For many students, the mind isn’t the only thing that expands during college; their waistline also crosses new bounds. It’s a phenomenon known as the Freshman 15—the number of pounds that students allegedly gain during their first year on campus.
Why College Students Gain Weight
Freedom from parents and all-you-can-eat meal plans—it’s a dangerous combination. Factor in late-night food runs, creamy lattes, and alcohol, and it’s no mystery why last year’s jeans have “shrunk.” You’re likely getting less exercise, too, now that your days of varsity sports and mandatory gym classes are over. In addition, college students—like most other Americans—often use food to treat boredom, stress, and loneliness.
The Skinny on Nutrition
You’ve heard it a thousand times: eat breakfast. Skipping meals just leads to gorging later. Curb your appetite by having a salad before dinner, but avoid high-calorie toppings. For your main course, try a vegetarian entrée; they tend to be more healthful. And if you’re a soda or juice junkie, switch to water; this small sacrifice has a big payoff. Also, consider getting your meal to go, so you can’t help yourself to seconds at the buffet.
If you can get to a grocery store, that’s even better. Load up on with healthy snacks so you won’t be at the mercy of the pizza delivery guy when your stomach growls at midnight.
Your tuition most likely covers use of the fitness facility, so you might as well get your money’s worth. Why not take karate or volleyball for academic credit? You’ll learn a new skill, and the attendance policy will motivate you to stick with it. Also check out club sports, from intramural soccer to coed ultimate Frisbee.
Other easy changes include walking across campus instead of catching the bus and doing stomach crunches during your favorite TV show. The key is to make an exercise schedule you can live with. If you hate jogging, then don’t tell yourself that you’ll run five miles every morning before class.
Other Ways to Help Out Your Body
Are you getting enough sleep? You may have to end those afternoon naps that leave you wide awake at 2 a.m. Also take a multivitamin; it’s the least you can do.
For more tips on avoiding the Freshman 15, visit these sites:
TeensHealth offers simple tips on avoiding weight gain during college.
UCLA’s Student Nutrition & Body Image Awareness Campaign has a comprehensive site with guidelines for nutrition, fitness, and body image.