The “freshman 15” can be on the brain before even having a chance to notice a difference on a scale.
“Students come and see me who are new to KU, concerned about weight gain,” said Ann Chapman, registered dietitian at the Watkins Memorial Health Center. “They’ve heard or read about it. They’re concerned about the residence hall food. Some are concerned they won’t have time to get as much exercise as they did in high school. Females are more concerned early on.”
The phenomenon of he freshman 15 — which refers to students’ weight gain in their first year of college — has been the subject of many studies. Researchers at Brown University found that students at Purdue University gained an average of 7.8 pounds in their freshman year, and students at Brown University gained an average of 4.6 pounds. The consensus among many researchers is that freshman weight gain isn’t necessarily as high as 15 pounds — but it’s still some added weight that can be the result of many college-related factors.
“(Students) do have to be careful about alcohol, fried foods, situational eating such as parties or people ordering in late at night,” Chapman said.
Not exercising, living a sedentary lifestyle and having a roommate who eats a lot of junk food are other ways freshmen can gain weight, she said.
“Weight gain isn’t inevitable. Attitude is a lot of it,” Chapman said. “Plant yourself across the room from someone who eats a lot of snacks when they study. Along those lines, study in food-free zones.”
Students who eat on campus can take extra care with their diet by using NetNutrition, a Web-based service that allows students to see the nutritional facts of all foods available in KU dining hall centers, including Mrs. E’s.
“Before you even walk into the dining center,” Chapman said, “you could have chosen your menu. (Students) see right away how many calories are in the doughnut at breakfast.”
Better Bites, a healthy eating initiative started in 2000, also identifies healthy food on the KU campus with a logo.
Chapman especially encourages freshmen to exercise to avoid extra pounds.
“Starting an exercise program as though you’re enrolled in a class is key,” Chapman said.
She said many freshmen worked out two to three hours a day in high school, then became surprised when they gained weight in college from not being as active.
But most importantly, freshmen should get on scales often.
“Monitor your weight,” Chapman said. “Don’t let three pounds become five, five become seven.”