Avoid the feared ‘freshman 15’
STARKVILLE, MISS. -- Incoming college freshman think of almost every possible new experience they could encounter in their new world; however, some neglect the dreaded “freshman 15.”
Janet Jolley, a Mississippi State University Extension Service agent in Marshall County, said research shows that 25% of college freshman will gain 5% of their body weight during the first semester.
To develop a healthy lifestyle and avoid unwanted weight gain, students should take time to rest the mind and body from the stress of day-to-day activities, Jolley said. Eating well and working out regularly also helps.
New college students tend to leave their familiar routines and create new schedules, which can lead to unwanted weight gain unless they establish guidelines.
“A lot of incoming freshman think that they can still eat the same way they have been,” Jolley warned. “Their dietary habits can change in college because they eat at restaurants more, they do not exercise as much, and their activity level drops.”
According to Jolley, sleep plays an important part in weight loss and gain.
“The human body needs time to recover from the stress of a new environment,” Jolley said. “Having a good sleep schedule assists with weight loss, improves memory, reduces stress and keeps the heart healthy.”
New college students have to transition from their familiar activities to new schedules they make on their own. Failing to create a supportable sleeping and eating schedule is the beginning of unwanted weight gain.
“College students normally do not get enough sleep, skip breakfast, don’t exercise as they should and don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables,” Jolley said. “They suddenly do not have a parent who may have been cooking meals or kept them eating at a certain time each day.”
Students need to be actively conscious of what kinds of foods they eat. This awareness includes reading labels and knowing what each percentage means.
Jolley said there is always a benefit to cooking and eating at home rather than going out. The home cook controls the amounts of salts, sugars and fats.
“However, most college students cook convenient foods, which could be loaded with added sugars, salts and fats. So, eating at restaurants could be healthy if they make wise choices,” said Jolley.
Jolley also recommended drinking water frequently and carrying a water bottle.
“Water keeps us hydrated, lubricates joints, can assist with weight loss, prevents kidney damage and boosts performance during exercise,” Jolley said. “If consumed before eating, water can make you feel fuller so you practice portion control.”
Scott County Extension coordinator Anita Webb said eating on a schedule helps avoid the freshman 15.
“A typical diet of an 18- or 19-year-old should be on a hard and fast schedule if he or she is wanting to avoid the freshman 15,” Webb said.
She also placed a strong emphasis on eating breakfast every morning.
“It does not really matter what they eat in the morning, as long as they eat something to make themselves fuller for the day,” Webb said.
When deciding on what to eat for lunch and dinner, students have to actively decide whether they want a cheeseburger or a salad and grilled chicken. Webb said students should always eat more vegetables when given the option.
“Some healthy snack options include almonds, celery and carrot sticks with peanut butter, banana or apple with peanut butter, trail mix, pretzels and hummus, yogurt, string cheese, low-fat popcorn or frozen grapes,” Webb said. “And keep water cold and available!”
Webb also warned about hidden fats like butter, bread, sauces, gravy, fried foods and pastries.
Despite the fear of gaining unwanted weight in the first few weeks of college, there are steps anyone can take to stay healthy. Students should create a routine and stick to it while making conscious decisions to better their health every day.