Avoiding Freshmen Feeding Frenzies

Healthy eating tips for college students

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WEDNESDAY, Aug. 7 , 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- "Freshman 15" has nothing to do with how many first-year college students you can stuff into a phone booth or a Volkswagen Beetle.

"Freshman 15" is actually a bit of college folklore that says college students gain 15 pounds in their first year of higher education. It's nothing but myth that may cause college students unnecessary worry, says Sue Plunkett, director of health services at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa.

"Promoting the myth that first-year college students gain 15 pounds may actually be harmful by contributing to perceived weight gain and poor body image," Plunkett says.

She notes a recent study that appeared in the Journal of American College Health. The study surveyed first-year students at a small Midwestern liberal arts college and found that 36 percent of those surveyed actually lost weight (an average of 1.5 pounds) during their first year of college.

The students who did put on some pounds had an average weight gain of only 4.6 pounds.

She offers some healthy eating tips for new college students. They include:

  • Investigate and use dining services. Many colleges offer a variety of options, including healthy eating programs.

  • Eat three meals a day. Believe it or not, you can't survive on caffeine alone.

  • Use fitness facilities on campus.

  • Be realistic. People who manage their weight well give themselves permission to be imperfect.

More information

And if you think you're going to be tempted to join those all-night beer parties, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offers these sobering facts.

SOURCE: Allegheny College, news release, July 2002

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