For many college students, maintaining a healthy weight falls to the bottom of their list of priorities, certainly behind making it to class on time, studying, work and a social life.
Students are no different from their adult counterparts: Those who eat unhealthy and fatty foods and don’t get enough sleep or exercise are more likely to gain weight.
Having suffered through the dreaded Freshman 15 and overindulged in fatty foods during the holidays, these same students may have turned their thoughts to their waistline as they return to school.
The Freshman 15 refers to the idea that first year college students have a tendency to gain weight during their first year away from home.
A recent study conducted by Jay Zagorsky at Ohio State University suggests that the freshman 15 doesn’t really exist. Instead, students entering college gain an average of 2.5 to 3.5 pounds.
The study also found that higher alcohol consumption by college students is the primary cause of weight gain.
A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association found about 69 percent of adults in America are either overweight or obese, as reported by USA Today.
All that to say, the best way to keep in shape is to eat less and exercise more. That’s easier said that done, as anyone who has tried to start a diet and exercise program can attest.
Recent studies by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) show that those students who slept 6 to 8 hours a night gained less weight than those who slept less than 6 or more than 8 hours.
Simply put, students need to be more active and eat smaller portions slowly, according to the HSPH. A couple of suggestions:
There are many cookbooks available for those on a diet; however, it can be difficult for college students to find the time to cook their own food.
For those students who are too busy to cook for themselves experts at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Human Nutrition (CHN) recommend staying away from fatty foods as much as possible.
“It’s really a question of being on defensive and not waiting till hunger strikes to make a decision about when to eat,” said Susan Bowerman, assistant director at UCLA’s CHN. “People forget that fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates.”
Bowerman suggests replacing fast food and unhealthy snacks with fruit and unprocessed foods. She recommends students keep portable foods with them like yogurt, string cheese or trail mix to avoid skipping meals, which she said just leads to overeating.
The HSPH recommends getting daily exercise by doing something you already enjoy like hiking or dancing.
“When it comes to physical activity, some is better than none, and more is better,” according to the HSPH website.
A new exercise regime need not take over a student’s daily life. Exercising three days a week, during a Monday, Wednesday and Friday while eating less will result in successfully losing those extra pounds, according to Jason Ritter, a personal trainer at LA Fitness.
“The best fat loss workout is a mix of heavy training and cardio,” said Ritter. “If you can keep your strength gains going up while dieting and doing your cardio, you are in for one successful fat loss outcome.”
Do you have any tips for eating right on campus? How do you fit in time to exercise? Let us know in the comments.
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