Plenty of people, young and old alike, talk about the “freshman fifteen” – for those unfamiliar, this phrase describes a phenomenon when some college students go off to school and, due to various lifestyle changes, gain around 15 pounds. This doesn’t happen to everybody, but if it’s happened to you or someone you know, understanding common causes can help you troubleshoot the problem and start feeling better. Though not an exhaustive list, the following causes commonly can cause weight gain in college:
1. Unlimited Dining
The college dining experience is frequently highlighted at orientation and parents’ weekends, and for good reason – a dining hall that makes an impression is more likely to convince more students to matriculate. However, when you can eat as much as you want of virtually any kind of food, it’s easy to gain weight. Dining halls generally have healthier options, but even vegetables are often cooked in oil and/or butter. Paying attention to both food type and how it is prepared can help.
2. Alcohol Consumption
Many students drink excessively from time to time, and the higher caloric composition of alcohol can make weight gain easy. Sugary mixers are a major culprit, and the high carbohydrate content of many beers can be problematic as well. Finding low-calorie mixers for plain hard liquors (which generally do not contain carbohydrates) and drinking light beer instead of regular can help.
3. Exercise Changes
Colleges have ample opportunities for exercise, but the abrupt change can be enough to make some students stop exercising altogether. Understandably, this can cause weight gain.
4. Lack of Sleep
Plenty of studies have been conducted and have proven that lack of sleep can increase weight gain. When you aren’t well-rested, you often tend to crave food to provide your body with the energy it needs.
Chronic stress – something many college students face – can lead to weight gain. This is because when a stress hormone called cortisol is elevated for an extended period of time, the body works to accumulate fat reserves.
For those who want to curb weight gain and lose the freshman 15, making lifestyle changes often helps. Attending weight loss camp is often effective, too, as participants don’t have opportunities to “cheat” and can make lasting friendships while becoming healthier.