Fight ‘Freshman 15’ weight gain

Kettering Health Network is a faith-based, not-for-profit healthcare system. The network has eight hospitals: Grandview, Kettering, Sycamore, Southview, Greene Memorial, Fort Hamilton, Kettering Behavioral Health and Soin.

Perhaps you have heard about the “Freshman 15,” an expression that refers to the amount of weight a student gains during his or her first year at college. But is this a prerequisite for college campus life or just a myth?

Students certainly have many stressors when beginning their new journey — a new place to live, new roommates, finding classes and sometimes adjusting to being away from home for the first time.

For many of us, food is comfort, and our emotions can cause some stress eating. The good news is that the “Freshman 15” is not a college requirement. While college students and non-college students of this same age may gain some weight, the actual amount may vary but averages only two to three pounds in the first year, according to a study by the Ohio State University.

“The best way to handle the adjustment and beat the weight gain is to have a plan,” says Marta Wright, a registered dietician with Kettering Weight Loss Solutions in Kettering. “Be prepared for stress. If you are a stress eater, keep only healthy snacks available.”

Healthy snack options include apples with peanut butter, vegetables, Greek yogurt and string cheese. If you want occasional chips, then only have the smaller bags on hand rather than the large bags to avoid overeating. Plan for “walk breaks” and “talk breaks” with friends to help with boredom, study stress and the temptation to eat.

Do not skip breakfast. “Breakfast keeps our metabolism going, provides us with energy, and prevents us from overeating throughout the day,” Wright says. “Breakfast should contain some protein to keep us full longer.” Some easy breakfast meals include yogurt with nuts and fruit, protein shakes or bars, fruit and peanut butter, toast and peanut butter, hard boiled eggs and fruit, or cottage cheese and fruit.

The dining hall on campus can be an enemy or a friend depending on the choices you make, Wright says. Avoid the high-calorie foods and oversized portions. Do not choose buttered, fried, creamed and au gratin food. Visit the salad bar but avoid bacon, croutons and excess dressing. Use fruit as a dessert or practice portion control if you indulge in a sweet treat.

Do not drink your calories, whether it is soda, juice or sweet tea. Remember that coffee drinks can contribute significant calories. Avoid calorie-laden lattes and frappachinos when you need the caffeine boost. There are many sugar-free alternatives that taste just as good as the regular options.

Stay active, keep a healthy meal plan, keep your weight in check and stress levels as low as possible. These are habits that can stay with you for the rest of your life.