Are You a Victim of the Freshman 15?

By Alaric Shearer

There are plenty daunting questions we ask ourselves when it comes to our first year of college. Will I fit in? Will I make friends? Will I make good grades? 

But there’s one more question many first-time students don’t ask before it’s too late. Will I gain the “Freshman 15”?

According to a study published in the Journal of American College Health, 70 percent of students in the study gained a significant amount of weight from the start of their freshman year through the end of their sophomore year. Researchers attributed weight gain to snack consumption, larger meal portions, and decreased activity, all hallmarks of the typical freshman experience. 

“When I first got to Coastal, I felt like I could eat whatever I wanted,” said Lolo Sanchez, a junior. “But by the time I reached sophomore year it started to catch up to me.

“The hardest part was to avoid late-night meals,” Sanchez admitted last week as she jogged one of the Fitness Center treadmills. “When it’s midnight and your friends say, ‘Hey, let’s go to McDonalds,’ you have to be able to say ‘no.’”

Cheryl Van Dyke, the personal counselor for College of Coastal Georgia students said that she went through the same weight fluctuations that many college freshmen experience. She attributed her weight gain to a lack of portion control and a love for the make-your-own omelet station. 

“I gained weight because of all the carbohydrates and fats in the food I chose to eat,” Van Dyke said. Over time, Van Dyke’s appearance changed which made her depressed and eventually motivated her to exercise and to eat healthier.

“I recommend this to every student: don’t drink your calories including alcohol, fruit juices, sodas, et cetera; and also eat in moderation,” Van Dyke said. 

Jordan Brown, a freshman from Walton County, was aware of the Freshman 15 before coming to Coastal and said her prevention techniques are simple: eat healthy and stay active. 

“I wasn’t worried because I have an active lifestyle and personally, I don’t even like junk food,” Brown said prior to a workout session in the Fitness Center. 

Brown believes one of the biggest changes that can affect students’ health is going from a structured food environment to one with endless choices. 

“Students aren’t used to providing their own food and don’t know how to make healthy choices when they first get out on their own,” she said. 

As far as suggestions go, Brown said students should make sure they always eat balanced meals with fruits and vegetables and to not be afraid to trade out a burger for a salad. Outside of campus eateries, Brown understands that healthy choices can be outside of many students’ budgets. 

“It definitely can be a lot harder off campus,” Brown admitted. “Cheaper foods are usually poor sources of nutrition. Stocking your refrigerator with fruit and vegetables might be expensive, but it’s worth it from a health standpoint.”

Van Dyke noted in general, people gain weight because they are taking in more calories than their body requires. However, stress can be another major source of weight gain, she said.  

“When we come under stress, our body produces more adrenaline, ‘the fight or flight hormone,’ which tends to make the body store fat,” Van Dyke said. “Remember that ‘stressed’ spelled backward is ‘desserts’.” 

Ultimately, Van Dyke said students can combat weight gain through a three-pronged approach that includes making healthier food choices, increasing physical activity, and finding ways to reduce stress levels. Exercise will aid in reducing anxiety, but learn to get lots of rest, and avoid stressful encounters

On our campus there are plenty of ways to get fit. The Fitness Center on the Brunswick Campus is free for all students and residents of Camden, Charlton and Nassau (Fla.) have unlimited access to the Camden County Recreation Center in Kingsland. Both locations have a wide array of group fitness classes including Zumba, hip-hop fitness and yoga just to name a few.

If you want to share the ways you are avoiding the Freshman 15 or need ideas on how to stay fit, tweet @ccga_crowsnest with the hashtag #fresh15.