Do Not Fear the Freshman Fifteen

Created by susan on 2019-06-08 00:57:25


One of my memories at my alma mater, Texas A&M University was that I was invited by a classmate to go to yell practice and the football game. I was not familiar with the traditions and quickly learned that every time we scored you kissed your date and the score was 50-0, A&M’s favor! I spent most of the time in the ladies room and to this day when I reflect on this memory I laugh! Afterall, part of the experience of being a student at the university is building memories that you will cherish forever! 

However, many students fear what has been labeled as the “freshman fifteen” which implies that one will gain fifteen pounds during their freshman year. It can become anxiety provoking since this developmental period for a young adult naturally introduces more change and stress. As a psychotherapist I have encouraged parents to do a dress rehearsal prior to leaving for college whereby they start at an early age to teach their kids lifestyle techniques to make the transition smoother:

  • Become fiscally competent by managing their finances
  • Doing their own laundry
  • Learn to grocery shop and cook meals
  • Enroll in a study skills class
  • Complete a comprehensive career assessment and personality test (i.e., Strong Campbell and Myers-Briggs)
  • Give them the gift of autonomy
  • Foster self-esteem and body esteem

I want to reassure you that if you implement some coping mechanisms you can avoid this weight gain and have a wonderful experience your first year of college. Consider the following methods on how to maintain psychological and physical health via prevention:

  • Falling into the habit of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol may slow down your metabolism and create a weight gain. 
  • Rational approach to eating minimizes a weight gain such as introducing frequent feedings every three to five hours to regulate blood sugar and stabilize mood.
  • Emotional eating may occur if you are depriving yourself of the foods you love (pasta) since eighty percent of people binge due to deprivation.
  • Sharing your clothes with others is not warranted since it often triggers a comparative analysis and preoccupation with your body image.
  • Have a simple carbohydrate occasionally such as an ice cream cone (Texas A&M is in the heart of Blue Bell ice cream) to satisfy your cravings and avoid a cascade of eating difficulties. 
  • Make an effort to remain active and incorporate an exercise routine into your lifestyle to improve your mental health (i.e., decrease stress, depression, and anxiety) and physical health (build body esteem and foster brain health).
  • Assess your nutrition analysis with a registered dietitian, complete a resting metabolic rate test with an exercise physiologists, a comprehensive physical exam, and a psychological assessment prior to your freshmen year to maintain positive psychological and physical health.
  • Never compare your body, food intake, or exercise to others due to the difference in genetic predispositions, metabolic rates, body types, and diet history.
  • Flatter your favorite features with fashion and avoid emulating others style, but become your own stylist (#BYOS).
  • Initiate conversations with others that avoid topics about your food intake and body image issues.
  • Fad diets do not work, but introducing mindful eating and nourishing your body with all of the food group are effective.
  • Talk to a professional counselor or psychologist if you need emotional support. 
  • Enjoy the eating process because you receive an endorphin effect from eating and introduce colorful foods and variety since this is more psychologically pleasing to your palate.
  • Educate yourself on using your interoceptive awareness (i.e., a method on how to avoid emotional eating and learn to eat when you are hungry and stop when you reach satiety) from the concepts in my book Body Esteem: Piece of Cake and Peace of Mind