How to stay healthy and not gain weight while studying abroad

How to Avoid Gaining the “Study Abroad 15”


You’ve heard of the freshman 15, but how about the “study abroad 15”? With the new environment that you’ll be living in while studying abroad, all of the new food you’ll want to try, and the non-stop drinking you might doing, you’re bound to gain some extra weight if you’re not careful (it’s ok– I did!) Here’s how to avoid gaining the “study abroad 15”– it’s definitely doable with some advance planning and prep.

Consume everything in moderation

You can eat anything you want while studying abroad, as long as you eat it in moderation. Gelato may be delicious, but it doesn’t mean that you have to eat it every night on account of YOLO. If you eat everything in moderation, you’ll still get to experience local food culture without watching it go to your waistline.

The same goes for drinking. A huge factor in my study abroad weight gain was that I was going out most nights and having a few drinks. Not only was I consuming thousands of extra calories every week, I also never gave my body a chance to recover or to actually properly metabolize anything I was eating. A recipe for disaster! If I had just given myself a couple nights off a week, I wouldn’t have gained so much and would have felt much healthier– plus saved a bunch of money!

How to Avoid Gaining Weight While Studying Abroad. Lots of students gain the "study abroad 15" while abroad, so here's how you can avoid it (tips from someone who gained a bit more than 15...)

Eat in as much as possible

Just like at home, eating in helps keep your body skinny and your wallet fat. Make healthy recipes full of veggies, lean meats and whole grains, and limit your use of salt, heavy oils, and high-fat condiments. If you always feel pressured to eat out because your roommates frequently do, start planning fun “family dinners” so that everyone will realize the benefits of eating in. Bonus points if you guys cook some of your host country’s classic dishes!

Read next: How to Save Money on Food While Traveling

Get in the habit of exercising

Whether or not you work out back at home, the sudden change in your diet and sleeping schedule that happens when you study abroad is sure to make you put on a few extra pounds. Keep your body healthy by getting exercise when you can.

In some study abroad destinations, gyms have student specials that allow you to join for just a semester at a low rate. If there are currently none available, gather a large group of people who’d like to invest in a gym membership and see if you can strike a deal with the gym manager.

If signing up for a gym isn’t an option, there are other alternatives — try one of our favorite study abroad apps called Workout Trainer, which is like a free personal trainer right in your iPhone. Or invest in a bike– it will not only keep you in shape but will also cut down on your public transportation costs and give you a chance to explore spots in your study abroad city that are too far to visit by foot.

Even going for leisurely strolls with your new friends after dinner time counts as exercise– do what you can, when you can.

Read next:  7 Ways to Get Yourself to Exercise While Studying Abroad


How to Avoid Weight Gain While Studying Abroad. Learn how to stay healthy and avoid gaining the study abroad 15 while you're traveling and studying in a foreign country.

Exercise while traveling

Chances are, while you’re on your weekend trips while studying abroad, going for a four mile run won’t be high on your “must do” list. So get your exercise in while exploring a new destination in other ways– go on a bike tour in Paris, ski the Swiss Alps, or learn to surf in Fiji. Don’t assume that your new friends won’t want to do something active with you, it’s pretty likely that they’re feeling like you are and would welcome doing something a bit more active.

What will YOU do to avoid the study abroad 15? Let us know in the comments!

Jess is the Editor-in-Chief of The Abroad Guide. After studying abroad in Belgium during her junior year of college, she caught the travel bug. Her experiences include volunteering in Nicaragua, backpacking through Europe, and a year-long adventure in Italy, and she's now settled in London.