How to Prevent the Freshman 15

How to Prevent the Freshman 15



What is freshman 15?

College is an exciting time and a huge lifestyle change. There is so much freedom now that no parents are around and class schedules are much more flexible. This also means learning to take care of yourself. “Freshman 15” is a common term to describe the weight gain students experience in the first year of college. The 15 means 15 pounds, although it may not be exact.

Students experience such a dramatic weight gain for many reasons during this time. Many dining halls have an all-you-can-eat format that allows students to keep eating, so portion control can be difficult. Healthier food options are more scarce at social gatherings or eating out. Students may also find themselves eating later at night or stress-eating, which can also lead to weight gain. Increased alcohol intake, decreased sleep and a sedentary lifestyle are also trends in freshmen.

Dieting before and after concept. Young fat man becoming slim guy. Diet choice right nutrition healthy lifestyle concept

How to prevent Freshman 15?

Preventing weight gain during the first year of college and throughout college is fundamentally the same as prevention in other groups of people. It is important to stay active whether starting to go to the gym, taking more walks or stairs or even joining a sports club. Incorporate short and light intensity changes to begin with. Over time and after building endurance, the intensity of these activities can be increased. 

Diet is equally as important. Develop a sustainable, healthy diet that meets all your body’s nutritional needs. Unhealthy or “junk” food is still acceptable in moderation. Starting an unstainable diet will only last the short term and cause you to return to your old habits. General diet tips include making healthier choices, drinking water, portion control, eating breakfast in the morning and not skipping meals.  Healthier foods are those that are non-fried and non-sugar. The Mediterranean diet is proven for weight loss and a healthier life. See below for a diagram of Mediterranenan healthy food choices.

Lastly, sleep is also very important. Not sleeping enough is detrimental not only to your weight but also to your overall health. People who sleep less are prone to consume more calories. They may feel fatigued and moody throughout the day. General tips for sleep hygiene include not consuming caffeine late in the day, avoiding naps, sticking to a routine, and turning off electronics before sleep.

Summary:

  • Definition:
    • Freshman 15 is the term for the weight gain many students experience in their first college year, typically around 15 pounds.
  • Contributing Factors:
    • All-you-can-eat dining, limited healthy options, late-night eating, stress, increased alcohol, lack of sleep, and sedentary lifestyle contribute to weight gain.
  • Stay Active:
    • Incorporate activities gradually—gym, walks, stairs, or sports clubs.
  • Healthy Diet:
    • Develop a sustainable, nutritious diet with moderation, emphasizing healthier choices and portion control.
  • Mediterranean Diet:
    • Opt for non-fried, non-sugar foods—Mediterranean diet supports weight loss and overall health.
  • Prioritize Sleep:
    • Adequate sleep is crucial; lack of sleep may lead to increased calorie intake, fatigue, and moodiness.
  • Resources:
This article reviewed by Dr. Jim Liu, MD and Ms. Deb Dooley, APRN.

There’s nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset.

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