A study published this year in Nutrition Journal shows that nearly one in four freshmen gain at least 5 percent of their body weight, an average of about 10 to 15 pounds, during their first semester. But as ACE points out, this weight gain can be avoided through healthy habits such as eating right and staying active.
The combination of environmental and behavioral changes that takes place during one’s freshman year can easily serve as the catalyst for weight gain, but by making smart decisions about diet and exercise, students can avoid weight gain and even become more fit.”
The following represents ACE’s top ten tips for avoiding the “freshman 15”:
- Better Nutritional Choices – With class schedules that can vary from day to day and unhealthy food choices often readily available, unstructured eating is almost inevitable. Remember the importance of moderation and refer to www.mypyramid.gov for a guide to balanced eating.
- Three Meals Per Day – Studies show that weight gain is more common among those who skip breakfast. Be sure to make time for the most important meal of the day and don’t allow too much time to pass between meals. Individuals who consume fewer than three meals per day may find themselves feeling famished, which can lead them to overeat.
- Snacking – Avoid late-night snacking while cramming for exams or finishing a paper. Stock the dorm room with healthy snacks (e.g., fresh fruit and veggies) that are easily transportable.
- Reality of Alcohol – Drinking is a big part of college life, but it can also pack on the pounds. Five or six beers at 150 calories each equals an additional intake of 600-900 calories, and 3,500 calories equals one pound of fat. Additionally, alcohol consumption can trigger late-night eating, which can yield even greater weight gain.
- Sleep Patterns – It’s easy to get caught up in those late nights, but regulated, good-quality sleep is essential in avoiding weight gain. Try to get at least six hours of sleep per night.
- Stress Management – Between moving away from home, juggling classes and coursework, and adapting to new surroundings, there are many stressors associated with freshman year that can negatively affect health. Seek creative ways to cope such as yoga and meditation. The health services department is also a great resource.
- Active Living – Whenever possible, instead of driving, walk or bike to class, the post office, the library, etc. to burn off extra calories.
- Campus Resources – Use what you’re paying for! Check out the campus recreation center, participate in group fitness classes and intramural sports, and organize activities such as a pick-up game of basketball or volleyball, or go on a group hike with friends and neighbors.
- Workout Groups – Exercising with a partner or group is more than just a workout—it’s a social experience. Recruiting roommates and classmates to workout is a great way to meet people and make new friends.
- Health and Fitness for Credit – Enroll in an activity or a lifestyle and/or nutrition class for college credit. This is a great way to get motivated and adhere to a healthy lifestyle.
“Freshman year of college is a critical period when many students develop unhealthy lifestyle habits,” says Bryant. “This, however, need not be the case. There are plenty of tools and resources available to students, and we want to make sure they are utilized to help young adults lead healthy and active lifestyles.”