In reality, it is pretty common amongst first year college students—myself being one of them. Another common phrase, “you live and you learn,” applies quite appropriately to dealing with sudden weight gain. Let’s take a look at some of the causes of gaining more weight than normal in a given school year, and then how to address them.
- Stress: When you make the transition from high school to college, the workload increases, as does your involvement on campus, most likely. And how do many people deal with stress? They stress eat. We’re all guilty of it at some point.
- Availability of Food: My university required all freshmen to have an unlimited meal plan, so I could swipe myself into the dining hall as often as I wanted, or needed. It was easy to lose track of how much food I was consuming every week, let alone each day. You need to be careful because, even though food is readily available on campus, you need to monitor how much you actually eat. Chances are, it’s more than you think.
- Idleness: Sometimes with our schedules at school we’re too busy to exercise. I’m a dance minor at school and I still managed to gain 12 pounds my first year. It just turns out that I took in more calories than I burned. Try to take a PE class every couple of semesters. As a supplement to that, or an alternative, you can make good use of your rec center on campus. It’s there for you!
Ways to Deal with the Above
- Monitor What You Eat: Simply put, just watch what you’re consuming. If you realize you’ve been stopping by the local café and getting a doughnut three times a week, it might be time to cut back. If you’ve been relying on sugary or caffeinated beverages to keep up your energy and stay awake, try to get more sleep and/or decrease your sugar intake so you become less reliant on it. It’s easier said than done to sleep more at school, but good time management skills can buy you at least a couple more hours a night. And finally, remember that alcoholic drinks have tons of calories, too.
- Have an Active Summer: I was quite surprised by the middle of the summer following my freshmen year. I had been working at a retail shop since I got home in June, standing and moving for four or five hours at a time without a break. When I decided to weigh myself toward the middle of July, I realized that I had lost all 12 pounds I gained at school, and was back to where I was before I started college. It was a pleasant surprise that being on my feet for longer periods of time (and earning good money simultaneously!) was enough to get me back to where I wanted to be. If you find that you’ve gained more weight than you would have liked to, I highly recommend a retail or similar fast-paced environment for the summer.
Remember this: in spite of your stress, comfort foods can only take you so far. You can still feel sluggish after a sugar high, and it’s much better to balance those types of foods with healthier alternatives. It’s okay to consume fats and high-calorie foods at times (in fact, it’s recommended!). Just make sure you also have foods and drinks that will sustain you. I’ve kept this in mind ever since my freshmen year, and I’ve managed to stay within my target weight range through to my upcoming final semesters.
Believe me, being at a healthy weight during school, and one that you’re comfortable with, will propel you academically as well. When you feel your best, your energy level reflects that. And we all know that energy is one of our best friends at school!