How can I avoid the “freshman 15”?

Q: Am I really going to gain 15 pounds during my freshman year!? 

A: Ah, the infamous “freshman 15” – every college student’s nightmare, right?  15 pounds is a little bit of an exaggeration, but there actually is some truth to that urban legend. 

A recent study showed that while the average weight gain during the first semester (obviously, the study wasn’t done here) of college is only about 3.3 pounds, about 1 in 4 freshmen actually gain around 5% of their initial body weight – about 10 pounds! 

So why does this happen? Moving away from home and adjusting to college life is a very stressful transition.  And just when all of this stress hits you, you’re thrown into a world where you’re surrounded by fast food restaurants, late night study sessions and parties.  So you don’t have time (or a kitchen) to cook for yourself; you don’t have your parents making you eat your vegetables; you’re stressed out from adjusting to college life; you’re sleep deprived because of late nights and early classes; and you have 24-hour instant access to tasty, high-calorie snacks.  It’s practically impossible to not gain weight in this situation!

So how can you prevent it? Try to stick to healthier choices in the dining halls; even a salad can pack a big punch if it’s topped with high fat toppings and dressing. Load up on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy instead of burgers and fries. Watch your portion sizes and skip the seconds. Keeps late night snacking to a minimum; that pizza might sound good when you’re pulling an all-nighter but it can really pack on the pounds. And don’t forget that alcohol has calories! Even a light beer can have 100-125 calories so a couple of big weekends can do a lot of damage.

Make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night – yes, even during finals week – and don’t forget to exercise. Not only will a good workout relieve stress, it will keep off the weight as well. Remember, the RPAC is your friend, but only if you make it past the coffee shop and into the exercise area.  You’re already paying the recreational fee so you might as well use it! 

Now is the time to start healthy habits that will last a lifetime!

Angela Walker, Med IV (OSU COM)

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)