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College weight gain can be avoided

Posted on 19 March 2010 by admin

Fat Superman

Photo by swruler9284, used with CC licensing

Graduate students often report a noticeable change in weight during their first year back at school. The causes are similar to those of the notorious, yet fabled, “Freshman 15,” which refers to a claim that freshman usually lose or gain up to 15 pounds in their first year. In all reality, researchers have found the weight gain, or loss,  is around 5-7 pounds.

Instead of thinking with their noggins, many students think with their stomachs and fall victim to the temptation of carbohydrate rich foods, copious snacking, fat saturated “goodies,” and sometimes, excessive drinking. A decrease in time or willingness to exercise only exacerbates the weight gain. Even worse, these habits can stick around, contributing to obesity later in life. Common sense, education, time management, and deliberate lifestyle choices can prevent or help shed bulging waistlines.

The National Institute for Health recommends dairy, meat/beans, fruit, vegetables, grains, and oil as the food sources for a well-balanced diet. Oil? Yea, oils actually help to provide energy, insulate our bodies, protect our organs, and absorb important vitamins. The good oils, or fats, that is, like vegetable oil, canola, or olive oil. You shouldn’t run out and buy a bucket of fried chicken. Instead, get your intake from mono- and polyunsaturated fats–not saturated or trans fat.


  • Fast foods: fried chicken, biscuits, fried fish sandwiches, French fries, fried apple or other pie desserts
  • Donuts, muffins
  • Crackers
  • Many cookies
  • Cake, cake icing, & pie
  • Microwave popped corn
  • Canned biscuits

Oh, the obstacles.
College students very often have meager finances, and tend to purchase the cheapest foods possible, which are likely to be high in saturated fats. Moving away from the parental sponsored and stocked commissaries, as well as structured eating patterns, also presents a challenge. A heavy course load, often balanced with work contributes to erratic eating patterns. Seems like a never-ending cycle, eh? Lack of money and time creates poor diet and lack of time means no money to create the good diet and then a bad diet can’t create the right energy to make more time to use to go create money. Not to mention–stress also triggers the compulsion to eat. It’s easy to scarf down a bag of potato chips and bundle of Oreo’s while studying for an exam, or doing project research on the computer. In between classes, 7-11’s kitchen is always open, peddling saturated fats for just the right price. But at what cost?

Sleepless nights and a decrease in exercise contribute to weight gain. Lack of sleep lowers your lepitin levels, and exercise helps to regulate them. A lepitin deficiency, caused by lack of sleep, or exercise, actually increases the appetite and is directly related to obesity. Sometimes it seems more beneficial to pull an all-nighter or skip a work out, but studies prove the exact opposite. Exercise also helps stimulate blood flow to the brain, and even develop new brain cells. What college student doesn’t want to improve their memory and ability to learn?

There are several ways that college students can incorporate healthier patterns that ultimately enable peak performance and a healthy BMI. Evaluate the snack foods and meals you turn to in a pinch. Replace them with healthier ones, like nuts, hot-air popped popcorn, peanut butters & crackers, bananas, or dehydrated fruit (yum pineapple). Try hummus with carrots, or tortilla chips instead of nachos, french fries, or junky food. Plan ahead for your busy week by grocery shopping and preparing meals ahead of time. Pack a lunch to bring on campus, instead of visiting the local sub shop or 7-11. Buy some frozen veggie burgers to skillet cook a meal in about the same time as heating up one in the microwave. Buy bulk foods, available at most grocery or health food stores, to save money. Reward yourself with snacks after a certain amount of your workload is finished, instead of just mindlessly snacking. Mindfulness, after all, is the ultimate “life-hack,” and can apply to everything.

Be mindful and create time to go the gym, take a nap, or call it an early night. Even if the day seems too short, maximizing your health will ultimately help you maximize your time, because you will always be in your prime. If you can’t fit in a trip to the gym, take several breaks and simply walk around the block, and do some stretches/push-ups/sit-ups.  Dog owners always find a way to squeeze in three walks a day, so can you. Dick’s Sporting Goods sells cheap weights that will help you keep, or build, muscle without leaving the house. Just take 10 minutes away from the computer, and do it.

The obesity problem in America is on just about everyone’s radar. Education can prevent future weight and health problems. As you become an adult, and step into the hectic pace of college life, make sure to get an early grip on what could be a potential problem. If you find yourself at Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania, definitely take this advice to heed. You won’t be allowed to graduate if your “Freshman 15,” moves into the upper levels!

P.S. If you feel like slamming down a drink after reading this post, first take a look at the alcohol calorie counter.

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