A lot of incoming students come into college already aware of what the freshman 15 is but still manage to develop horrid eating habits. A great way to help solve such an issue is to inform students about this health issue that is only continuing to flourish. To do this universities need to step of to this nationwide concern and include a health and wellness component to our Univ. 100 classes in which students will learn what they should eat and what habits to avoid. Despite what some optimistic researchers say, the freshman 15 is real.
Some have argued that most freshmen are doing better with their diet now than in the past; however we are still gaining around eight pounds a year (“Some”). It is difficult to go from a controlled and routine schedule of eating and exercising at home to the free world of choices at college. In his recent work Daniel Hoffman, a professor at Rutgers University, points out that it is “perhaps most important for students to recognize that seemingly minor and perhaps even harmless changes in eating or exercise behavior may result in large changes in weight and body fat mass over an extended period of time” (Hoffman).
The fact is that students are not leaving home prepared enough for the world of late night pizza and consumption of alcohol that characterizes most students’ college years. If a nutrition lecture or a healthy lifestyle class were mandatory for incoming students it would provide a new perspective on diet and health. After becoming notified on the issue students can find their own routine of a well balanced diet and an hour of exercise per day at school.
If students were informed they could start researching nutritional facts on what food they should eat and what time of the day would best to consume it. Professor Elizabeth Klasen from the University of Wisconsin insists this national phenomenon can be “attributed to dorm food, and may be associated with altered meal and sleep patterns” (Klasen). Students are forced upon sleeping abnormal hours along with eating unhealthy food consumption at inappropriate times, making it difficult to for them to eat fewer than 2000 calories or even exercise the recommended 15 minutes a day.
It is difficult to maintain a healthy balanced diet on a college campus that is filled with fast food like diners and limits students to only fifteen dollars of food a day, making the alternative of more expensive and healthier foods not an realistic option. This inconvenience of healthy food and convenience of junk food was “all it took for freshmen to gain seven pounds over two semesters” in a 2006 Rutgers study (“Some”). For those students, the difference between maintaining a healthy weight and gaining seven pounds “was about 112 extra calories a day.
That's one soda or half a cookie a day, or 10 minutes less of exercise” (“Some”). For instance, to get a healthy meal at one of Towson’s diners, let’s say a pre-made salad, you have to pay six dollars and wait in a mile-long line. Then, as you are standing in that line you look over and see a non-existent line for that slice of pizza and start to think to yourself, Why should I pay three times more for this salad and wait in line for 15 minutes when I only have 20 minutes until my next class, when I could go grab that last piece of pizza?
Unfortunately, college presents even more opportunities for students to eat poorly, since most students stay up late to study, do last-minute homework after procrastinating all day, or hang out with friends after a party. Whether or not college students are aware of what they are doing to their bodies, researchers know that the “food eaten between 8 p. m. and 4 a. m. [is] a leading contributor to weight gain,” making the most active part of a college student’s day the most detrimental to his health (“Some”).
One study from the University of Wisconsin attempts to explain this phenomenon through “Night Eating Syndrome (NES), which is associated with overweight and obesity and involves consumption of over 50% of daily calories after 7 pm” (Klasen). What’s surprising is how easy it is to get food that late at night. Specifically, Campusfood. com, a common college food supplier, gives options for students to order 1000-calorie meals delivered conveniently to their dorm steps at 2:00 a. m.
The number of fast-food delivery places that open at such a late time is absurd; these restaurants are helping America gain the freshman 15 one pizza at a time. During the first semester of their freshman year in college, students will be preoccupied with many things, like which classes they will take, how well they will do in those classes, which activities they want to devote their time to, which people they want to hang with, and whether or not they will have enough money to do fun things off campus (Gonzalez).
People who believe that college weight gain is a natural occurrence argue that students need to focus on more important aspects of school such as their grades, making friends, and getting involved in clubs, rather than spending time worrying about an unproven stereotype of weight gain. However, the fact that students are gaining weight is proven. As the aforementioned studies show, the freshman 15 is real, and it is affecting the lives of college freshman across the country. Freshmen are gaining weight because of eating habits they develop during the first semester.
Poor food options do increase the chances of gaining weight. Freshmen do gain weight because of the convenience and availability of unhealthy food on campuses. It is true that students should concentrate on grades and other college activities however this is not an excuse to pig out and throw health concerns out the window. Missouri Western State University did a study that showed “higher GPA was associated with less consumption of fast food and higher GPA was also associated with the amount of meals an individual skipped per day: the fewer meals skipped the greater the GPA” (Costa).
Apparently students’ grades are affected by what they eat. The belief that students should not worry about the “freshman 15” because they should worry about their grades is incorrect. If students concentrate on eating well their grades will reflect their good habits. The “freshman 15” is a phrase that represents a bigger dilemma, because is not just something that takes place during the first year in college. It’s not just freshman gaining weight, sophomores and upper classmen do to.
Researcher Elizabeth Lloyd-Richardson, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University Medical School did a study that “found students are weighing in at two to three pounds heavier post-sophomore year” (Rosenberg). Bad eating habits and lack of exercise start with freshmen. But since nothing is done to correct those habits students continue through the rest of their college years and after. Fitness Director Stacy Trukowski is cited by Rutgers University’s newspaper, Relations, saying, “Most people fail to gain control of their weight gain from early adulthood.
Although gaining an average of seven pounds is not as alarming as 15, the pounds will surely add up over time” (Rosenberg). Unfortunately college students see weight gain from the time they enter school to the time they leave. Trukowski credits this to “drinking and eating at night and lifestyle changes they are not used to” (Rosenberg). With this evidence of continuous lifelong weight gain resulting from habits developed in college, it is surprising that colleges are not doing anything to prevent this issue. This problem may be related to rising obesity rates in America.
Professor Levitisky from the college of human ecology at Cornell University found that “freshman weight gain could be the same phenomenon that is contributing to the epidemic of obesity among all Americans--that a relatively small increase in calories each day or week has the cumulative effect of adding a significant amount of weight over the years”(Land). Professor Levitisky’s study puts into perspective how important freshman weight gain is. Eating habits learned as freshmen stick with them and are harder to change as years go by. Universities need to confront this issue and take precautionary measures to help prevent future concerns.
A course for incoming freshman to learn about the “freshman 15” and how to avoid it would be a great first step. Long Island University’s freshman College 101 course sets a good example of what could be used at Towson University. The course had a great proposal to teach students by having nutrition communication students present information about freshmen weight gain in a mandatory orientation class (Thomas). Since Towson University already has freshman Health 101 lecture classes, the class should dedicate at least one day in the semester to diet and exercise education.
This way teacher could reduce the number of freshman gaining weight during the first semester. A Univ. 101 health and wellness component lecture would teach students how to develop healthy eating habits that would then help them for the rest of their lives. For example, they would learn what foods to avoid and what time they should avoid eating. There could be seminars in which juniors and seniors majoring in nutrition come in and talk about available foods on campus and nutritional facts along with what a good college campus diet looks like and how it can be achieved.
In this class students would also develop a weekly health plan. This health plan would be incorporated into a personal log in which students would record how have exercised that week and how many times they ate late at night. This would help students analyze their bodies and realize what a simple lifestyle change could do. Studies like ones done University of California at Berkley show students who record their eating habits are more likely to witness their mistakes and correct them (Hom).
The overall goal for this class is for freshmen to stop picking up bad habits during their first semester and stick with their good habits for the rest of their lives. The freshman 15 is an issue that needs to be taken care through an education system that teaches healthy diet and exercise options. Learning about proper eating habits will stop students from initially gaining weight in college and help prevent future obesity problems. If colleges implement programs to help solve this dilemma then it might be possible to help reduce America’s growing obesity concerns.