Prioritize healthy eating to keep off the Freshman Fifteen

Becoming a freshman in college can be stressful. Worrying about the first term paper, making new friends, trying to impress professors and finding their way around campus are all fears that frazzle incoming freshmen. However, there is one major concern that has almost become a trademark for the freshmen population: the dreaded Freshman Fifteen.

It is no surprise that students do tend to pack on the pounds when they enter college. Most of it is due to late-night pizza runs, snacking on junk food that is always in your dorm, drinking alcohol, cafeteria food and saying you’ll exercise “tomorrow.”

Connie Diekman, the director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, told WebMD that not all freshmen gain fifteen pounds.

“That number is more of an average,” Diekman said, “So some students gain way less and some students are gaining over fifteen pounds.”

So why is it only the first-year students that gain the weight? According to Diekman, freshmen are confronted with food at any hour of the day and there is no one telling them what or when to eat.

“The reason that weight gain is less prevalent in upper classmen is because they have learned how to schedule themselves and know when they should eat,” Diekman said.

Heather Anderson, a registered dietician at Eastern Michigan University, said healthy eating is always simple if you plan ahead.

“Aiming to eat something every three to four hours is ideal because it will provide your body with a consistent source of energy, and allow you to get to your next meal without feeling starved,” Anderson said. “Plan to have a snack between classes if you find yourself going longer than five hours without sitting down to a meal.”

Anderson suggests snacking on protein and complex carbs such as peanut butter on a whole grain cracker or yogurt topped with sliced banana.

“Aim for foods that are grilled, baked, broiled or steamed and always try to get veggies in at least one to two times a day,” Tanya Zuckerbrot, a registered dietician from New York, told Fox News.

Being an incoming freshman last year, I was determined that I would not gain the Freshman Fifteen so I went to the gym every single day. Even if it was freezing cold outside, I would force myself to walk to the gym. I ran two miles every day and did not gain weight but rather lost some and built up muscle.

Jogging and going to the gym are fantastic ways to keep off the Freshman Fifteen. The REC/IM here at EMU is free to students and offers a weight room, stationary bicycles, treadmills, an indoor track and much more.

If exercise isn’t fitting into your daily schedule, walking to and from class qualifies as exercise and so does taking the stairs instead of the elevators. If you don’t want to make the trek to the gym, you can find easy exercises online to do right in your dorm room.

“In addition to the calorie-burning effects of exercise, regular physical activity is a great way to relieve stress and deal with boredom – two culprits that tend to facilitate weight gain,” Anderson said.

Learn to keep healthy food options in your dorm room and always eat breakfast. I learned that eating breakfast helped me become energized for my morning classes, and eating protein kept me full longer.

It’s important to use the resources provided on the EMU campus. Anderson suggests making an appointment with the office of Nutrition Services to have your body composition tested and your diet analyzed. She also advises using your Eagle One Card to work out at the REC/IM and read the nutrition information that is provided for you by the dining halls. Even taking a general physical education class will help you be aware of health and nutrition.

“Overall, make healthy eating a priority and you’ll never need to give the Freshman Fifteen another thought,” Anderson said.

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