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5 Ways to Prevent Weight Gain When You Can't Make Your Own Food

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Staying healthy can be difficult when you have limited resources. College students, for example, typically live in dorm rooms with only small refrigerators and no access to stoves or other kitchen appliances. Frequent business travelers also must rely on pre-made restaurant foods often loaded with salt, fat, and other preservatives. Trying to find a good meal with fresh fruit and vegetables can be an arduous task without the necessary support. However, there are numerous ways to stay healthy and prevent weight gain, even when you are unable to prepare your own food.


Engaging in regular physical activity is a logical and obvious way to lose weight. These days, a gym membership may be too expensive or too far from where you live. Instead, try walking for at least 30 minutes per day. This could include walking to and from your car in a parking lot, doing laps around the park or campus, or window shopping at a mall. If your safety is an issue, you can also keep your workouts indoors by running up and down the stairs, doing sit-ups, jogging in place, or jumping rope. For weight lifting, try using canned foods or packs of dry beans instead of dumbbells.

Do not skip meals

One of the biggest myths to weight loss is that skipping meals is the best solution. On the surface it makes sense: eating less means fewer calories, thus leading to weight loss. However, what actually happens is that your body's metabolism slows down in an effort to conserve energy, thus storing fat. As a result, when you do eat, the food is broken down a lot more slowly. This food is also stored as energy or fat, which means that even when you exercise, your body does not burn fat.

Another issue with skipping meals is that since your body is so hungry, you end up overeating during the meals that you allow yourself. Therefore, it is recommended that you eat every few hours, about 5-6 small meals per day. For example, have some eggs for breakfast, and have a small piece of fruit a few hours later. Consume a small lunch, such as a sandwich, and snack on crackers and cheese in the late afternoon. The key is to include protein and carbohydrate at every meal. Nuts, dried fruit, cheese, saltine crackers, and peanut butter all make nutritious satiating snacks.

Avoid or limit stress

Stress is a frequent cause of weight gain because it can lead to skipped meals, increase in fast food consumption, little exercise, and no sleep. The best way to combat stress is to take frequent breaks at work or school. Stop to speak to a coworker for a few minutes, or take a short walk during your lunch break. Sometimes, it helps to stand up and stretch and close your eyes for a few minutes. Some people find it helpful to prioritize and list things that need to be done immediately. Listen to music that may help ease your worries. Most importantly, be aware of signs your body may give you to indicate that it is time for a mental or physical break. A few minutes of rest may go a long way.

stress eating.jpgChoose the right foods

Hectic schedules can lead to eating out more frequently or picking up take-out. Most dining halls and restaurants have items filled with fat and salt, but you can learn to choose the healthier option will help control your weight.

  • A salad is always a good option, but be careful of toppings like cheese, dressing, and croutons, which can all add many grams of fat and several hundred extra calories to your meal.
  • Look for the words "grilled" or "baked" as these foods will be lower in fat compared to fried foods.
  • Since most portions at a restaurant are up to twice the recommended serving amount, cut your meal in half at the start of the meal. Ask for a to-go box and put the remaining portion away so you will not be tempted to eat it. In addition to saving calories, you have another meal to enjoy at a later time!

Stay hydrated

Finally, an easy way to keep you healthy is to drink plenty of water. Carry filtered water with you in your bag or store a refillable bottle at work or school. If you are trying to lose weight, drinking a cup of water before and after every meal will help prevent you from eating too much. If you exercise and sweat a lot, it is very important to re-hydrate. Tea and juice are other options if you need some more variety - just remember that juice still has calories and sugar and can easily cause weight gain if you drink a lot. Try to limit soda or coffee intake to a few times a week.

In sum, minimizing weight gain can be a difficult task without the right resources or budget. However, making small and simple changes can help you lead a healthier lifestyle

Rhea Li is a Registered Dietitian who received her Bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Master's degree in Public Health from the University of Texas. She has a special interest in working with children and has received her certification in pediatric weight management. Currently, she is working on a research study to determine the importance of nutrition in pediatric cancer patients. In the past, she has worked with pregnant women and their children. In her spare time, she enjoys being with family, exercising, traveling and of course, eating. To contact Rhea, please visit or her Twitter account, Rhea_Li.

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