Avoiding the Freshman 15

Freshmen gain many things when entering their first year of college, including freedom, greater responsibilities, a higher education and sometimes the dreaded “Freshman 15.”

Health studies prove that the Freshman 15 – or, the 15 pounds or more that college students may gain in their first year – is not a myth.

“Significant weight gain during the first semester of college is a real phenomenon,” said Dr. David A. Levitsky, a professor of nutritional sciences and psychology at Cornell University, concerning his study of 60 first-year students at Cornell.

His finding is no surprise when taking into consideration the changing lifestyles, schedules and eating habits of many first-year students. Rolling out of bed 20 minutes before class begins barely leaves time for breakfast, taking classes all day leaves students with few options for lunch except on-campus fast food restaurants or lunch carts and those vending machines are just too convenient when students need a quick – and usually unhealthy – snack to get them through their next class.

Students’ eating habits tend to change when entering college, whether it’s late-night snacking, consuming large quantities of alcohol or having leftover pizza for breakfast, for example.

Also, students may not realize how many calories are in the foods they consume. For example, according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), 12 ounces of regular beer contains 150 calories, three handfuls of nuts has 525 calories and a personal-size pizza can contain 500 to 600 calories.

However, the Freshman 15 is not inevitable and there are ways to prevent the weight gain, or to lose those pounds if students have already noticed a change.

What can you do?

Walk: Walk to and around campus if possible, and take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Breakfast: Studies have shown that students who eat breakfast are more alert and energetic than students who skip breakfast. Also, eating breakfast can prevent snacking or overeating later in the day.

Nutrition: Bring healthy snacks from home. Or, if buying from vending machines or carts on campus, choose pretzels and fruit instead of chips and candy. Also, drink water instead of sodas.

Library: Study in the library instead of the dorm, and obey the “No Food or Drink” signs. The ADA discourages students from eating and studying at the same time, since students are less likely to realize how much they have consumed.

Fast: The ADA also suggests students should stop eating at least two hours before going to bed.

Moderation: Eat junk foods in moderation. Students should eat until they are satisfied, not stuffed.

Participate: Enter in intramural sports. NKU offers a variety of sports, including flag football, sand volleyball, basketball, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, miniature golf and racquetball, to name a few.

Exercise: Students should spend extra time between classes at the Albright Health Center instead of the dorms or game room. The Center provides a recreational and exercise facility that offers a running track, basketball, volleyball, badminton, tennis, racquetball, walleyball, a swimming pool, a gymnastics room and a weightlifting/fitness room.

Learn: Finally, seek information and advice from the Wellness Office, located in the Albright Health Center. The Wellness Office provides several events and guest speakers, individual consultations, presentations and resources for information on various health and wellness topics.