Extra weight stalks college freshmen

Amy Siebels

The freshman 15: you’ve heard the rumors. Could it be true? Could it happen to you? The results are in and it doesn’t look promising. A growing body of research supports the theory that many freshmen gain 15 pounds in their first year of college.

David Levitsky, professor of nutritional sciences and psychology at Cornell University, studied 60 incoming freshmen at Cornell. He weighed them at the beginning and again after 12 weeks and found they gained an average of four pounds, which would add up to about 15 in a year’s time.

It’s not hard to see where the weight comes from when you consider that an additional 500 calories a day leads to an extra pound in a week. That’s the equivalent of just two bottles of regular soda, or one ice cream sundae.

One factor in freshman weight gain is all-you-can-eat dining facilities. Levitsky found that the extra calories college students consume in breakfast and lunch alone accounted for 20 percent of the weight.

Another factor is late-night snacking. A student who eats dinner at 6 p.m. and goes to bed at 1 a.m. goes seven hours without a meal. Order a pizza at 10 p.m. and you’ve added hundreds of calories to your daily intake.

There’s another source of weight gain, and it’s one many students never think about: alcohol. For some, “freshman 15” may equal “beer belly.” A single can of Miller Genuine Draft has 148 calories; Miller Lite has 97.

Downer’s desserts, snacking while you study, pizza night, trips to the grill – add to that less time for exercise and more time sitting still – and it seems as though all the cards are stacked against freshmen.

There is hope, however, amid the fat traps of college life. One of the best ways to avoid weight gain is exercise. Walking all over campus and taking the stairs instead of the elevator are good starting points.

The Buchanan-Kiewit Rec Center offers a variety of free classes, from kickboxing to yoga. The center also has an indoor track, treadmills, bikes, rowing machines, a pool, and a weight room.

Or take advantage of the YMCA, which is located across the street from Colman. For no charge, Lawrence students can get a limited membership to use the Lifestyle Center and the weight room at the “Y” for no charge at certain times of the day. Applications are available at the Rec Center desk.