With college in full swing, health-conscious freshmen may have an extra worry on their minds: the dreaded “freshman 15.” Amid the unlimited food at the dining hall, no parents telling you to eat your veggies, and late-night study sessions with plenty of snacks, the freshman 15 seems inevitable.
But do most college students really gain 15 pounds during their first year?
Research tells us no.
Several studies have looked at the freshman 15 phenomenon and found that while weight gain is common during freshman year, 15 pounds is more than the average. The actual weight gain of freshmen varies among studies, with an average of 7 1/2 pounds. A meta-analysis of studies examining the freshman 15 phenomenon found that although nearly two-thirds of students gain weight as freshmen, fewer than 10 percent gain 15 pounds or more.
So should you worry about gaining those 15 pounds? Probably not. But that’s not to say that you should be hitting the dessert bar in the cafeteria and having pizza and beer every night, either.
Even though the freshman 15 is really more like the freshman seven, the problem is that habits that cause significant weight gain during freshman year aren’t likely to stop when the year ends. Creating beneficial habits during your college years can set you up for success not only in beating weight gain while you’re in college, but also in establishing habits you need to stay healthy afterward. Here’s where to start.
▪ Stick to structure. Fit breakfast, lunch and dinner into your daily schedule, with a healthful snack between meals if needed.
▪ Be careful in the cafeteria. When your dining plan has you going to all-you-can-eat buffets every night, it can be tough to rein in your eating habits.
▪ Get fit with friends. Chances are your friends are also trying to avoid weight gain, so create a workout group to hold one another accountable.
▪ Don’t drink your calories. Whether you’re downing energy drinks and mochas to wake up for class or having one too many beers on the weekend, you’ll find those calories add up fast.
▪ Stock up on healthful snacks. It’s easier to avoid junk food if it’s not within arm’s reach. Rather than having bags of chips and candy on hand for late-night studying, stock your dorm room with individually portioned packs of nuts, whole-grain granola bars with fewer than 5 grams of sugar, and fresh fruit, yogurt, veggies and hummus.