So you’ve moved to college and are ready to start your first semester as an independent adult. Freedom is yours, but it also comes with a lot more responsibility. New college students have to depend on themselves for schedules, cleaning, meals, and more. With the large number of events in your daily schedule, it might seem that the availability of food 24-hours a day on campus would be a good thing. But between academics and social life, students need to find ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to avoid the dreaded “freshman 15” and other health related issues often caused by midnight pizzas.
The freshman 15 is as much college myth as it is reality. It refers to the average weight gain the typical college freshman will experience during their first year at school. The number reflects an average figure, so some will gain more and some less depending on many outside influences.
And with it comes risk. The threat of diabetes, obesity, and fatigue can rise for those who do not manage their weight and activity.
According to SUNY Buffalo State associate professor of nutrition and dietetics Carol DeNysschen, Ph.D., R.D., fatigue is a significant problem for college students who are adjusting to the demands of college life. “Several factors contribute to the weight gain that freshmen experience,” she says. “Those factors pose a special risk for students who already struggle with diabetes or obesity, or who have cancer.” Poor decisions can be made when you’re tired and not thinking clearly.
Here are a few easy tips to help stay healthy on campus and avoid that freshman 15:
Don’t skip meals so you can finish other projects and binge on snacks in between. Binge eating can be a big reason why weight gain can occur. When we binge, we lose sense of the feeling of satisfaction due to the stimulating, pleasurable experience brought by sugary, fatty foods. Instead, maintain a healthy snack interval through the day if you have a full schedule. Some granola bars, fruits and vegetables, and mixed nuts can keep you from getting hungry without putting on extra pounds.
Obviously, we need to burn off the calories we consume. So remember to set time aside to get some exercise done. Take a longer walk to class, run a few laps in the gym or on the track, or play some sports with friends to keep your muscles active and your metabolism working. “It is very important for college students to maintain their physical activity,” Dr. DeNysschen says. “They should try for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise every day, with a physician’s approval.”
An easy way to stay active and meet new people is to join an intramural sport. If you enjoy sports or physical activity, you can find something that interests you and provides you with ways to maintain a schedule of activity and exercise with friends. Being involved in a league-organized activity allows you to not be burdened with scheduling exercise activities yourself. Instead, you’ll know that Tuesdays and Thursdays are flag football nights.
Your new campus environment has plenty of resources to help you adjust to a healthy life away from home. From nutrition experts to health centers to clubs and groups, there are plenty of ways to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle with ease and comfort.
Taras Kufel is the Manager of Digital Engagement at the State University of New York.