The Freshman 15: A Myth Exposed!

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  • Students heading off to college can expect to gain weight, with some researchers claiming that gains of 15 pounds or more are common, what has become known as the "Freshman 15." The Freshman 15, however, may be more of a myth than a reality as the average gain is usually much less, with students gaining 4 to 10 pounds in their first year of college according to researchers.

    Although the Freshman 15 has been largely disproven, for a small group of students it is a fact. Indeed, an Auburn University student has revealed that 5 percent of first-year college students do gain 15 pounds with a Utah University study revealing weight gains of 10 pounds in the first semester alone for 25 percent of all students.

    Weight Gainers

    Researchers have discovered a number of reasons why college students gain weight. Nearly every reason has to do with changes in student behavior as freshmen head out on their own for the first time in their lives.

    Key contributors to weight gain include the following:

    Decreased physical activity — Students may make time for class, work and social activities, but athletic participation may drop. Some students manage to keep the weight off by participating in intramural sports or by following an exercise regimen that goes beyond walking between campus buildings. If you left your bike at home when you went off to college, bring it back with you when you go home for your next break.

    Meal consumption — Skipping breakfast may seem like a way to lose weight, but that often means food consumption increases as the day wears on. Breakfast serves as an engine to start the day, the meal that activates your body. When meals are consumed late at night, especially just before bed, calories are not burned off. The result is weight gain.

    Dining choices — College meal plans can help students save money. They can also lead to weight gain especially where all-you-can-eat meals are allowed. Without restricting food consumption, students may eat more and put on the pounds. Portion control may be sorely lacking here — do all things in moderation including eating food.

    Snacks and such — Without disciplined meal eating, students are apt to snack more. Those snacks are often high in fat and can quickly add weight to even the thinnest frame. Pizza, when offered, is usually consumed late and in great quantities.

    Social drinking — So, you think under-age students do not drink? Think again: on many campuses alcohol is widely available with no barrier in place. Or at least it is not so in a social setting. Alcohol and even most store bought juice liquids are high-calorie beverages, and can contribute to rapid weight gain.

    Uneven sleep — Sleep allows the body to rest. A sleep-deprived individual, however, is prone to making poor decisions including not considering what foods are consumed and the portions taken in.

    Food Choices

    College students can avoid weight gain by exercising, eating right, avoiding alcohol and getting enough sleep. Students that actively work out, participate in intramural sports and show much discipline elsewhere are likely to keep their weight under control. The following food choices can help as well:

    Keep it sweet — The urge for sugar is a natural one, but something that can put on weight and cause other physical problems if not held in check. Satisfy your urge for something sweet by consuming fresh and dried fruits between meals.

    Choose whole grains — Get your fiber intake met by choosing foods rich in whole grains. You get essential vitamins and minerals too, what is usually missing from processed grains.

    Snack smartly — Besides the fruit to sustain you between meals, you can choose other foods that are beneficial to you. Avoid the fried chips and instead opt for low-fat yogurt and protein rich peanut butter, lathering the latter on celery sticks or gluten-free crackers.

    Understand terms — Not every is natural, organic or good for you. Juice may be natural, but it can include a lot of sugar. When thirsty, opt for water instead of juice and you will keep the calories in check. Keep healthy snacks and drinks in your dorm room.

    Go lean — You may want to consume much meat, but choose your meats wisely. Red meat is fine, provided that it is not consumed solely. Add in leaner meets including chicken breast filet (unbreaded), ham, leg of lamb and 90 percent lean ground beef.

    Healthy Living

    You can avoid freshman health gain and additional surges in weight while you are in college. The pounds you put on while pursuing your academic degree can stay with you for the rest of your life, bringing with it health problems and perhaps even shortening your lifespan. Eat smart, live long and prosper!

    WebMD: Diet Myth or Truth: The Freshman 15 —
    Auburn University: College Students Gain More Than Knowledge While Pursuing Degrees —

    Author Information
    Jennifer Fox is a health food enthusiast. She frequently shares her healthy living tips on nutrition blogs across the internet. To learn more about how to eat better, visit Skinny Limits.

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