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Cindy Boggs Cindy Boggs
Cindy Boggs is an American Council on Exercise-certified fitness professional, corporate wellness presenter and author of the award-winning book, CindySays… “You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World.” Her website is

It may be over-used, but the freshman 15 is one way of describing the extra pounds gained by guys and girls during their first year in college. Whether you've just moved a loved one into the dorms or you are the one experiencing life away from home for the first time, the message here is that there are ways to escape this weight-gain phenomenon. In fact, while some do gain, others are finding that this can be the healthiest time of their life.

Sudden Shift

It's easy to understand the likelihood of these physical consequences considering the newness of a student's life. Living arrangements change — a separation from caretakers, responsibilities increase and all the new-found freedom that college life offers.

Why Are These Pounds so Common?

  • Students' meal plans often make food accessible 24/7
  • Foods and desserts served in all-you-can-eat buffet
  • To accommodate a diverse student body, a wide array of foods are offered
  • The prevalence of fast foods incorporated within college food courts
  • Late night eating is common
  • Studying and social life often go hand-in-hand with high-calorie snacking and drinking
  • Alcohol (loaded with empty calories) is available
  • Well-meaning relatives send high-calorie goody baskets
  • Normal exercise routines are disrupted or eliminated
  • Sleep habits vary day to day
  • Meals are skipped and binging is common

Decision Making

It's easy to see how this freshman freedom can turn into 15 pounds of freshman fat. But, it's often not all bad. Sometimes the best part of being away from mom or dad is the way it compels students to take charge of their lives. Many learn they need to manage not only money and time but also—their energy and health. Realizing this early on makes it less likely that they'll fall into the food traps.

Valuable Tips:

  • Don't skip meals — intense hunger leads to poor choices
  • Be discriminate at the buffet rather than trying everything
  • Avoid desserts most days or limit them to just a taste
  • Watch portion size and be careful about seconds
  • Stock up on healthy snacks so vending machines aren't tempting
  • Just say no to alcohol … freshmen usually aren't 21, so it's illegal and it's fattening
  • Ask parents to send protein bars, nuts and bottled water rather than home-baked cookies
  • Get your rest — sleep deprivation breeds pounds
  • Eat a healthy meal before socializing
  • Find ways and places to exercise
  • Take a daily multi-vitamin
  • Avoid sweetened beverages and drink plenty of water (many college students stay dehydrated)
  • Partying can be good — dance, dance, dance
  • Use the student recreation/fitness center

Your activity level has everything to do with weight management and the crucial energy needed for college life. Eating smart will only take you so far — exercise is imperative, otherwise the pounds will find you. Most colleges have great fitness facilities and the beauty is that they are included in your fees. Use them!

It doesn't require a huge time commitment — 30 minutes three to four times a week will go a long way for the way you look and feel. Walk as much as possible and always take the stairs. Join an intramural team for exercise and to meet like-minded friends. Schedule a physical education class whenever possible. If getting to and from classes involves riding a bus or tram, think about getting a bicycle instead.

Weight Gain May Be Good

It is important also to keep in mind that some weight gain is natural and desirable. Most first-year college students are still growing and their bone density should be increasing. Make it a priority to see your physician regularly for a complete physical. Good health involves far more than knowing how much you weigh. College is an opportunity to grow in both knowledge and self-care. Your body is not only capable but also quite responsive to movement and good nutrition so take advantage of this wonderful time in your life.

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