Freshman 15

Most people who go to college will struggle with the "freshman fifteen." This term refers to the fifteen or so pounds that many freshmen will gain during their first year of school. Anyone who cares about maintaining a healthy body weight should be prepared to deal with this issue.

There are numerous reasons why substantial weight gain often occurs during the first year of college. First, caloric intake is often increased. Take-out and pizza are favorite food choices of college students, but they can quickly pack on the pounds. Finally, many of the choices offered at the cafeteria may be high in fat content. Opting for fries, burgers, pasta, and other foods high in carbohydrates, calories, and/or fat can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight.

Another reason why freshmen gain weight is that they are not as active as they were during their high school years. People who played sports during high school may not qualify for the varsity team when they arrive at college, and so they may abandon their sport of choice altogether. Even non-athletes will likely exercise far less once they arrive at college. Everything they need - classes, dorms, cafeteria, etc. - is just a short walk away, and going to these important locations may be virtually the only exercise they get.

Interestingly, another reason for this weight gain may be that the individual gaining the weight is actually unaware that it is occurring. A freshman's body image is largely based on what they looked like in high school. According to many psychologists, this body image persists, even when the person has gained weight. Therefore, a girl who was fit and toned during high school will continue to see this body when she looks in the mirror, even if she has gained ten pounds and lost much of her muscle tone. Add all of these factors to the reality that, by the time the average person goes to college, their metabolism has begun to slow down. It's no wonder people gain weight during their first year of higher education.

Fortunately, the "freshman fifteen" can be avoided with some effort. An important aspect of preventing weight gain is eating well and avoiding high-calorie foods and beverages. First, limit the consumption of alcoholic drinks. This is wise not only from a health perspective, but an academic one as well. To avoid the temptation of pizza and fast food, keep some healthy snacks in your dorm room. Finally, try to make better food choices at the cafeteria. Visit the salad bar, choose vegetables instead of fries, and stick with water or skim milk instead of pop. Remember, just because you can eat fries, pizza, and burgers on most days of the week doesn't mean you should.

Another essential way to prevent the "freshman fifteen" is to stay active. Even if you didn't make the varsity team, there is no reason why you shouldn't stay involved in your favorite sport. Join an intramural team or a fun league. Most colleges have them, and they're a great way to meet new people. If you're not into organized sports, make an effort to visit the gym regularly, or just go for a walk after class throughout the week.

Because your high school body image may prevent you from recognizing when you've put on weight, it's important to weigh yourself regularly. If the scale is showing bigger numbers, you have gotten bigger, regardless of what you might see in the mirror. Unfortunately, your metabolism will slow down somewhat as you age, and there is not much you can do to prevent this. However, by keeping track of your weight, eating well, and exercising, you may only be stuck with the "freshman five," rather than the dreaded "freshman fifteen."

Last Updated: 04/24/2014

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