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Beating the "freshman 15"

By Thaina Olson

Attaining a proper education can really weigh a student down, and the myth of the “freshman 15” suggests that’s not just referring to stress.

According to the myth, during their first year attending college, students gain an average of 15 pounds as a result of dramatic lifestyle changes. Stereotypically, these lifestyle changes include fast food for lunch every day, pizza for dinner every night, and all-night study sessions surrounded by junk food.

Stereotypes aside, these changes are simply decreased levels of exercise, lack of sleep, and increased consumption of fatty foods and alcohol.

This myth has been printed and reprinted in magazines and the Internet, leading students to stress over what many health experts believe to be the wrong issue. According to a nationwide study conducted by Ohio State University, the average weight gain for students during the first year of college is only 2.5-3.5 pounds. Only 10 percent of college freshmen actually gained 15 pounds or more during their first year, and 25 percent actually reported losing weight.

The study does show, however, that a large number of college students typically do gain almost 15 pounds during the course of a college career.

Rodney Hansen, a professor of nutrition at Weber State University, said he believes an unhealthy lifestyle is brought on by subtle choices students make every day because of lack of preparedness.

According to Hansen, “when you plan, you set yourself up to make good choices.” He suggested students bring lunch to school with them to avoid making fast food a staple of their diets. He said many students don’t realize how the choices they are making right now can catch up to them as they get older.

Bobbi Bowman, an intern for Student Wellness at WSU, explained that “your metabolism is better when you are young. As you get older, it slows down.” She said it’s important for people to start making good choices while they are still young.

One way students can start making those changes today is by taking advantage of the programs offered on campus, such as free wellness coaching. Bowman said wellness coaching “is geared toward helping students become physically and emotionally well.” She explained that the program is essentially counseling to help students make changes they feel are necessary in order to feel better.

WSU also offers a range of programs such as group exercise classes, swimming lessons and intramural sports at the Swenson Gym. Students can also receive up to six weeks of free personal training sessions through a program the campus recreation department offers.

Joan Thompson, a nutrition professor, simply said the best changes students can make to feel better are to “get enough sleep and stop stressing and eating junk. This is the first day of the rest of your life.”

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