The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 11, 2013

Geisinger doc: smaller meals, more activity, key to avoiding "Freshman 15"

By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News

DANVILLE — While many new college students revel in their newfound autonomy, setting their own schedule and meal plan can easily lead to the infamous weight gain known as the “Freshman 15.”

A lot of factors can lead to new students bulking up, according to Jennifer Franceschelli, a physician in Geisinger Medical Center’s internal medicine and nutrition department. There are the obvious factors, such as students having easy access to snacks and food whenever they want, but other behaviors can contribute to weight gain as well.

Staying up into the late night and sleeping in late can wreck havoc with a person’s sleep schedule and the stress associated with going to a new place and meeting new people can lead to unhealthy habits as well.

Late night study sessions with snacks or appetizers in easy reach can also cause weight gain. “All those things tend to add into the extra calories that they are getting,” Franceschelli said.

Many calories can also come from beverages, whether alcoholic or sugary. A coffee frappe can have 600 calories in it while a milkshake can have up to 700. Two beers average out to about 300 calories. “You can easily get half a day’s worth of calories in one drink,” Franceschelli said.

To keep pounds off, students should try to include a fruit or vegetable with every meal and avoid foods that are fried or breaded in favor of ones that are grilled or baked. Lean proteins, such as tuna, chicken and turkey, are also good sources of food that will keep a person fuller longer and avoid the ups and downs of hunger that come with simple carbohydrates.

When picking out meals in the cafeteria, students should use a smaller plate and avoid going back for seconds.

“Being more mindful overall of what they (students) are eating and drinking is the key to keeping healthy during college,” Franceschelli said.

Some physical activity, even if its just as simple as a walk, can also be beneficial. Other options can be provided by college courses or activities, such as hiking, zumba, spin classes or kayaking.

Getting a full nighttime regiment of sleep, about eight to nine hours, will also decrease nighttime eating and daytime stress levels, which in turn lowers stress eating.

It is much easier to keep pounds off than it is to lose them later, Franceschelli said. Despite the name “Freshman 15,” students who gain weight usually gain between three and 10 pounds during their first year at college. To lose them, it’s easier to make small changes in what they are eating or drinking and add daily activity to their routine.


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