With college also comes new freedom, including parties, games, and all-nighters. While many students do gain weight, it's not usually the full 15 and it may not be just your freshman year that's a concern. Studies show that average weight gain is three to ten pounds during the first two years of college, which is a pattern that can lead to trouble down the line (1,2).
College offers many temptations including, on many campuses, 24-hour availability of food, all-you-care-to-eat dining, late night snacking on sugary, fatty foods and a new freedom around when, what, where and how much to eat. The way you respond to these temptations will determine what happens to your weight.
- Eat regular meals (including breakfast): With a hectic schedule it's easy to skip meals, especially breakfast. Instead of saving calories, this pattern leads to fatigue and overeating later in the day. Aim to eat every 3-5 hours during the day even if it's a quick snack between meals.
- Aim for balance: Try to eat from two to three food groups at each meal or snack to ensure you get a mix of nutrients.
- Be mindful of portion sizes: With so many choices in you Bon Appétit café, it's easy to go overboard. Use our portion gallery to check your portions.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand: Be prepared for moments of hunger with something healthy rather than going for the vending machine candy bar.
- Keep alcohol calories in check: Alcohol provides a dense source of calories as well as increases appetite, making it a double whammy when it comes to your weight.
- Avoid eating while you study: This pattern often becomes "mindless" eating. You don't enjoy the food and tend to overeat. Instead, opt for a study break for a snack when you need a snack.
- Build an active lifestyle at school: No matter your previous activity level, college provides opportunities for everyone to get moving. Walk or bike to class, visit the campus gym, join an intramural sports team and enjoy your active lifestyle.
- If you can't get a handle on your weight, consult the pros: You may need to seek help from a trained health professional especially if you feel yourself slipping into the unhealthy patterns of eating disorders or fad diets. The wellness or student health staff on your campus or Bon Appétit's registered dietitian can be helpful in answering your individual nutrition questions.
1. Freshman 15, Fact or Fiction. Morrow et al. Obesity. 2006;14:1438-1443.
2. Changes in body weight and fat mass of men and women in first year of college. Hoffman et al. J Am Coll Health. 2006 Jul-Aug; 55(1):41-45.
This information is not intended to take the place of advice from a healthcare professional. Check with your physician before starting any diet or exercise program. In addition, while all efforts have been made to ensure the information included in this material is correct, new research is released frequently and may invalidate certain pieces of data. 7/11