Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Weight Control
How college students can avoid the freshman 15
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension
Most new college students have heard of the freshman 15. It refers to the 15 pounds many students gain during their first year in college. The good news is that for most the weight gain is closer to 3 to 10 pounds.
Cornell University’s Division of Nutritional Sciences conducted research and discovered that students gained an average of 4 pounds during their first semester on campus. Four pounds in one semester is about a pound a month. If the weight gain stops there, it wouldn’t be problematic. If gaining a pound a month continues, however, it won’t take long until the student’s health will be impacted.
Causes in weight gain can be psychological, social or practical. Starting college is stressful — it’s a new environment with new people and a very unfamiliar schedule. For some, there is the pressure to excel. Students may find themselves eating for comfort or to relieve stress.
Many freshmen also want to experience every aspect of college life. For them, the weight gain may be a result of more social activity — there are welcome events, parties, and sorority and fraternity rush.
Research tells us that the more that is available, the more we eat. From a practical perspective, many college freshmen are exposed to more food than they are used to. In the dining halls there is an abundance of a variety of foods. There are also more opportunities to go out to eat, and some students may find themselves eating late at night and snacking more often than normal.
To avoid excess weight gain, it’s important for students to practice simple habits:
- Eat three healthy meals per day with reasonable portion sizes.
- Keep healthy snacks available so you aren’t tempted by high-calorie ones.
- Limit high calorie drinks — water is an excellent choice for a drink.
- Get plenty of exercise — walk to classes and events rather than drive.
- Get enough sleep.
Last update: Tuesday, August 16, 2011