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Helping cut down on the "freshman 15"

by Nicholas Rose - Contributing Writer & Brianna Bush - Lifestyles Editor
Wed, Dec 5th 2018 01:00 pm

By Nicholas Rose | contributing writer 

  Brianna Bush | lifestyles editor

 

The “freshman 15” is the theory that leaving home and heading off to college will cause a gain of 15 pounds over the course freshman year. As a nutrition instructor in the Department of Public Health and Health Education, Nick Rose examined the “freshman 15” with students and discussed the best strategies for preventing weight gain here at The College at Brockport.  

Most college students do gain weight during their freshman year, but a more precise label would be the “Freshman 7.5” rather than the “Freshman 15,” as only 10 percent of college students actually gain 15 (or more) pounds during their freshman year. 

The name might be a misnomer, but the concept is real: two out of every three incoming freshmen will gain weight by the end of the academic year, according to a meta-analysis of 25 recent studies exploring this trend. The same study found the average weight gain in those 67 percent of college freshman was 7.5 pounds over the freshman year and there are a number of potential factors causing this trend, according to ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

Every research study on this topic shows that college students gain weight faster than the general population. However, there has yet to be a definite reason pin pointed for the weight gain.  

Students in PBH 311, a nutrition class learned it’s most likely poor food choices, rather than lack of physical activity, that contributes to the “freshman 15.” Freshmen are constantly walking between classes, clubs, social events and appointments – so most students are getting in the recommended 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity just from walking around campus.  

Students reported that the transition from home cooked meals to buffet style cafeterias can encourage overconsumption and poor food choices. According to cspinet.org, many students are surprised to learn how many calories are in alcoholic beverages (150 calories per beer) and reported alcohol as a significant addition to the diets of many college students. They also acknowledged that the stressful lifestyle can lead to stress eating or drinking, especially after a long day of studying for exams.  

College students are also more likely than other age groups to have “night eating syndrome,” where over half of daily calories are consumed after 7 p.m. According to todaysdietitian.com, night eating syndrome is characterized by a lack of appetite in the morning, overeating at night and a need to eat in order to fall asleep. 

Many of my students reported a similar pattern of skipping meals throughout the day and then eating lots of food later at night.  This type of eating pattern is often (but not always) associated with weight gain and obesity.  

In addition to the social stigma that often accompanies weight gain, there are numerous health risks as well.  Over a third of adults in the United States are obese, with a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and other health problems. It’s also important to keep in mind that once you gain weight, it can be very difficult to lose it. If you try to cut back on the amount of food you eat, your body will actually work hard to prevent weight loss, by increasing your appetite and burning fewer calories each day.

 

nrose@brockport.edu | lifestyles.editor@gmail.com

 

 

Tips and Tricks

1. Plan to eat at regular times and don’t skip meals.

2. Don’t over eat because of stress, find other ways to deal with stress.

3. Eat an early dinner and avoid eating late at night.

4. Pack healthy snacks. 

5.  Avoid drinking alcohol – all alcohol contains calories.

6. Choose low-calorie drinks.

7. Track what you eat, so you are more conscious of what you put in your body each day.