The Freshman 15

How to avoid gaining weight in your first year at college

We’ve all heard vague warnings about mysterious factors that supposedly cause every college freshman to gain 15 pounds. Is there any truth to the myth of the “Freshman 15? The truth is that yes, there is. Gaining weight during your first semester in college is common, although recent scientific studies have shown that the weight typically gained is closer to 5 pounds than 15.

There are countless temptations in college, not the least of which has to do with food. Parents are no longer around to ensure that you eat a healthy, balanced diet. Instead, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want (which is exactly what most students do). Vegetables and whole foods are pushed aside in favor of processed and fried foods. Portion control goes out the window since many college cafeterias follow the all-you-can-eat format. The stress and anxiety associated with academics can also lead to overeating as a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, all of these factors lead to weight gain.

How to Avoid the Freshman 15

If you notice that you’re gaining weight, don’t panic. There’s no need to go on a crash diet. We have the inside scoop on what to eat and what to avoid in order to keep that extra weight off:

  • Eat: whole foods like whole wheat bread, whole grain cereal, brown rice and fresh fruit.
  • Eat: foods that are as close to their original form as possible. Thus, an apple is favorable when compared to an apple pie, which contains white flour, sugar and processed apples.
  • Avoid: sugary or refined foods like white bread, white rice, cookies, potato chips, cake, ice cream and soda. These foods may give us a quick energy rush, but we later bottom out and feel sluggish and hungry again.
  • Avoid: snacking. Instead, sit down to eat regular meals. Most snack foods are processed and high in sugar or fat.

Looking Beyond Freshman Year

Weight gain during a student’s freshman year is not an inevitability. Some students gain weight, but others may actually lose weight. For those who gain 5 pounds or so, it’s not necessarily a reason for significant concern. However, if the weight gain continues after freshman year, then it’s an issue that must be dealt with.

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