Freshman 15 – A Stigma That Plagues Student Minds

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Stepping into college as a freshman is a monumental change for a teenager. It’s a shift into a new environment, social circle, and academic pressure. The fear of standing out among a sea of new faces can be overwhelming. However, the concept of freshman 15 adds to these pressures, endangering the positive mindsets of these young adults

What is freshman 15

Officially termed in 1980, the “Freshman 15” refers to the inevitable weight gain that freshmen experience during their first year of college. But it is not just about putting on 15 pounds; it is more than that. It’s about students’ overwhelming sense of paranoia and self-consciousness about college.

Some overthink about their college life and how things and their lives will change, while others relax. Those who fear this new change often gain weight, struggle with anxiety, and face different challenges. This makes it important to pay attention to freshman 15. 

Why is freshman 15 associated with weight gain?

There is no specific amount of weight that an individual will gain. Some gain over 15 pounds, others gain less, and some even lose weight. However, gaining weight is a common scenario; thus, it is called freshman 15. Several reasons contribute to weight gain during the first year of college. This includes 

Unhealthy eating habits 
Increased consumption of alcohol 
No or minimal physical activity 
Lack of sleep
Eating while studying
Late night eating 
Emotional eating
Increased stress
Change in dietary habits

Unhealthy Eating Habitsa

Children who live with their parents don’t have to worry about food, planning, and preparation. However, they have unlimited choices and ready-to-cook meals as they move out. This means they eat junk food like chips, pizza, and others. As they fall for such unhealthy foods, they start gaining weight. 

1. Eating while studying

Most college students find themselves eating mindlessly. They get involved in binge eating, leading to anorexia. This means that, whether at home or in class, they like to eat all the time and eat foods that are high in calories. Also, their physical activities are reduced, which makes them gain weight. To deal with such a situation, before you start eating, ask yourself,- Am I feeling hungry or want to relax? 

2. Late-night eating

This is linked to eating while studying, which is the habit of late-night eating. Usually, students develop it during freshman year. As they feel stressed and tired, the body releases cortisol, which triggers carb cravings, making the student eat unhealthy food at odd hours. Due to this, they start to gain weight. 

4. Snacking

Fast food is the most convenient and easy-to-get food for late-night eaters. It is also the most convenient choice when you don’t know what to eat during the day. Additionally, if you don’t like cooking or don’t know how to cook, inclining toward deep dries and easy-to-eat food is typical. This makes one gain weight during their first year of college. 

5. Emotional Eating

College life is undoubtedly challenging, with tough classes, homesickness, and new relationships to navigate. Emotional eating works as a mode of rescuing feel-good. However, it is unhealthy, leading to negative health outcomes and preventing students from excelling. 

6. Drinking

Alcoholic drinks are high in calories, which harms your muscle tissue and lowers the metabolic rate. If you enter freshman year, you might see your friends and seniors drinking and get attracted to it. But remember, drinking will only add up to the stress levels and will make you gain weight. Frequent alcohol consumption increases your calorie intake and your appetite and reduces restraint when it comes to food. When intoxicated, you will more likely eat foods high in salt and fat and low in nutrients.

7. Not Enough Exercise

Some students consider walking from one classroom to another enough physical work. But this is not how it is. To stay active, you need to move your body more. Certainly, due to a lot of coursework, you might not get time to perform physical activity, but that doesn’t mean you become okay with a sedentary lifestyle, which contributes to a 15% increase in obesity. Try to take 30 minutes from your schedule and perform physical activity. Otherwise, freshman 15 will surely make you gain weight.

8. Increased Stress

Going to college is exciting, but it can also be stressful. It is the first time teenagers start to live on their own and manage finances, daily chores, and studies. All this overwhelms the student, increasing the stress level, which causes the body to release cortisol, which makes one crave carbs, which in turn can cause weight gain. 

9. Underlying Health Issues

As students start to gain weight several diseases linked with obesity like Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism also develop. Not only this due to an increase in weight some even struggle with major depressive disorder. So before it is too late pay attention and if needed take the help of a medical professional.

How to Avoid the Freshman 15

1. Avoid Unhealthy Dining Hall Food

Maintaining a healthy diet while dining on campus is essential. Students should avoid sugary cereals and choose healthier alternatives like fruit, yogurt, and eggs. They should also avoid fried foods and aim for a well-balanced meal

2. Take Advantage of Your Dorm Kitchen

Learning to cook in your dorm may initially seem overwhelming, but it is worth it. If you have started gaining weight and it is taking a toll on your mental health, eating healthy and freshly cooked food will help relieve the stress.

3. Stick to a schedule

Eat at a fixed time and a healthy portion. As you used to eat during school, eat at a specific time and ensure you eat nutritious food.

4. Get Active

It is recommended to include physical activity in your daily schedule. Choosing an exercise that you enjoy will help you stay motivated. If sticking to an exercise routine seems challenging, you can incorporate more movement into your daily activities.

For example, you can take the stairs instead of the elevators or walk instead of driving or public transport if you live off-campus. Keep in mind that these small changes can add up over time.

5. Watch What You Eat

Making healthier food choices is crucial to maintaining a balanced diet. Avoid foods high in fat or carbohydrates, as both can result in undesirable weight gain and other health issues. Instead, choose nutrient-rich options that will keep you energized and feeling fantastic.

6. Manage Your Stress Levels

There are various ways to reduce stress, so finding the best strategies for you is essential. Try studying or doing homework outside, practicing yoga or meditation between classes, writing in a journal at the end of a long day, or listening to music.

It can also be helpful to create a schedule and stick to it. You’ll feel less overwhelmed when you know precisely what you must do and when you must do it. Talk to a mental health professional on or off campus if you can’t find a healthy way to manage stress alone.

7. Get A Good Night’s Rest

It is pretty common for college students to spend a few late nights studying or hanging out with friends. However, research has shown that a lack of sleep among adolescents can increase the risk of obesity. Therefore, it is recommended that you get at least seven hours of sleep most nights of the week to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The Freshman 15 is not only about weight gain. It is about not sleeping properly, drinking too much, taking stress, and ignoring both physical and mental well-being. You can manage your diet by talking to a dietitian or paying attention to your eating, but you will not take care of your psychological health. It will reflect on your overall being.”

Final Thoughts on College Weight Gain

College students often gain weight during their first year, but it’s not inevitable. You can control your diet and lifestyle choices to maintain your weight. Studies suggest that first-year college students gain an average of around 7.5 pounds during their first year.

To manage your weight, try staying active, keeping healthy snacks on hand, limiting alcohol consumption, managing stress, and choosing healthier options from the cafeteria.

The post Freshman 15 – A Stigma That Plagues Student Minds appeared first on Calm Sage – Your Guide to Mental and Emotional Well-being.

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