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College Weight Gain

College and Weight Gain

It’s part of college folklore that incoming freshmen can expect to gain five, 10, 15 or more pounds by the end of their first year – students call it the “Freshman 15.”

When you consider that more than 1.5 million students are entering U.S. colleges and universities this fall, that potentially could equate to more than 11,000 tons of additional weight added to the hips and bellies of the nation’s brightest teen-agers by May 2000.

Scientific information about this phenomenon is sparse, but one study conducted 15 years ago found that a sample of university women gained weight 36 times faster than women the same age who did not attend college. The university women gained an average of nearly seven pounds during that first year. These days, weight gain can be even higher

There are psychological, social and practical reasons why freshmen are prone to weight gain.

Psychological Influences for Weight Gain

Changing from one environment to another can be difficult. And many people tend to use food for stress relief.

Most teenagers move out of their parents’ home for the first time in freshman year. Some move out of state, and all are meeting a whole new set of peers. With the stress of all this change, many students turn to food for comfort.

Social Influences for Weight Gain

Food is also used to socialize. Pizza parties, midnight raids on vending machines, and other food-oriented activities are easy ways to develop a sense of community among students. Unfortunately, this type of social eating is usually done in addition to meals, which can add up to additional poundage rather quickly.

Another important factor is that freshmen usually eat on campus in the cafeteria. Meal plans typically offer unlimited buffet-style food … including desserts. This is a stress test for binge eating.

Source:  Harvard Medical School

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