While the freshmen fifteen isn’t a myth, there are certainly enough varying ideas out there that can eschew your understanding of what may cause it and how to avoid it. Hence, below are five myths and facts that you should know about staying healthy in college and avoiding the dreaded “freshmen fifteen!”
Myth: The “freshmen fifteen” is solely about gaining 15 pounds.
While the “freshmen fifteen” technically refers to many students gaining around fifteen pounds during their first year at college (though some studies show that number to be closer to about five pounds), it also includes the general unhealthy habits many students take on. Eating out often, not getting enough rest, and stressing too much, among other actions, can negatively impact your overall health. Many students also lose weight instead, due to stress, with sophomores, juniors, and seniors all being affected equally.
Myth: The freshmen fifteen happens to everyone.
While everyone undergoes the stress and anxiety that comes with such a drastic change in their everyday environment, gaining weight or developing unhealthy habits are avoidable. Below are five tips to help keep you healthy.
• Get enough sleep! Studies recommend around 7-8 hours of sleep for the average adult, and if you're a night owl, try to schedule some naps during the day to keep up with your rest.
• Try eating healthy! Avoid overindulging in convenient (and perhaps slightly better tasting) fast foods as an everyday choice. Instead, create a plan of attack when considering your dining options. Visit the various stations to survey your options, and try to have a mixture of veggies, protein, fruit, and whole grains on your plate.
• Exercise! While walking around campus all day is a work-out in itself, consider joining an athletic team or club for some additional exercise. Many universities host numerous interesting clubs, such as fencing or kickboxing to name a few, that can provide camaraderie as well as physical and mental stimulation. Additionally, many students also opt to work out at the gym rather than joining a sports team, and while you should take advantage of the free-of-charge exercise equipment, make sure to remain dedicated to your plan.
• Relax! Stress is one of the leading causes of weight gain (and loss) in both males and females. Try joining a yoga club or finding a personal spot for meditation to help keep your stress levels check. Also, refrain from procrastinating and leaving your work to be completed at the last minute.
• Lastly, eat breakfast! You’ll remain more energetic until lunch and less likely to reach for those sugary (and often unhealthy) snacks. Additionally, since numerous classes take place during the morning hours, zoning out in them will negatively affect your grades in the long term.
Fact: Homesickness is a part of the freshmen fifteen.
The often-drastic change in environment is one of the leading causes of habit changes in freshmen. Those habits can then lead to unhealthy outcomes for overall well-being. Homesickness can lead to feelings of social isolation or anxiety that can induce stress-eating, leading to weight gain, or loss of appetite, thus leading to unhealthy weight loss.
One way to manage anxiety and panicked emotions is by creating a daily routine or schedule that can provide stability, and hence a sense of calm. Try to find tranquil spots on campus to study or relax, and don’t hesitate to call home as often as you need to. Additionally, try reaching out and meeting new people through classes and organizations.
Myth: If I don’t overeat, I’ll be okay.
Again, as mentioned earlier, the freshmen fifteen isn’t solely about gaining weight, but also relates to stress, environmental changes, etc. You can still gain (or lose) weight due to improper eating habits, such as eating junk food or not eating at all, stressing out too much, as well as isolating yourself from the campus environment due to homesickness or anxiety.
Solely focusing on a number excludes the range of experiences that fall under the “freshmen fifteen” term. (Additionally, "eating" alone does not constitute weight gain. Alcohol consumption can also quickly add to your daily calorie intake, so watch how many drinks you're having.)
Fact: Finding the determination to eat and stay healthy in college is difficult.
Finding the determination to seek out healthy food in college can be challenging. Dining halls often host a wide variety of choices, leading to perhaps an unorganized meal in the sense of keeping track of calories. Fast-food options can be enticing for late-night dinners while studying.
Additionally, campus organizations strive to provide food at informational meetings and tables to attract students, leading to further disordered meal planning. Yet, it is crucial to create a strategy and stick to it. Think ahead about what you might want to eat for the day based on the dining hall menu and stick to that plan. Try to keep stock of healthy snacks such as granola bars or fruit in your dorm to avoid visiting the café or dining halls and simply grabbing some unhealthy food.
Ultimately, while it is difficult to adjust to the often chaotic and fast-paced college environment, finding your routine and creating a plan for exercise, social interaction, and eating healthy can help you avoid the stress, weight changes, homesickness, and anxiety that comes with the “freshmen fifteen.”