The freshman 15 phenomenon

Battling the back-to-school bulge

Many students gain weight during
their first year away at university. This phenomenon is referred to as the
Freshman 15. Where freshman weight gain is associated with the severe lifestyle
change and freedom to control what is consumed and eaten, how much, and how

Researchers from Cornell University
revealed in one study that freshman students gained an average of 4.2 pounds
during their first three months at school.

While that may not sound like much,
it is roughly 11 times the weight gain expected for an 18 year old. It is also
important to consider that the extra pounds can accumulate over the course of
the school year.

First-year college students have
the freedom to pile on portions of starchy foods at dining halls, eat fast food
at every meal, drink alcohol, and fuel late-night study sessions with sugary
and salty snacks.

Exercise is usually a low priority
since students have less time due to heavy course loads, so it is not
unforeseen that some weight gain is expected.

A study last year found that a
university student had 22,000 calories worth of snacks in his or her dorm room!

More than 70 per cent of students
had salty snacks, granola bars, desserts, candy, and sugary beverages. Fewer
had fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and low-calorie drinks. 

Extra calories can quickly

Let’s consider that a first-year
student, who isn’t regularly active, needs anywhere from 1,800 to 2,200
calories per day. Males need more calories than females.

slices of pizza = 750 calories, 30 grams fat (7.5 tsp butter)

chicken wings = 1,800 calories, 122 grams fat (31 tsp butter)

fries = 550 calories, 25 grams fat (6 tsp. butter)

2 pints = 510 calories

A couple slices of pizza and two
pints of beer, for instance, add approximately 1,000 calories to a freshman’s
diet – or half a day’s worth of calories.

If these items are consumed late at
night, they are added to a day’s worth of foods, they are not burned as
efficiently at this time of day, and a late night binge like this can make you
feel full the next morning, making it likely you will skip breakfast.

Five tips to prevent the “Freshman

College weight gain is not
inevitable. However, it is dependent on establishing certain routines, fitting
in exercise, and keeping healthier options within reach.

1.     Establish
a regular pattern of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner – this will help
prevent hunger and curb cravings.

2.     Practise
portion control at the cafeteria. Make a trip to the salad bar before hitting
the hot food station. Skip the bread if you have pasta. Ask for a double
portion of vegetables instead of mashed potatoes or French fries.

3.     Snack
wisely. Keep healthy snacks in your dorm room. Good choices include yoghurt,
fresh fruit, nuts, part skim cheese strings, baby carrots and hummus, mini cans
of tuna, granola bars, snack size low fat microwave popcorn, and instant bean
soups help fill you up without adding excessive calories.

4.     Instead
of munching while studying in the evening, try sipping on herbal tea, light hot
chocolate or a decaf skim milk latte.

5.     Limit
liquid calories, including alcohol. Drink water at meals or one glass of milk
or soy milk.

Andrea Hill is a registered
nutritionist based in the Cayman Islands.


Eating pizza and junk can pack on the pounds when students spend their first year at college.
Photo: FILE