It’s something that can happen to any student. And it has nothing to do with timed essay questions or complex mathematical equations.
It’s called the Freshman 15, a significant amount of weight gained by many students just entering college, although 15 pounds is only true to about 5% of students. Majority would gain only about 3 to 10 pounds.
What Causes The Freshman 15?
1. Poor Food Options
Poor and inexpensive food choices of hot dogs, peanut butter, cheap steak, energy drinks, frozen stir fry vegetables are a common occurrence. For many students, the diet becomes irregular, meals get skipped, and food preparation becomes hectic. More meals get eaten either A) from unhealthy cafeteria foods or B) from highly processed foods in packages and containers, since these are perceived as cheaper and more convenient. The result is lots of nutrient-void calories, and subsequent weight gain.
Stressful situations trigger the body’s “fight or flight” reaction, which can cause surges of hormones such as insulin and cortisol. This can lead to weight gain and resistance to fat loss. When a student is thrown into a new learning environment with unfamiliar surroundings, different friends, and a high workload, the body responds by churning out stress hormones and gaining weight.
Alcohol, like cafeteria food and fast food, is high in calories and low in nutrients. Not only can a single night of partying easily lead to several thousand excess calories, but the hormonal response to alcohol can be a decrease in fat burning hormones like testosterone and increase in fat storage hormones like cortisol.
4. Sleep Loss
In a sleep deprived body, appetite stimulating hormones like ghrelin can run rampant, while appetite stabilizing hormones like leptin are far less active. In addition, dopamine and serotonin levels drop, and the body has a lower reward response to food. This means you feel less full after eating, and have a higher propensity to snack, especially on the wrong foods.
How to Lose The Freshman 15
So what can you do to rescue your body from the Freshman 15? Here are 4 Quick & Dirty Tips to keep you trim and fit in college:
At least 2 times per week, do The Best Workout for Fat Loss, which involves a series of resistance training exercises, followed by a 30-60 second bout of high intensity cardio. Try to stand whenever possible, walk or bike to your classes, and avoid sitting for long periods of time.
2. Eat Healthy
Rather than completely re-inventing the wheel, I am going to instead recommend that you check out two episodes from the Nutrition Diva: Healthy Eating Tips for College Kids and More Healthy Eating Tips For College Kids. Both of these articles give you everything you need to know to make the right choices at the cafeteria and on a budget. In addition to these tips, try to drink high amounts of caffeine or energy drinks only when absolutely necessary, such as a series of all-nighters during finals week. If you’re already out of college, able to eat healthy, and want to get rid of the Freshman 15, try rebooting your body by taking 2 months to cut down on all your college staples, such as processed food from packages, starches and refined sugars, alcohol, and caffeine.
3. Control Stress
During classes, practice breathing deeply through your nose, and then breathing out through slightly pursed lips. When you feel overloaded with homework, try breaking it down into small, achievable portions. And when you experience stressful social situations, try venting to a friend, or simply in your own personal diary. If you’re living a high-stress, post-collegiate life, you may actually have the time to add a weekly or bi-weekly yoga class.
4. Optimize Sleep
Read the House Call Doctor’s great episode on getting better sleep. While you will almost never have ideal sleep patterns during busy school life, take advantage of the days that are lighter to catch up on sleep or get an extra nap, and try to avoid partying for multiple days in a row whenever possible.
If you have more questions about the Freshman 15 and what you can do about it, share them below in Comments and on the Get-Fit Guy Facebook page!