In writing this “How to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen” article, I am tempted to spew out a bunch of useless nutritional jargon and advise you to hit the gym. Unfortunately, an article encouraging you to eat your veggies is simply a waste of my time and definitely a waste of yours, so I’m going to make things easy and identify the three main culprits of freshman weight gain so that you can either avoid them or know why you’ll be gaining the weight.
Culprit Number One: Alcohol
Let’s place that whole “illegal underage drinking” thing aside for a moment and think back to that health class you took freshman year. There are nine calories per one gram of fat. There are also four calories per one gram of carbohydrate and four calories per one gram of protein. These nutrients are essentially good for your body and give you the energy you need to function throughout the day. If you do not use the calories provided by the nutrients you obtain through food, the energy will be stored as fat.
Now, when consuming alcohol, there are seven calories per one gram of alcohol, and the calories consumed aren’t metabolized throughout the body like carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Calories found in alcohol are immediately absorbed into the bloodstream, and unless you are running in circles or doing jumping jacks while drinking (which is highly unlikely since alcohol slows you down), alcohol is more likely to be stored as fat.
Drinking also violently jacks up your blood sugar and heightens the level of Hydrochloric acid in your stomach, causing chaos in the digestive process. If you can’t digest well, food will not pass through your body properly. Simply put, an excess of alcohol will make you both bloated and fat. Oh, and don’t kid yourself: When you have a hangover the next morning, you are bound to eat junk all day long, and that can’t be good for your body either.
Culprit Number Two: Free Food and Too Many Options
They say that variety is the spice of life, but I would be a little wary of that statement in regard to weight management. I’m sure everyone is guilty of overdoing it at Golden Corral, but that’s okay every once in a while. Now, imagine overdoing it at Golden Corral every day. In college, students have unlimited access to all-you-can-eat buffet-style dining halls with prepaid meal cards. So, with just one swipe you can devour tons of food to your heart’s content which is a recipe for weight gain.
Also, with student organizations competing for membership and late-night pizza parties, students have access to free or incredibly cheap food all of the time. You’re not fooling anyone. Just because the food was free, and you have a lot of options, doesn’t mean you won’t pay for it later. Overeating is just like hyperventilating. Just because you are surrounded by a lot of air, doesn’t mean you should take it all in at once. Think that sounds absurd? Well, it is. Stop when you are full and don’t eat copious amounts of food just because it’s there.
Culprit Number Three: A Lack of Planning
A lack of planning is really the main issue at hand. In college, schedules have less of a routine than they do in high school, so students have more control over their day. When going to college, see this new responsibility as an advantage. It’s okay to eat junk in moderation, and it’s okay not to participate in physical activity every day, that is, if you know how to prioritize your time. That doesn’t mean you have schedule everything into a planner or strategically plan your meals (although, that wouldn’t hurt). All I mean by planning is to proactively think about your decisions. Don’t wait until you can’t zip up your “fat jeans.”
Lastly, I should mention that the average weight gain for freshman is actually only seven pounds, according to a study at Rutgers University. Don’t take that sigh of relief just yet (or grab another slice of that free pizza). The problem with gaining the initial weight is that most of the time college students don’t lose it, and continue packing on the pounds. Check yourselves before you wreck yourselves, boys and girls.