In the wake of the 2012 London Olympics, we've all realized how terribly out of shape we are. Paired with the prospect of returning to school in the coming weeks,

this is perhaps as great a time as any to face our greatest fears as they loom on the horizon of our waistlines. Yes, freshman fifteen — I'm talking about you.

The freshman fifteen is the stuff of urban legend — a horror story that wreaks havoc on the psyches of high school seniors everywhere, for fear that it too might touch their lives, leaving them crying in the Sears dressing room shopping for pants two sizes larger.

The truly terrifying part of this particular myth is that it is anything but an old wives' tale. Every fall, kids go off to college trim and lean as ever, and return home at Christmastime only to be mistaken for Santa Claus himself.

Many brace themselves for the seemingly inevitable weight gain, but the reality is, you don't have to! With just a little bit of cautious foresight, you can not only avoid those extra pounds, but even challenge yourself to outgrow any bad habits you might have had in high school. Here are a few tips to get you started on the right track:

1. Before school even starts, take up some form of exercise. Go for a run, swim laps in the pool, lift weights. My personal favorite is dancing because you can either go solo just blasting the radio at home, or make a night on the town of it — which I suppose is the equivalent of a group exercise class without the awful pretense of waking up at 5 a.m. and competing against fitness buffs with the hint of Muscle Milk on their breaths.

2. Limit yourself to one plate per meal. This is particularly important if your cafeteria is buffet-style, because nothing invites bulking up like unlimited refills when you're on a college budget. Avoid fast food most days of the week, and aim to make half of each plate vegetables (potatoes don't count).

3. Keep yourself motivated! This might be the most important piece of advice, because of all the buzzkills out there, your own mind can be the most lethal. On the other hand, maintaining a positive attitude can make any struggle seem easy — so figure out what it is that will keep you going when you're gearing up to watch TV rather than go on a 3-mile run. Find a work-out buddy, make a playlist, read blogs to keep yourself interested — it's all a matter of personal taste.

For all of these things, make sure you seek out something that works for you. If you hate pilates, don't force yourself to go to a class — try something else, or you'll quit when the school work starts piling up. If spinach makes you gag, by all means do not eat it. There's always something nutritious to replace any of the gaps in your diet created by personal dislikes.

So as you enter into this new era in your life, make sure you take the time to map out a plan to keep yourself healthy — or be prepared to face the consequences come winter break.

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