Tips for Parents
Helping Students Avoid Unwanted Weight Gain
For many new students, their greatest fear about college is gaining that unwanted "freshman 15." Their fear is not unfounded. In a study published this year in Nutrition Journal, nearly one in four first year students gained at least 5 percent of their body weight — an average of about 10 to 15 pounds — during their first semester. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) believes students can avoid this unwanted weight gain and recently revealed its top ten fitness and nutrition tips for remaining in good health for the 2009-10 academic year.
According to ACE, it's all about developing and retaining healthy habits such as eating right and staying active. And these habits are helpful to all students. Yes, the first year is filled with uncertainty and many transitions, yet each year of college brings new challenges. If students are equipped with the tools they need, they can successfully maintain a healthy lifestyle — whether it's their first year or their last in college.
Here are ACE's top ten tips for avoiding the "freshman 15," coupled with ideas for how you can help students institute them. These tips are great for all college students!
- Make better nutritional choices.
- Avoid unstructured eating by scheduling time for three meals each day — even if breakfast is just something light, like a piece of fruit or a granola bar, grabbed from your room.
- Remember that everything is okay in moderation. Late-night snacking is fine for example, as long as you don't go overboard.
- Check out www.mypyramid.gov for a guide to eating a balanced diet.
- Eat three meals per day.
Be smart about snacking.
- Make time for breakfast! Studies show that those who skip breakfast are more apt to gain weight.
- Don't think you'll "catch up later" by skipping meals mid-day and then eating a bigger meal later on. You won't have the energy you need during the day — and you won't burn as many calories either.
Remember the realities of alcohol.
- If you are up late studying and need a pick me up, make a healthier choice by eating popcorn, dried fruit or pretzels.
- Stock your room with healthy snacks that are easy to take on the run.
- Allow yourself to splurge every once in awhile so you don't overindulge when stressed, tired or bored.
Get your sleep.
- Drinking packs on the pounds: 5-6 beers at 150 calories each equals 600-900 calories. And just 3,500 calories equals 1 pound of fat!
- Drinking can trigger late-night eating.
Manage your stress in a positive way.
- Poor sleeping habits can contribute to weight gain.
- It's not impossible to get good quality sleep in college. With a little discipline, you can get at least six hours of sleep per night.
- Seek creative ways to cope that work for you.
- Take advantage of free campus classes on topics such as yoga or meditation.
- Join an intramural team to get some exercise and to meet people.
Take advantage of campus resources.
- Enjoy the time it takes you to bike or walk to class by taking in your surroundings instead of just rushing to your destination.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walk or bike — instead of drive — whenever you can.
Start a workout group.
- Use what you are paying for! Try out the rec plex, take a dip in the pool, join group fitness classes and more.
- Don't be afraid to organize your own group or initiative if you can't find what you are looking for.
Take a health and fitness class for credit.
- Get your floormates involved in going for a daily walk or playing a pick-up game of basketball once a week. You'll build friendships and feel good too!
Students will be looking to you to help them make positive choices this year. Set a healthy example and keep the healthy tips coming to help them make sense of their new environment. It's not always easy, especially for first year students inundated with new experiences.
- Why not? Take a half-credit activity or lifestyle class and learn something you've always wanted to! Ballroom dance, volleyball, belly dancing, horseback riding – check it out and see what's available to you.
- You could also consider taking a nutrition class to learn more about leading a healthy lifestyle.
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