published Monday, May 16th, 2011

Freshman 15 no urban myth, dietitians say

By Hannah Knox/Valley Voices
Hanna Knox holds up an apple and a box of Little Debbie snacks inside of the studio at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.  Freshman college students must often make the choice between healthy and unhealthy food options.  Freshman often gain weight known as the "Freshman 15" as a consequence of these decisions. Staff photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Hanna Knox holds up an apple and a box of Little Debbie snacks inside of the studio at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Freshman college students must often make the choice between healthy and unhealthy food options. Freshman often gain weight known as the "Freshman 15" as a consequence of these decisions. Staff photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Disregard it at your own peril, college-bound seniors. The Freshman 15 is no myth.

According to a 2009 study conducted by researchers in the department of nutrition and food sciences at Utah State University, about 23 percent of college freshmen gain 5 percent of their body weight (about 10 pounds) during their first semester.

The study cites “drastic changes to environment and resources” during the transition from high school to college as leading to unhealthy behaviors, including decreased physical activity, sleeping later, higher rates of smoking and drinking, and a lower-quality diet.

Leslie Stephens, 20, a sophomore at Hiwassee College in Madisonville, Tenn., said she has tried to eat in the cafeteria as often as possible but still keeps snacks in her room and visits the student cafe. Building a meal schedule around classes can be difficult, given the cafeteria’s operating hours, Stephens said.

“I rarely ever got to eat breakfast because I was in class and didn’t get out on time to eat,” she said. “Since the schedule for the cafeteria was dead set regarding their hours, sometimes it was hard to make it to the cafeteria, so I had to eat out.

“The biggest mistake I’ve seen in my friends is that they wouldn’t eat at all or eat too much fast food and unhealthy snacks.”

For freshmen looking to avoid becoming another statistic, licensed dietitians Susan Shacklet and Brian Jones offered the following tips for a healthy fall.

1Take advantage of university resources such as recreation centers to exercise regularly.

2Avoid late-night snacking. Schedule around earlier meals.

3Fill your plate with a healthful balance of 50 percent colored vegetables, 25 percent protein and 25 percent starch.

4Buy in bulk from farmers markets or roadside produce stands. Split the cost with roommates.

5Choose whole-wheat bread instead of white, low-sodium soup over ramen, fruits and sweet potatoes over chips.

6Cook your own meals instead of getting fast food.

7Remember that during college, metabolism is slowing and the body is still filling out.

8Avoid temporary dieting in favor of adopting lifelong habits.

9Be aware of how drastic changes in environment, such as no longer eating with parents, can affect your dietary habits.

10Remember that body mass index is more important than weight. The number is calculated from a person’s weight and height. A BMI range of 20-25 is considered healthy for most adults.

Hannah Knox is a student at Sale Creek High School.

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