Ever heard of the Freshman 15—a reference to the 15 pounds many college freshman allegedly gain in their first year of college? While research shows the gain may be closer to 7 pounds, conventional wisdom suggests more weight gain. The point is, be aware of lifestyle changes that occur during that first venture away from home that may affect your student’s weight and health, and then prepare your soon-to-be freshman to manage the onslaught of change and responsibility.
What packs on or peels off the pounds?
- Alcohol use
- Unrestricted access to high fat /sugar foods
- Late night eating
- Unlimited use of a car
As a parent, your job is preparing your child for these conditions and suggesting options before they pack their bags and head off to the dorms.
Some proactive fixes include:
- Purchase a bike as transportation rather than a car (or in addition to a car); campus life is usually more conducive to biking than driving anyway.
- Discuss responsible drinking. Adding weight gain to the conversation may be a stronger argument against unfettered drinking than a lecture or responsibility and avoiding legal consequences. Add to your argument that 10-12 large beers or 7-10 small Margaritas can easily add a pound to an average person.
- Suggest that your freshman keep pieces of fresh fruit in her room or that she add a piece of fruit or a salad (light on the dressing and adornments) to cafeteria meals. These choices are easy to identify, healthy, and filling.
- Visit the student recreation center and check out the extracurricular activities together. Many campuses have fabulous facilities for cardio, weight training, individual and group sports, and swimming available for all students. Interesting classes and lessons in dance, martial arts, and fitness may be available as well. Students are usually charged a student activity fee which covers use of these facilities, but as few as one in ten students actually use campus recreational facilities.
- Encourage your student to take Phys Ed classes. Phys Ed classes are sometimes required for one semester but often considered a nuisance to students pursuing an academic degree. Since obesity is becoming the number once health issue in our country, encouraging your student to take Phys Ed classes is not a bad idea.
- Keep watch! Noticeable weight gains or loss may be signs of loneliness, depression, boredom, or stress. If you see these signs, talk to your student—NOT ABOUT THE WEIGHT GAIN (or loss) but about their life away from home and any new emotions or issues they may be facing.
- Alas, the time has finally come. You can’t cook her meals now, encourage him to eat his veggies, limit her snacks, or tell her to go outside and play. But…you can prepare your freshman to make responsible choices and develop sound habits that will carry them forward from college with as much affect on their adult life as their degree.