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|How to avoid the Freshman 15.
Anyone who has frequented a college dining hall
knows the Freshman 15 is real. Forget about meeting new friends, dealing with
crazy professors or simply just finding your way around campus. Your biggest
worry now that you're in college is the dreaded freshman 15. Rumor has it that
entering college mandates gaining 15 pounds. And it's not entirely unfounded:
The average weight gain among first-year college students is six pounds,
according to a study in the Journal of American College Health. In fact, two-thirds
of freshman will pack on weight, according to that research. According to Utah
State University researchers, one out of every four college freshmen gains 5% or
more of their body weight—about 10 pounds—in the first semester.
Here's how to survive your first year in college with your waistline intact.
What makes first-year students so susceptible to weight gain?
Coming to college is a big change for young adults. They are confronted with
food any hour of the day and there is no one telling them what or when to eat.
They have to learn to choose both what and when to eat for themselves and they
are also going to a schedule where no one tells them what to do, so they may
forget to exercise. College is about the time where young women switch to an
adult female metabolism, so they may not be able to eat as much as they used to and still keep their weight stable.
What happens sophomore, junior, and senior years?
As kids move through their college years, they learn how to schedule
themselves so they understand when and what to eat even though food is
available all the time and their weight levels off. By the time most females reach
senior year, they have cycled to the weight they were when they entered
college. Boys don’t physically mature until later, so they tend to weigh more
when they graduate college than they did when they started as freshman.
Is there any way to avoid the freshman 15?
Eating snacks or mini-meals after every three or four hours can help avoid
bingeing. The challenge is really learning how to incorporate healthy eating and
exercise into a schedule that is very demanding. I remind students that this is
not too different from the life they will graduate into, so they should learn now how to make it a part of what they do now.
How should a weight-conscious freshman navigate the vast dining hall?
As you go into the dining facility, take a look at what’s there. Don’t jump
immediately into the salad bar line. There may be healthier options such as fresh
vegetables or whole-grain pasta. Once you have made your decision, you are in
control. Think about how much cheese, meat, beans, nuts, or salad dressing that
you take. Choose more vegetables and less of those things. A dinner plate
should comprise two-thirds fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This is a good
way to build a healthy meal. Also, ask questions in the dining facility such as ‘how
is that prepared?’ or ‘can I get this without butter?’ If a service-line person can’t help you, find out who can.
How does or can late-night pizza and alcohol fit in?
If you order pizza late-night, get a salad too so that you can control the number of
slices you eat. Participate with friends, don’t isolate; because isolation leads to
disordered eating. When you restrict what you eat during the day to allow
yourself to drink at night, alcohol affects you more quickly. When alcohol has a
rapid affect, it drops your blood sugar and triggers the need to eat and alcohol
also lowers your inhibitions. You can end up eating as many calories -- if not
more -- than you would have if you ate throughout the day and still had a drink at
night. Eat during the day if you are planning to drink, so you don’t drink too much or eat too much.
Are any freshman immune to the freshman 15?
Weight gain is an individual issue. Our genetics determine how we gain, where
we gain, and when we gain. Most students find they have some ups and downs
with their weight while at college.There also seems to be a parallel epidemic of eating disorders among students. Is that related to the
The environment of watching people eat and seeing people eat as much as they
want and not gain a pound can make it difficult to put “healthy eating” into
perspective for college students. We end up with weight gain. Some students
handle this well and others will resort to disordered eating such as fad diets,
restriction, and sometimes it moves on to eating disorders.
How can healthy eating among college students be encouraged?
Kids are not getting the nutritional education that they need to arm themselves
for college. My recommendation to schools and parents is to talk more about
healthy eating in high school and middle school. We need to teach kids about the
importance of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy food. We need to teach
them what they should eat, not what they should not eat. College kids also spend
a lot of time on the Web. There is a lot of misinformation out there. Go to
reputable sites for good nutritional information, and do not believe the fast, quick,
and easy way to drop 5 pounds. Also find out what services are available on
campus, such as a dietitian or health and wellness center that can help develop healthy eating strategies.
During the First Week
Set ground rules about care packages. “Be clear about what you want your family
to send—and not send,” says Flipse. Your parents might think that you’re
starving, but between an unlimited meal plan and extracurriculars that abound
with snacks, you really don’t need to stock your dorm with chips, sweets, and
processed crackers. Instead, ask the ’rents for items like makeup, shampoo, and other nonfood necessities.
Make time for breakfast. When you’ve got an 8 a.m. lecture, it’s tempting to roll
out of your extra-long twin and run straight to class, but skipping your morning
meal can slow metabolism and encourage a binge later in the day. Research
shows that breakfast eaters actually tuck in fewer calories throughout the day
than those who miss the meal. For a breakfast on the run, pair a banana with a cup
of plain yogurt topped with granola, or a piece of toast with peanut butter.
Pencil in your workouts. You schedule your classes, so why not schedule your
workouts? Take a look at your class schedule, and block out time to hit the gym,
go for a run, or stop by a studio class at your university athletic center. If your day
fills up quickly, try an early morning workout. Research shows that morning
exercisers are more consistent than those who hit the gym later in the day.
In the Dining Hall
Pour your cereal into a coffee cup. Cheerios and Wheaties are great, but when
you’re free pouring from a cereal dispenser, it’s easy to serve yourself too much
of a good thing. Train your eye to estimate 1 cup (about the size of a baseball), or
use a to-go coffee cup to limit your portions, says Flipse.
Make salad the main course. Rather than turn to high-calorie foods as your main
dish, fill up on salad and visit the hot bar for your sides. Loading up on veggies
can make you feel full on a fraction of the calories and delivers tons of
antioxidants. Just make sure you don’t douse your salads in croutons and creamy dressings.
Snag some fruit. If you have an unlimited plan, grab fruit from your college
cafeteria and keep a stash in your dorm room. Go for fruit cups or handheld fruits like bananas and oranges.
Say yes to seltzer. You don’t need to be a math major to figure out that self-serve
soda fountains and fruit juice machines can add up to a lot of liquid calories.
Sticking to water all the time can be boring, admits Oz, so try mixing 1 part fruit
juice to 3-parts seltzer for a sweet, fizzy, drink that hits the spot.
At a Tailgate
Sit with different groups of friends. Instead of sitting on you bum for all four
quarters, visit with different social circles scattered throughout the stadium. You’
ll be less tempted to mindlessly snack.
Go potluck-style. It’s always easier to control what you’re eating if you’re
providing part of the meal. Join a group of friends who are tailgating and
volunteer to bring a salad or fruit salad, says Oz.
Skip the bun. Reality is, you’re probably not going to find a whole wheat hot dog
roll or hamburger bun when you’re at a tailgate, so you’re probably better off
skipping the simple carbs altogether.
At a Party
Start slow. Kick the night off with a no- or low-calorie drink, such as water or a diet
soda, says Flipse. Not only will you slash calories, but you’ll also be better off
keeping your wits about you. Getting too buzzed too fast is bad for your kidneys,
gives you the munchies, and makes it more likely that you’ll continue to drink (not
to mention it’s probably illegal, if you’re a freshman).
Cut your drinks in half. Forget about keeping up appearances. If you want to ward
off a beer belly, limit yourself to one to two drinks a night. Choose light beer or
ask for a white wine spritzer. More often than not, just having a drink on hand is a
social lubricant, so nurse your drink—there’s no need to finish a six-pack yourself.
Snack smarter. Spending late nights with problem sets is pretty much a given in
college. It’s also when your willpower is at its weakest. Rather than head to the
vending machine or to the university store, keep a variety of healthy,
preportioned snacks on hand, such as individual cereal boxes, string cheese,
granola bars, soy crisps, or 100-calorie nut packs.
Eat an orange. Just peeling the fruit gives your mind a break, says Oz. The rush of
natural sugars delivers a late-night pick-me-up that’s a lot healthier than a candy
bar, and the scent of oranges has been shown to have calming properties,
according to researchers from the University of Vienna.
Prioritize sleep. We get it—sometimes you have to pull an all-nighter. But
skimping on sleep can make you pack on the pounds. Canadian researchers
found that people who slept 5 to 6 hours a night gained an average of 4.4 more
pounds in 6 years than those who got 7 to 8 hours of shut-eye. Sleep-deprived
people are more likely to not only eat more during the day, but also have higher
levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been linked to weight gain.
Sweat toward your degree: Sign up for a fitness class, which many universities
offer to fulfill credit requirements, so while earning credits, you'll burn calories,
said Jen Cassetty, a personal trainer in New York City.
Minimize stress: In the aforementioned study, students who had high perceived
stress gained body fat at higher rates than those with low perceived stress. To
keep stress down, exercise daily, be organized, exhibit good time management
skills and don't procrastinate, said registered dietitian Sareen Gropper, lead study
author and professor of nutrition and food science at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.
Pre-plan meals: Dining halls can be a nightmare for weight-conscious individuals,
especially with the overabundance of high-calorie foods and friends who push
you to indulge. Avoid these obstacles by deciding what you're going to eat before
each meal, said Connie Diekman, registered dietitian and director of University
Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. Many colleges post menus
with nutritional information online so head there first.
Sneak in fitness: If you're crunched for time or hate formal exercise, add more
movement to your day. For instance, hoist your book bag on your back and take
the stairs to your dorm room; for a bigger challenge, climb two or three steps at a
time. Or leave for class 10 minutes early (you are walking to class, right?) and use
that extra time to log more walking, even chatting with a friend as you walk.
Heed the two-thirds rule: At meals, fill two-thirds of your plate with whole grains,
fruits and veggies. The fiber will fill you up on fewer calories, and you'll have less
room for calorie-laden foods on your plate, Diekman said. Another trick to keeping portions slim? Grab a smaller plate.
Be a waiter: Tempted to go back for seconds? Wait 20 minutes after finishing your
meal -- that's how long it takes for your stomach to tell your brain it's full -- or else you could overeat.
MORE TIPS... TO AVOID THE FRESHMAN 15...
.Eat on schedule: Establish a regular eating
routine, noshing your first meal within an hour of getting up and then eating every
three to four hours to keep your body fueled. Most importantly, eat your last meal
three hours before bed. "While all calories are the same, your metabolic rate slows
while you sleep, causing your body to store more calories," Diekman said.
Transform your dorm: Not a fan of fitness centers? Even the smallest dorm room can
become a gym. Just use your own body weight for strength exercises, Cassetty said.
For instance, do the wall angel: Stand against the wall with feet about a foot or two
from it. Slide back down wall until thighs are parallel with floor. Check that knees are
directly over ankles; if not, scoot feet farther away. Contracting abs and keeping back
against wall, extend arms overhead on wall, palms facing out. Lower arms to shoulder
level; hold one second. Release to start and repeat. Complete three sets of 25 reps three times a week.
Avoid liquid calories: Nothing says weight gain like alcohol, lattes and regular sodas.
Rather than filling up on these empty calories, switch to diet soda, unsweetened iced
tea or water. If you're going to imbibe, skip mixed drinks, which are loaded with
calories, and choose light beer, sipping no more than one or two. Also, because
alcohol can increase the urge to eat, don't drink on an empty stomach or scrimp on meals during the day, Diekman said.
Don't sleep with tempting treats: When chips, cookies and candy are within arm's
reach, saying no is tough. So ban those diet disasters from your dorm room. Instead,
stock your fridge with healthy snacks like peanut butter and whole-grain bread, hummus and veggies, and yogurt and fruit.
Here are some quick tips to help you pick better foods to eat.....
It doesn't take any more time to eat well. I hear it all the time: "I just don't have time to exercise." So be it, this
may be the case. I don't buy it, but let's just say this is the reality for a lot of people. What's our excuse for our
choices for the foods we stick in our mouth and into our bodies? How did food get thrown into the "lack of time" mix?
1. Convenience - It's just easy to find packaged foods or "snacks" that you can throw in your mouth and keep on
moving. It is amazing how many of us don't sit to enjoy our meals. We are on the go!
2. Comfort - A lot of people (including me, chocolate is my food of choice) use food to help them deal with stress,
anxiety, loneliness, or other emotionally charged situations.
3. Habit/discipline - We have just gotten into the habit of eating certain foods, or we don't exercise our self control.
4. Fun/social - Let's face it, yummy food is fun, and we set up "eating dates" for our social lives. Plus, food that is
often times more "nutritional" is quite frankly more boring.
5. Cash - A tough one; all in all healthy food is more expensive.
6. Conditioning/education - Our parents ate a certain way, and we have just been raised with particular foods. In
some ways a lot of people just don't know better.
7. Pure flavor - Are fast food fries better tasting than steamed broccoli? Would you like that diet soda with crushed ice
or a glass of water?
8. Point of view - Some people haven't even really connected their health and how their body works with the food they eat.
It's really a disconnect.
I'm sure that I'm leaving some of the reasons out but I think this is a good start. Well, all I can say is if you really
don't have the time to exercise, then you do have an opportunity to improve your health through the foods you
consume. Oh, and the other good news is it may take a little imagination and organization but it won't take more
time. Look at eating as an opportunity to lose weight and get energized. I say "eating" because it is critical to eat
the right kinds of calories every day. People don't think starving yourself is going to be the way to lose those inches.
Can you improve in your nutritional life? How?
1. Portion control - Eat until you are full. If you go out to a restaurant, get half of your meal to go. Believe me, here
in the good old US of A we know how to plate a big meal. No one needs that much food at one sitting.
2. Avoid packaged and processed - In other words don't eat food you should store in the bunker just in case
there is a huge storm or war. Eat food that is going to go bad in the same calendar month you are presently
living in. Your special body is alive, and needs you to eat the nutrients it needs to do its job for you.
3. Don't nuke it. I know this is "quicker," but ask yourself if it is normal to heat something up in two minutes to
scalding hot but the plate and the microwave didn't get hot? Did you see a flame, or doesn't it bother you that
your food gets zapped before you put it in your stomach? My favorite is take the "frozen dinner" and then put it
in the nuker. Yumm. No, try dead food. May as well eat calorie-laden cardboard.
4. Go green - The more green you have with your meals (lettuce, broccoli, string beans, kale, etc.), the better.
5. Fiber - Eat it and you will make your body much happier. Bathroom, people. Food just doesn't go into our
mouths. Something has to come out, as well.
6. Eat regular meals - Remember to eat so you don't find yourself looking for anything to stuff your face because
your blood sugar has dropped and you need fuel. Please don't skip breakfast.
7. Drink water - Forget the juices, sodas, and diet sodas as your "regular" method of hydration. Have those
things be a treat or something you do now and again. Water is your best friend.
8. Get busy - When I want to snack is when I am bored. Keep it moving.
9. Experiment - Believe it or not there are "healthy" recipes that taste good. Explore and try to discover a new
way of approaching different kinds of foods.
10. Notice - Recognize what you are putting in your mouth and why. Hunger? Good. Sadness? Is there something
else you can do (call a friend, take a bath, go dancing, say a prayer) that will help other than food?
11. Don't buy it and bring it home - Whatever you are trying to eat, keep that in your fridge. Why tempt yourself by
stocking your fridge or shelves with food you are deciding is better not to eat?
12. Get some healthy support - Hang with people who are trying to do the same. Believe me, if you are trying to
eat well, and your friend just has to make a quick stop at the drive-thru... Who needs the torture?
13. If you can't pronounce the ingredient, then don't eat them. Lots of chemicals. Stay away. Look for basic
ingredients. Remember if they took something out (i.e., "fat free"), what did they put in its place?
14. Don't diet - They never work, and it's just hell. This is about creating new habits. I love food. I love all kinds of
food. Cheese, fried, fast, greasy, pizza, burger, chip, cookie, pie, ice cream, canned, boxed, gooey, yummy, just like the next person.
I just know how much better I feel when I'm eating the good stuff, and quite frankly, I don't hate the way it makes
my skin and rear look. I know in my mind that it's more natural for me to eat the healthy foods. That if I can get in
some harmony with myself, my body and my food, it may just make the rest of this insanely fast life easier
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