As if starting college isn’t stressful enough, for years freshman have dreaded gaining 15 pounds their first year away at school.
But, according to new studies, that fear is overblown – by about 10 pounds.
“Being a dietitian, I thrive on keeping abreast on the latest nutrition studies,” said CSUN registered Student Health Center dietitian, Ellen Bauersfeld. “It’s been fun to see the articles and documents from legitimate resources on the freshman 15. It’s so common to hear about, they had to address it.”
Although the freshman 15 may be a mythical scare of the past, weight gain in college can be a reality, Bauersfeld said.
“Students often gain four to five to six pounds when they get out of high school,” Bauersfeld said. “A lot of students are used to playing a sport and when they get to college they become more sedentary and change the way they are eating.”
Having sent two children of his own to college, CSUN health sciences professor Louis Rubino knows from experience that much of college weight gain has to do with poor choices.
“Before students get to college, parents get kids to eat healthier, but in dorms they have fast food and make easy choices instead of good ones,” Rubino said. “It really gets harder as they grow older. After you turn 40, you are overweight and it’s harder to get it off.”
Jeffrey Bailey, CSUN health sciences professor, also said students gain weight in college due to unhealthy choices.
“Your diet is heavier in processed foods when you move away from home and it tends to be less expensive than healthier food,” Bailey said.
Shabby diets may not be the only contributor, though. College students may be drinking more than they were in high school.
“Even though they aren’t supposed to, freshman may be drinking,” Bailey said. “Alcohol is fattening, especially beer, which is cheaper, and this can result in a few extra pounds.”
Some CSUN students never worried about gaining weight when they came to college, because they exercise and shop for their own food.
“I play soccer on a weekend team every Saturday and exercise two days during the week,” said freshman Louis Gonzalez. “I try not to eat on campus because I don’t like the food and it doesn’t seem healthy. I try to go home and make my own food.”
Bauersfeld’s recommendation for getting into the habit of eating healthy is to check out the new alternative to the food pyramid called “Choose My Plate,” which advises Americans to eat a quarter plate each of fruits, grains, vegetables and proteins with a small side of dairy.
“That is the general idea for most meals,” Bauersfeld said. “Eat something an hour to an hour and a half after you wake up, and then have a small meal every three to four hours after that.”
At first glance, the Matador Food Court or the University Student Union may not appear to offer the healthiest of food options to help students avoid putting on extra weight.
“Food is too expensive on campus so I don’t eat her often,” said Marilyn Toledo, a senior liberal studies major. “But when I do eat here, I just eat what I crave.”
With students hectic lives, it may seem easier to snatch a bag of chips off the counter than to buy a sandwich or wash and cut up fruit, but the healthy choices are out there.
The “campus mimics the greater community; if you are looking for healthy food on campus you can find it,” Bauersfeld said. “It’s about making informed choices.”
Bauersfeld, the Student Health Center and the University Corporation collaborated to create a healthy eating guide for students on campus.
Every eatery on campus, including Burger King and Panda Express, is listed on the guide, along with tips and tricks for how to pick the healthiest menu options or to share with a friend.
View Healthy Eating Options at CSUN in a larger map