September 16, 2010
Written by Jaryn Jones
Many factors can make the transition from high school to college difficult for students. Things such as being away from home for the first time, taking on a tough course load and meeting new friends can be challenging as a freshman.
Because of these new changes, sticking to a healthy diet and exercise plan may be the last thing on students’ minds, and the dreaded “freshman 15” may seem to be unavoidable.
According to experts, however, avoiding common mistakes and adopting a healthy lifestyle can turn college weight gain back into a myth.
Make Smart Choices
College freshman are greeted with a newfound freedom once they are away from home. Students are presented with a variety of dietary options: food choices in the dining halls, late-night study sessions, or simply having more time to kill with no parents around.
Jamie Cooper, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition, recommends easy alternatives for college students to keep in mind.
“Choose grilled over fried foods,” she said. “Look for low-fat alternatives when it comes to milk and other dairy products. Eat more fruits, vegetables and fiber to feel full.”
Drinking ‘empty’ calories is also a big problem for new college students, Cooper said. Soda and alcohol are referred to as empty calories because they have no nutritional value.
“Replace Coke with Diet Coke. Replace juice with water,” she said. “Water is always the best choice.”
And for students who choose to consume alcohol, Cooper advises choosing lower calorie alternatives. However, she said drinking less is the wisest option. Keep in mind that the food intake that often goes along with drinking is typically a big culprit for weight gain.
Make it Routine
Establishing a schedule for eating and working out can also lead to healthy habits and weight maintenance.
“In high school, most students were on a defined schedule, and they didn’t have to pay attention,” Cooper said.
Students may be tempted to sleep later and end up missing meals. However, Cooper discourages this behavior.
“Students who sleep in later tend to skip breakfast and eat more throughout the day,” she said. “This shifts your meals, which makes you eat more later.”
Leslie Eyerly, fitness and wellness coordinator at the Robert H. Ewalt Student Recreational Center, advises students to get enough sleep and schedule a time in their daily routine to work out in order to make exercising an easy habit.
“Working out shouldn’t be punishment,” she said. “It should be enjoyable.”
Eyerly recommends that students find something they love when it comes to exercising. Things like group exercise or swimming can mix up a routine, and participating in intramural sports can preserve the team aspect many students enjoyed in high school.
“Make goals,” she said, “but make sure they are realistic, attainable and healthy.”
Both Eyerly and Cooper agree that losing 1 to 2 pounds per week is healthy. Fad diets promoting dramatic weight loss in a short amount of time are not realistic.
“It should be a lifestyle change,” Eyerly said. “Be more healthy, not just for two weeks.”