How to Control Weight and Avert the Freshman Fifteen
The freshman fifteen is a term used to describe students’ weight during their first year of college and is based on the claim that first-year students typically gain fifteen pounds. Although most students do not gain the freshman fifteen, a recent study of U.S. and Canadian college students found that students pack on 6 to 9 pounds their first year away from home. Although calorie intake does not increase significantly, dramatic increases in beer drinking and significant physical activity decreases are key reasons for the weight gain.
There are several reasons to maintain a healthy weight. Over the long term, the risk of chronic diseases goes up as weight increases. In the short term, losing excess weight can improve how you view yourself, how others view you, and how you feel and perform. Detecting “flab” around your midsection or feeling that your clothes are getting tighter are two good indicators that you are carrying excess weight. If you determine that weight loss is necessary, you can safely lose extra pounds with some knowledge and perseverance.
Six Simple Tips to Avert the Freshman Fifteen
• Eating Disorders
Eat a balanced meal or snack every 3–4 hours. In college, the stresses of achieving academic and social success put many students. As many as 30% of college students are at risk of developing an eating disorder. Disordered eating is a mild and short-term change in eating patterns that typically occurs in response to life stress, a desire to change appearance, or a bad habit. Sometimes, disordered eating habits may lead to an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge-eating disorder. Exercise bulimia is also an eating disorder in which students obsessively work out to get rid of calories.
Many students skip breakfast, whether it is to save time, money, or calories. However, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Starting the day off with fortified, whole-grain breakfast cereal, skim milk, and fruit serving puts you on the right path for meeting recommendations for fiber, calcium, and fruit intake. Even though it may seem that a cup of coffee gets your brain going in the morning, your brain is fueled best by carbohydrates, not caffeine. Also, studies repeatedly show that eating breakfast prevents overeating later in the day, by preventing hunger from dictating your food choices.
• Choosing a Vegetarian Lifestyle
During college, many students experiment with or adopt a vegetarian eating pattern. Interest in plant-based diets has been growing steadily as more research points to their health benefits.
While plant-based diets can meet nutrition needs and decrease the risk of many chronic diseases, they require appropriate planning at all life stages.
Protein is not typically deficient, even with a vegan diet, which contains no animal products. However, vegetarians, and especially vegans, may be at risk for deficiencies of several vitamins and minerals. Consuming a ready-to-eat breakfast cereal is an easy and inexpensive way to obtain these nutrients.
As interest in vegetarian meals has grown, restaurants and campus dining services have responded by offering various vegetarian options. For optimal health benefits, choose foods baked, steamed, or stir-fried rather than deep-fried; select whole grains rather than refined carbohydrates; and consume food fortified with vitamins and minerals. Even if you do not choose to follow a plant-based diet all the time, choosing several plant-based meals each week can help with weight control and boost the intake of fiber and many healthy phytochemicals.
• Limit liquid calories
Drink water instead of high-calorie soft drinks, fruit juice, alcohol, or coffee; if you drink alcohol, limit it to 1 or 2 drinks per day.
Calories can sneak up on the unsuspecting college student. One of the biggest contributors to weight gain is consuming several hundred calories per day in sugary beverages or alcoholic beverages. One 12-ounce can of regular cola contains about 140 kcal. A 12-ounce can of regular beer has 150 kcal. In addition, a study has shown that consuming gourmet coffee beverages, such as lattes and cappuccinos, increases average calorie consumption by about 200 kilocalories per day. Even fruit juices, which we perceive to be healthy, have at least 100 kcal per 8-ounce glass. Furthermore, a soft drink’s 24-ounce mug makes you feel no fuller than an equal volume of water, yet the soft drink adds 300 kcal more. A convenient stash of water is the best way to quench your thirst.
• Stock the fridge
Keep a stash of low-calorie, nutritious snacks, such as pretzels, light microwave popcorn, fruit (fresh, canned, or dried)
• Exercise regularly
Find a friend to work out with you. Experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week.
Exercise is very important to any weight loss and weight maintenance plan. It’s easy to start an exercise routine, but sticking with it is the hard part. When you find yourself short on time, exercise is often the first thing we sacrifice. To ensure your success at boosting daily activity, choose activities you enjoy, such as working out with friends at the campus recreation center, participating in intramural sports, or taking an acting class like dancing.
Don’t forget the brisk walking to and from classes. The first thing we sacrifice. To ensure your success at boosting daily activity, choose activities you enjoy, such as working out with friends at the campus recreation center, participating in intramural sports, or taking an acting class like dancing.