Many students go off to college with new clothes, new books, and new attitudes, but unfortunately for some students come home with a new layer of unwanted fat. Adjusting to the unfamiliar lifestyle of going away to school has proven to be a difficult change for most first-year college students. New students might turn to binge drinking and unhealthy eating to satisfy their needs, but these careless habits can lead to much bigger problems. What is commonly known as the “freshmen 15” is a harsh reality for many of these students, and it is a problem that cannot be ignored. In a study done at Utah State University “almost one quarter of students gained a significant amount of weight during their first semester of college,” according to researchers Cara Moncur and Heidi Wengreen from the department of Nutrition and Food Sciences wrote in Nutrition Journal.
These significant weight gains can be attributed to an increased intake of highly caloric alcoholic beverages as well as poor eating decisions. Often times, students do not take their newly found freedom of food choices very seriously and tend to make tasty, fattening choices rather than healthy ones. Also, many first-year students have a meal plan which allows them to have buffet style meals of unlimited portions. Stress can also be a factor in these unwanted added pounds.
According to a study published in the October issue of The American Journal of Public Health, young women are particularly susceptible to this change due to their decreased exercise and lack of healthy eating habits. This information was based on a 23 year survey related to eating habits, exercise, and lack of sleep. It is imperative for students to pay close attention to their nutritional needs. Whether they are fighting the “Freshmen 15” or less, it is important to understand that a dramatic change in lifestyle must occur to yield satisfying results. Every weight loss plan must begin with making healthy choices. Changing ones beverage of choice from fattening sodas and juices to water or club soda can drastically reduce daily calorie intake and cut out harmful sugars. Opting for natural snacks such as nuts or granola over chips can also be a huge improvement. Another guilty pleasure of many students is late night trips to pizza shops or restaurants for an additional dinner, and this extra indulgence can really pack on the pounds.
Whether students are avoiding the weight gain or not, every student should have a regular exercise schedule. College is not the time to stop exercising, it is the time to start or turn it up a notch if one is currently exercising. Daily cardio has been said to increase blood flow to the heart and is very good for one’s body. Strength training can also boost one’s metabolism by increasing lean tissue in the body. There are several free resources for students to use for working out, including the Sykes gym and the South Campus gym for the residents living down there. There are even exercise routines that can be done in as little space as a dorm room.
Kicking the “freshmen 15” may seem like a daunting task, but it can become a reality with just a few changes.
Leah Skye is a second-year student majoring in communications. She can be reached at LS685444@wcupa.edu.