Beware of the Freshman 15!
The thought of gaining 15 pounds the first year of college is scary! I’m not sure who came up with this warning, but I decided to check it out. Interestingly, there hasn’t been much scientific research done to prove this theory. However, I did learn that a recent study at a large university found that although it’s true that students gain weight their freshman year, the average gain was closer to four pounds (during the first semester). Eating healthy at college can be very hard, but it’s not impossible. Perhaps it’s the abundance of food available, the buffet style meals, and the high calorie foods that makes it tricky to eat healthy and stick to proper portion sizes. The extra calories in beer and alcohol (approximately 80-150 per glass) add up as well.
However, just because you hear rumors about gaining weight doesn’t mean that it has to happen to you. Some weight gain is common during the first year of college, but the reality is that some students will lose weight and others will stay the same. I’m in the middle of my first semester and I haven’t gained any weight! I try to control my portion sizes, and I make it a point to fit in exercises such as walking to my classes (instead of taking the shuttle) when I have time. Let’s face it, you need to study a lot at college and when you’re reading, you’re not exactly the most active you can be, so you have to make an effort to set aside time to exercise. Most colleges offer gym memberships at a reasonable cost. If you don’t feel like going to the gym, you can look into taking a dance class and get credit too! Walking to class also counts as exercise. I have classes 10 to 20 minutes away from my dorm, so I usually walk unless I’m running late.
As far as eating goes, I’m pretty sure that most college dining halls have a salad bar. You can make your own personalized salad, and add foods such as chicken from the hot entrees section to make a more satisfying meal. Choosing whole grains over white bread, and drinking water instead of high calorie beverages such as soda and juices are also healthy changes to make. If you are still hungry after a meal, grab a piece of fruit instead of going back for a piece of pizza. Also, try to follow this rule: “Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full.” In the meantime, check out our guide to healthy eating in college.
The bottom line is, weigh yourself once in a while. If you feel like you are gaining weight over several weeks, or you realize you are overeating to deal with the stress of school, it’s a good idea to go to the health services at your college and ask to talk with a nutritionist or health care provider.