Pigging Out on Campus

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Posted October 1, 2007 in Mind Body Spirit

It’s that time of year again–time to pick out a shiny new Trapper Keeper and head back to school. Maybe you’re just starting college and looking forward to all those challenging classes, sporting events, parties and hot coeds, but surely there’s something you’re not looking forward to–the fearsome "Freshman 15," a.k.a. the alleged weight gain of your typical college freshman in their first year of school. With no required P.E. classes, athletic teams only for superstars, more demanding schedules and constant access to crappy food, it’s logical that new matriculators might pack on the pounds; but is it true? The IE Weekly has the facts on the frosh 15.

Ongoing research at Cornell University’s Division of Nutritional Sciences (DNS) has discovered that Cornell students tend to gain an average of four pounds during their first semester. A weight gain of four pounds in one semester is not necessarily a big fat deal; however, continuing to gain four pounds or more over several semesters isn’t so great for your physique or your health. On her website, AvoidTheFreshman15.com, Diana Keuilian, a nationally certified personal trainer and author of the book Avoid The Freshman 15: Guide to College Weight Loss, points out that the Cornell study’s findings that college freshman gain about half-a-pound per week equals out to almost 11 times more than the average weekly weight gain among 17 and 18-year-olds, and almost 20 times more than the average weight gain among American adults.

But never fear–there’s no reason that adding brain cells means you have to add fat cells. Just see the advice below, adapted from recommendations by Cornell’s DNS, to recognize common pitfalls along with some easy solutions. It’s good advice even if you’re still in high school or if your days of number-two pencils are long gone.

Overeating at buffet-style meals. Whether it’s a dining hall or Hometown Buffet, free-for-all eating is never good for your waistline. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you should eat it. When making your selections, look for quality proteins like beans, tofu, low-fat cheese and broiled fish or chicken, then pile on the non-starchy vegetables and whole grains like brown rice or wheat bread. Try to limit consumption or at least avoid seconds of high calorie items such as fried foods, creamy soups and dressings, sodas and desserts. Eat slowly and sip water with your meals. Stop eating when you’re full.

Skipping meals. If you skip a meal due to an overloaded schedule, your chances of overeating later are greater. Even if you have to plan ahead and pack foods that are easy to eat quickly, make sure you eat three meals a day along with two or three well-chosen snacks.

Snacking. Snacking is important to maintain your energy level, but avoid steady munching as you hit the books. Instead, take regular breaks for stretching and eat healthy snacks like fresh fruit and yogurt.

Late nights. Extra waking hours equals greater hunger as well as limited inhibition, so get sufficient rest. 

Take-out. Chicken wings, pizza, Chinese food and burgers are cheap and easy, but, in excess, they are also a heart attack waiting to happen. 

Lack of exercise. Thirty to 45 minutes of moderate exercise three to six times a week will strengthen your heart, lungs, muscles and bones, help keep extra weight off and make you more alert and focused.

Alcohol intake. The term "Beer Belly" is no joke. A typical pint of beer contains 200 calories; have three pints of beer with dinner and it’s like you consumed an extra Big Mac. Not that freshman ever, you know, drink alcohol . . .


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