College may be overwhelming to a new freshman. Juggling school, friends, work responsibilities, and school activities is a stretch. In the rush to join college life, some students forget exercise, sleep and healthy eating.
Southern Utah University (SUU) professor of nutrition, Celesta Lyman MS, RDN, and Certified Dietician says that the freshman 15 is a “myth.” According to a study done at SUU by Matt Schmidt RD, not every freshman gains 15 lbs. In fact, the students that gain weight, gain on average only six to seven pounds.
Lyman said, “Weight gain in that first year can be appropriate by many freshmen, some students gain the extra weight to finish developing into maturity.”
The freshman 15 doesn’t have to plague new college students, here are 6 tips to help you stay healthy through college.
1. Have a food plan.
A good secret to keeping unwanted weight off is planning your meals. Part of being a freshman is learning to cook for yourself every meal of the day. This can be new and challenging. Lisa Tilinger Johansen MS, RD, blogger and author said the main way to keep those pounds off is to “set up an eating plan, don’t eat out of a bag or box, but on a plate, and be mindful with your eating.” Visit the T-bird nation blog for recipe ideas.
Johansen said, “When we go to college we stop moving, so don’t stop, it helps keep the weight and the stress off.” A great tip to getting the exercise your body needs and the credits your degree requires, is to take an exercise class. Some students choose to major in exercise science, this video highlights the degree with Dr. Camille Thomas:
3. Monitor your weight.
An easy way to keep the weight off is to check it regularly. Lyman believes in monitoring your weight. She said, “You are not going to gain 15 lbs. without realizing it if you weigh yourself every week.” She suggests that if you gain more weight one week, change your behavior. Portion sizes are important, continues Lyman, “It’s ok to go out and eat pizza or overeat one day, but you have to decrease your intake the next day because what you do the next day and the next day all adds up.”
4. Watch what you drink.
Drinking water helps digest food and satiate hunger, so drink lots of it, but be wary of extra calories in other drinks. Energy drinks, Gatorade, milk, juice, smoothies and alcohol are often the culprits behind weight gain. “It is much better to eat your calories than to drink them,” says Lyman. “People put a lot of things into a blender that they would never be able to eat in one sitting, yet they drink them.” Remember that if you are drinking something other than water, drink in moderation.
5. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive.
Aiming for balance is key to maintaining healthy weight. Fruit and veggies that are in season, tend to be less expensive. Lyman say’s that often we will “run to fast food and spend $10, when we could have spent that money on a week’s worth of fruits and veggies.” So really it’s a myth that eating healthy costs more money.
6. Utilize SUU Dining Services.
SUU Dining Services offers affordable meal plans as an option for all students. “Moving away from home for college might be the first time a student has been on their own,” says Director of Dining Anthony Lazenby. “Meal planning, grocery shopping, spending money, and then cooking can be intimidating.”
“Meal plans are designed to eliminate stress over cooking and to ensure you’re eating a good meal every single day,” said Natasha Green, SUU Dining Services marketing manager. "I remember living off of ramen my first year. . . and I'm still chasing off my 'freshman 15'!" SUU Dining Services makes strides to provide healthy drinks and snacks, vegan and vegetarian options, and responsibly sourced, fresh product at all of their locations. In the dining hall, food is appropriately labeled and iconed, so students know exactly what they’re eating.
College life is fun, so enjoy it, simply use a little caution. Think of it as a place to learn and grow, in wisdom not inches. Remember, it’s easier to avoid the freshman 15 than try to lose it!
For more information on eating healthy visit Lisa Tilinger Johansen’s website: www.stopthediet.com or discover a degree in nutrition at www.suu.edu/programs/nutrition-bachelor-degree.html or Physical Education at: http://www.suu.edu/ed/pe/index.html.