The Freshman 15: Fact or fiction?
Have you ever heard the scary tale of the big, bad Freshman 15? It’s the idea that students — in their first year of college — pack on an extra 15 pounds because of poor nutrition. Are Lucky Charms a food group? Are Tater Tots a veggie? Is beer a whole wheat? No. No. And no, you’re grounded.
But, as it turns out, the “Freshman 15” is a bloated myth, according to scientific research. Freshmen, on average, actually gain about 2.5 to 3.5 pounds over the course of their first years away at college, according to research from The Ohio State University.
For the 2011 survey, scientists gathered data from 7,418 young people who were spread out across the country before concluding that women gained an average of 2.4 pounds their freshman year, while men gain an average of 3.4 pounds.
“There has been concern that access to all-you-can-eat cafeterias and abundant fast food choices, with no parental oversight, may lead to weight gain, but that doesn’t seem to hold true for most students,” Jay Zagorsky, co-author of the study, said in a news release.
So, there you have it! It’s a myth!
However, 10 percent of college freshmen gained 15 pounds or more, according to the survey. One-quarter of the freshmen surveyed reported losing weight.
The survey did find, though, that college students slowly gain weight throughout their college years. The average woman gained seven to nine pounds, while men typically gained 12-13 pounds.
Want to escape college without any weight gain? Here’s 7 tips for staving off pounds:
- Leave the car at home. Many colleges actually ban, or limit, first-year students from bringing cars to college, an effort that boosts the eco-friendly profile of colleges while cutting down on campus traffic congestion. Walking and biking to campus is a healthy routine that will give you a good work-out.
- Keep quick breakfasts stocked in the dorm room: Plan ahead for those mornings when you’re rushing out the door for an 8 a.m. psych course and don’t have time to stop first at the dining hall. Keep a stash of instant oatmeal cups in your dorm — because we all know how difficult it is to scrub out a bowl of cemented oatmeal. (Office Depot has bulk size pack of 24 oatmeal cups).
- Join an intramural team: Playing team sports is a great way to meet other students and relieve stress. And aside from the regular big sports like basketball, football, baseball and soccer, colleges have some unique intramural offerings. Missouri State University offers sand volleyball, the University of Colorado has broomball and innertube water polo and students at the University of Michigan can get in on a dodgeball league.
- Know your dining hall: Gone are the days of mystery meat. College dining halls these days rival fancy restaurants. At Virgina Tech, for example, the dining hall has a Japanese restaurant and even the “1872 Fire Grill,” which is the school’s version of a nice steakhouse. Most dining halls carry nutrition information for their fare. Don’t be afraid to ask.
- Avoid sugary coffee drinks, sodas and energy drinks: They are calorie bombs. Staying hydrated with water is your best bet. Consider this: Most cans of soda have about 150 calories. If you were to drink one can a day, and not cut anything else from your diet, you could pack on an extra 15 pounds in a year, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Even diet sodas with artificial sweeteners tend to condition our taste buds to crave sugary foods.
- Follow the two-thirds rule: Get in on the New American Plate Challenge where you fill two-thirds of your plate with fruits, veggies, whole grains or beans. The remaining third can be saved for lean animal protein such as poultry, seafood, lean red meat and low-fat cheese or yogurt. College is the perfect time to start developing healthy eating habits.
- Save your quarters for laundry: Avoid the candy, chips and cookies that are lurking in your dorm room’s vending machine. If you must buy a snack, go for popcorn or trail mix. Stock your fridge with healthy snacks. Most dining halls will let you take out pieces of fruit. Keep them handy when you have a snack attack. Crispy carrots and snap peas are also a good option.
(Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech)
Other articles you might also like:
• Happy International ‘No Diet’ Day! Here’s how to honor the day
• Bikini bootcamp: 5 no-gym drills to get your body ready for summer
• Cinco de Mayo healthy recipes and activities
• Five secrets to help you get your best night’s sleep
• Health benefits of tomatoes, plus a recipe to satisfy your pizza cravings
• Gold’s Gym reveals the ‘ultimate work-out song’