Your freshman year is a time for meeting new people, adjusting to living away from your parents, having new experiences and – if you’re not careful – gaining the dreaded “Freshman 15.”
Unfortunately, a number of studies conducted in recent years show that weight gain does occur during a student’s first year of college. Researchers at Cornell University discovered that students gained around four pounds during their first 12 weeks at college. This rate is almost 11 times higher than the typical weight gain for a healthy 18-year-old.
With so many traps, including Carte Blanche meal plans, late-night snacking, alcohol consumption, and a lack of parental guidance, many students find it difficult to maintain the healthy lifestyle they were accustomed to while living at home and attending high school.
“Being away at college was definitely a new routine,” Lauren Svec, senior political science major, said. “A big part of socializing on campus centers around food, whether it is in the dining halls or ordering out late at night with your friends. It’s important to make healthy eating a priority.”
But before you swear off Eickhoff and frat parties forever, a reassuring note: According to a study published by the Journal of American College Health in 2002, only 59 percent of students gained weight during their freshman years – and the average gain was only 4.6 pounds.
Still, any unnecessary weight gain can be a source of worry for students, especially at a time when they are trying to look their best and appear attractive to those around them.
“I was definitely worried about all the ‘Freshman 15’ talk when I entered college,” Kelly Dowd, senior sociology major, said. “So I came here with a plan to stay healthy. I’ve tried to make sure that I fit in time for exercise, no matter how busy my schedule.”
With a little planning and self-control, Svec, Dowd and many others across campus have managed to beat the “Freshman 15.” And while it may seem like a daunting task, there are a few simple things you can do to join the ranks of these upperclassmen.
Avoid Late Night Snacking
Although two large pies and a cheesy bread for $5 might be hard to resist at 1 a.m. after a killer party, try to eat your meals at a sensible time.
Sometimes a busy class schedule and extracurriculars make it impossible to eat at a normal hour. If this is the case, stock your room with healthy items like fruits, soup and cereal to compensate.
Eat Only Until You Are Full
Often times, freshmen fall victim to “all you can eat” meal plans, loading up on more food and desserts than they really need. Instead of worrying about getting your money’s worth, worry about satisfying your hunger – and stop eating when you have reached a point where you feel comfortably full.
Make Healthy Choices
Although the food at Eickhoff is probably nothing like what mother used to make, you should still attempt to eat a complete and balanced meal each time you swipe into the dining hall. Sure, it’s tempting to eat grilled cheese and fries every day, but make sure that you include fruits and veggies in your diet. Although a lot of the food offered in Eickhoff is high in fat, you can always rely on soup, salad and pasta as healthy alternatives.
If you are trying to keep track of your fat and calorie intake, this information is usually posted at each food station within the dining hall.
The best way to keep from gaining the “Freshman 15” is to maintain the active lifestyle that you had while in high school. The College offers plenty of intramural and club sports to suit everyone’s interests.
“In my opinion, the best way to stay in shape is to join a club sport,” Callan Wright, senior international business major and member of the TCNJ Women’s Rugby Club, said. “It is less demanding on your schedule than a varsity sport, but still allows you to exercise while meeting new people and doing something you love.”
Even if you are not interested in participating in an organized sport, you can stay in shape by hitting the gym or swimming laps in Packer Hall, running the Loop, playing volleyball or taking advantage of the exercise classes offered in the Travers/Wolfe fitness center.
There are plenty of different ways to avoid the “Freshman 15,” but just remember that the most important thing is that you stay healthy and enjoy your freshman year at the College.
Information from – kidshealth.org