Ways to avoid the dreaded ‘Freshman 15’

College can be defined as an educational institution; an establishment of higher learning that doe-eyed high school graduates anxiously attend to prepare themselves for the future intellectually, socially and mentally.  However, college could also be defined as a one-way ticket to the dreaded “freshman 15.”

Transitioning from adolescent years cushioned with routine, fast metabolism and mother-knows-best decisions into the stagnant, stressed and scattered tendencies of a college lifestyle can be anything but a “piece of cake.”

“When there is so much studying involved in college, you sit a lot,” said Carol Grimm, director of Hendrix Clinic and Counseling Center, “You’re sitting in classes, you’re sitting while you study and you don’t even think about the importance of getting up and moving around.”

Pizza for breakfast? Ice cream for lunch? That can be the diet for freshman in their first year.

When money and convenience play huge factors in the college kid menu, meal plans are dangerous. MSUM’s dining services has launched a whole new approach this year in trying to help students make healthier eating decisions.

Sodexo, MSUM’s dining services provider, has implemented nutrition icons on the food being served on campus to help easier identify nutritional dietary choices.

“The number one thing I encourage students to do is to work out at the Wellness Center.  Make sure you use it; it’s the student’s building,” Grimm said, “and of course, watch what you eat.”

Available on mobile devices, Sodexo is also supporting the downloadable MyFitnessPal app to help conveniently track and monitor daily food intake.

Ten years ago the “freshman 15” was five pounds lighter.  The assumed weight teased about was merely the “freshman 10.”

“It became 15 because the obesity rates have increased in the U.S. with every age group,” said Grimm, “the population in the U.S. is getting heavier.”

According to the American College Health Association, obesity rates in American college students increased from 27.4 percent in fall 2006 to 29.2 percent in fall 2011.

New routines and environments are a huge reason for this increase in numbers.  “You get into a new environment with roommates,” Grimm continued, “Also students are out of a routine.  You have to get into a new routine, and that can take a while.”

Not only is weight a troubling stressor for incoming freshman (or those upperclassman struggling to simply maintain the all too clingy 15 put on freshman year), but in addition, freshman year is an emotionally stressful and pressure packed time.

“Emotionally, you are basically starting over and I think what freshman need to know is that it’s going to be OK,” Grimm said, “Sometimes you get into a new situation and think ‘what did I just do here?’  But you just got to know that it’s going to be OK.”

Freshman year is the time to make friends, find something you are passionate about, and just do it.  Healthy wellness will be waiting at the end of that involvement.

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