking, and it’s always an added bonus for the professor to put a face to your name.

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P – Partying
Enjoy having a social life, but learn to do so responsibly. Remember why you came to college in the first place.

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Q – Quiet Space
Find your quiet space on campus for when you need to study or simply get away. Whether it’s the top floor of the library or a secluded corner of a campus garden, find that quiet space and use it when you need it.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearR – Romance
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who meets your soulmate on the quad that first week of school, you’ll probably have your share of good and bad relationships in college, and that’s okayFrom every “failed” relationship, you’ll learn something – or at the very least, you’ll have a good story to tell. (My exes had better beware of my memoir!:) ) Enjoy the ride.

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S – School Spirit
Soak it up! Wear your university colors, attend sporting events and be proud of the institution you attend. Don’t pretend you’re “too cool” for it. The time will eventually pass and you’ll wish you’d enjoyed yourself more.

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T – Time Management
Find an organizational style that fits you, and use it. Having strong time management skills will allow you to balance classwork, extracurriculars, work and a social life. The more you hone these skills now, the better prepared you will be for the future!

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U – Unique Opportunities
In college, the world is your oyster. If an opportunity sounds too good to pass up, take it! Study abroad for a semester. Volunteer in another city for an alternative spring break. Run for student government. Take advantage of these opportunities while you’re still in school, as they might never come back around once you graduate.

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V – Values
Be true to yourself. Know what is important to you, and keep that close to your heart as you make decisions in college. Don’t let others push you into something that makes you uncomfortable or puts you in danger.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearW – Wallet
Learn how to budget and take care of your finances. Learn to live within your means. Your money habits now will shape the way you spend and save long after you graduate.

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X – eXams
The dreaded exams will pop up every semester at least once, so it’s important to prepare for them. For more on how to survive your final exams, check out my article on Career Camel.

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Y – You Time
Take time for yourself. College can be a very social environment, and I encourage you to take advantage of that, but it’s always good to spend some time alone without worrying about others. “Treat yo self” to a night in every now and then, or focus on putting together that DIY Pinterest project you’ve had your eye on. Making time for yourself will help you maintain your sanity when life gets stressful.

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Z – Zero Tolerance
Love yourself enough not to tolerate negative treatment. Have zero tolerance for the people or situations that make you feel lesser than. If a friendship or relationship is making you miserable, leave. If you dread being part of a certain organization, quit. Life is too short to waste on people who treat you like crap.

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Best of luck to all of those starting college this fall! Readers, what are your tips for incoming freshmen?

Guest Post: Using the Summer to Prepare for University

logotransparentHappy Monday! I hope all of my American readers had a very happy Fourth of July.:)

In the middle of all the excitement of packing and moving to a new apartment, I forgot to share the latest in my guest blogging adventures. For those of you in college who are looking for ways to get ahead this summer, check out my Career Camel article all about using the summer to prepare for your next year in school! Many of these tips include awesome ways to get out of your comfort zone, meet new people and make yourself more marketable when you start looking for jobs.

Click here to read the article. Be sure to comment with your own summer advice!:)

Link Love Wednesday: Happy Graduation!

Happy Wednesday, readers! I can’t believe how quickly this year is flying by. For many of you, it’s graduation season – in other words, time to bedazzle those graduation caps and change your profile picture to something nostalgic. Monday marked the two-year anniversary of my own college graduation, and while I miss that time of my life so dearly, some of it has begun to feel like a distant memory. My advice to grads: Enjoy every moment. Spend time with your friends while everyone is still in the same place. Take way too many pictures. And if you get bored, feel free to stop over here for some Link Love!:)

 What are your favorite links from the week? Share them in the comments section below!

Make the Most Out of Your University’s Career Centre

logotransparentHappy Tuesday, all! Hope you are having a great start to your week.

For many of you, the first week of spring semester is here! As you master your new schedule and figure out which new clubs to join, don’t forget one other important university department: the career center. This office can help you choose a major, create a resume/cover letter/CV, apply for jobs and even make connections with important folks in your industry of choice!

Want to know more about how to make the most of your university’s career center? Check out my latest guest blog for the London-based Career Camel and drop a comment to say hello! Even alumni can benefit from this awesome resource, and my article will give you a few pointers for getting started.

What are you waiting for?:)

Link Love Tuesday: Happy Holidays!

hanukkah-kwanzaa-happy-holidays-christmas-season-ecards-someecardsHappy Hanukkah to all my readers who celebrate! I wish you a joyous holiday filled with latkes and devoid of stupid questions.:) As for many of my other readers, can you believe that Christmas is almost here? The year has flown by, and while I look forward to celebrating every holiday I can with my loved ones, I would like to hold onto 2014 a little longer. What are you most looking forward to this holiday season?

 

What are some of your favorite links and articles for the week?

How to Write an Awesome Cover Letter

logotransparentGood morning, sunshines! I hope everyone is having a wonderful week and planning for a beautiful weekend.:)

My latest guest article for Career Camel is up and I’d love for you to read it! This time, I share my strategies for writing the perfect cover letter. Easy as one, two, three!

Whether you’re in the job application process or just looking to learn, check out my post and comment to let me know what you think!

The Freshman 15: Avoiding College Weight Gain

The Freshman 15: Avoiding College Weight GainAhhhh, college weight gain. It’s the reason the term “Freshman 15,” which I’ve borrowed for my blog’s college advice series, even exists at all! Although the Freshman 15 is a popular subject (and fear!) among college students, I have avoided writing about it in the past because of my personal struggles with weight and body image.

My weight fluctuated in college, and crept up on the scale in the months following my graduation. Much like college, my job is very event focused, and I found myself making some unhealthy food decisions based on convenience and stress. However, in February 2014, I decided to make a huge change, adopting a much cleaner diet and dropping nearly 20 pounds in the process. My journey to better health is ongoing (and I could probably write an entire book about it!), but I’ve learned a lot of important lessons along the way that will benefit any college student – or graduate – looking to avoid that dreaded weight gain.

The Freshman 15: Avoiding College Weight Gain

1. Even if it’s free, you don’t have to eat it.
Free food is abundant in a college environment, and it’s the perfect way to draw students in to events on campus. As a college student, I was a sucker for free pizza. Even worse, I consumed tons of free pizza as a college grad because I worked at a lot of university events and pizza was always available. Over time, I learned that free food was NOT always the best option for my waistline! Now, when I know I’m going to be surrounded by unhealthy free foods, I’ll try to eat something beforehand to curb temptations, or I’ll bring along a healthy snack. If you are going to indulge, stick to one slice.

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2. Don’t drink your calories.
Alcohol is filled with hidden calories! We often think about foods being high in calories, but it’s easy to forget that our beverages can be, too. (Personally, if I were allotted 500 calories and could choose between alcohol and chocolate cake, I would always choose the chocolate cake, but that’s just me.) It’s okay to order a drink once in a while, but be wary of how much you consume! Opt for water or make your drinks skinny to trim back some of the calories.

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calories3. Prepare meals at home.
Not only are you saving money by eating at home, but you are also more likely to cut your calories and avoid many of the unhealthy hidden ingredients found in restaurant food. While many menus do have some “lighter fare” options, you still don’t always know how much sodium or what quality ingredients are used in your meal. When you cook at home, you are the one in control!

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4. Walk to class.
Unless your college campus is spread widely throughout the city, walking to classes can be the perfect way to burn calories throughout the day and sneak in some exercise. My university has horrible parking problems, so walking instead of driving between classes was actually faster for me and a good way to save on gas. If you don’t like to walk, consider riding your bike or skateboard instead!

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5. Make it work in the dorms.
A full kitchen is ideal for meal preparation, but even if you live in the dorms, you can still live a healthy lifestyle. Look for easy, healthy recipes you can prepare in the microwave or store in your mini-fridge. You may not be able to create gourmet dinners you’re comfortable posting on Instagram, but you can still manage some simple meals using the bare minimum.

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SkinnyPop_4_4oz_JW06-copy6. Bring healthy alternatives to parties.
If you’re attending a party or social event and nervous about being tempted by all the unhealthy party foods, bring your own addition. Find nutritious snack recipes that people will enjoy, bring a fruit/veggie platter with hummus (I’m telling you, this can be a huge hit) or even pick up healthier versions of your favorite snack foods. I used to be addicted to super-buttery microwave popcorn (terrible for you AND filled with horrible additives that are linked to a lot of diseases), so I replaced it with Skinny Pop and Boom Chickapop popcorn instead… They have ingredients you can actually pronounce, they have far fewer calories, and they taste delicious! Another favorite of mine is spinach/kale chips from The Better Chip brand, which my friends enjoy as well. Everyone will be able to eat a little healthier, and no one will know the difference.:)

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7. Find coupons to buy healthy foods at a lower price.
Since I started eating more produce and keeping certain specialty items in the house for healthy cooking, I’ve noticed my grocery bills have gone up. (I’ve also noticed my restaurant bills have gone down… but I digress.) Look out for coupons at your local grocery store and buy in bulk when possible. Generic brands are usually fine as long as you check your ingredients, and organic doesn’t always make a difference when it comes to certain fruits and veggies. You don’t have to break the bank when shopping for healthier foods, but keep in mind that even when you do spend a little more, you are investing in a healthier future.

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photo_2010_11_10_nutrition_label8. Read your labels.
When I began my first Whole 30, I was amazed to see how many unhealthy (and unnecessary) ingredients were hidden away in many of the foods I commonly bought. In fact, I had to go to a specialty store to buy pickles that didn’t have food dye OR sugar/corn syrup in them! Did you know that many tomato sauces and chicken broths also have sugar in them? As someone who tries to avoid added sugar, I am still amazed at how hard it is to find foods without these sweeteners in them. Keep in mind that “low-calorie” doesn’t always mean “healthy,” and try to purchase foods with better ingredients in them as often as you can.

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9. Find convenient snack and meal options.
Let’s face it – for many of us, preparing clean and beautiful dishes for every meal can be a little unrealistic. When balancing coursework, a job, extra-curricular activities and a social life, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to always have the perfect dinner on-hand. However, this is not an excuse to eat TV dinners and run to the vending machines between classes! Figure out what you can eat when you’re in a major hurry or just too tired to cook. For me, this means stocking up on fruit, carrots and Lara Bars that are perfect for my grab-and-go lifestyle. I also like to hard boil a few eggs at a time and have them ready in my fridge when I need a quick protein-filled fix. Meal replacement shakes can also be a good way to go!

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10. Figure out your healthiest options on campus.
Does your college have a dining hall or food court? Do your research and figure out what meals you can enjoy without sabotaging yourself. The university where I often work has a well-stocked salad bar, which can be a great option when I don’t feel like packing a meal that day. Are you a sandwich enthusiast? Swap out your usual fried chicken for grilled, and consider doing away with the bread altogether! Craving a burrito? Make it a burrito bowl. You can make small changes to cut back while still enjoying the same tastes you love.

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richardsimmons11. Participate in more active social activities.
You don’t have to live at the gym in order to live an active lifestyle. Instead of letting all social activities revolve around food and drinks, consider going for a walk around a new area of town with your friends, or hike in a place you’ve never been before. Go to the beach. Spend the day mini-golfing. Go to a group exercise class together. Power walk around your mall before the stores open, and then go shopping. (Mall Walking: It’s not just for old ladies anymore!) You don’t have to sweat or do anything particularly strenuous, but find ways to get out and move around while still enjoying your friends’ company.

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12. Don’t eat late at night.
Nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m. Even after 9 p.m., I’ve noticed that food choices tend to become a lot less healthy the later it gets. Pick a cut-off time to stop eating, and stick to it! This will help you skip the late night snacking that plagues so many of us throughout the college years and beyond.

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20131226-23285013. Out of kitchen, out of mind.
Want to stop eating certain foods in excess? Don’t buy them! I found myself eating way more pasta than any normal person should (especially at 5’2” ½), so I stopped keeping it in the apartment. Since I made the decision to stop buying it, my cravings for the food have decreased significantly. I also no longer stock my kitchen with junk food. It sounds simple enough, but it’s a lot harder to mindlessly eat the bad stuff when it isn’t around. (It also helps that my roommate doesn’t keep it in the house, either!)

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14. Build your support system.
Find friends who will be a good influence on you! Ignore the naysayers – they will be out there. When I decided to change my diet for good, I did receive some negative comments from friends and acquaintances, and chances are, you will too. Don’t listen to them. You need to do what is best for you and your health, so spend time with people who also live a healthy lifestyle and are not looking to sabotage yours.

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15. Create lifestyle changes.
For me, diets just don’t work. I have severely cut back on calories and tested out fad diets, and ultimately I learned nothing from the experience and wound up gaining the weight back. This time around, I completed two rounds of the Whole 30, an elimination program designed to help you discover food sensitivities and improve your overall health. Once this was over, I learned that my body hates gluten, sugar gives me headaches and super-processed junk food makes me cranky! (Yes, food really can affect you in more ways than just your weight.) Through this program, I lost a lot of weight and kept it off because I created a lot of new habits and began a lifestyle of about 80/20 clean eating. You can’t just change your food choices temporarily – you have to develop healthy habits if you want to achieve lasting results!

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Readers, have you struggled with college weight gain? What are you doing to combat that? What other topics would you like to read about on The Freshman 15?