Most people are aware of a phenomenon known as the “Freshman 15.” Putting on or losing what is – in some cases – a significant amount of weight is so common among new college students that there is actually a name for it that has been around for some time.
While putting on or losing a few extra pounds is not exactly life-threatening, the truth is, it can be a bit concerning. It is not actually the weight itself that is so concerning, but rather the reasons for it that are.
Why Does it Happen?
At one time, it was assumed that putting on excess pounds was simply a matter of eating too many calories. Now we know that both gaining and losing weight are often far more related to mental and emotional states than just simply eating an unhealthy diet.
College brings with it an enormous amount of freedom, but it also brings a great deal of stress.
Where once your parents may have handled responsibilities such as cooking, paying bills, doing laundry or grocery shopping, now those are yours. In addition, college students are often learning how to manage money for the first time – and not always well. College students may feel financial strain for the first time ever.
College courses are also not only harder than most high school courses, but they move at a much faster pace. Many college students also must learn to balance their school work with a part-time job and still try and squeeze in something resembling a social life.
So, It’s Not About the Diet?
While changes in diet aren’t the only factor, it doesn’t mean they are not contributing to the issue. The truth is, the “Freshman 15” can have several causes – some concerning, some not so much.
Sudden changes in weight are rarely considered to be healthy. Changes in their weight aren’t the only symptom of “Freshman 15” either.
Sometimes, college students can suddenly start losing their hair, develop rashes, sleep too much or not being able to sleep at all. All of these are significant health issues and should be addressed properly. Finding the underlying cause is key, and stress is often the main culprit.
All the new responsibilities combined can create a massive amount of stress and stress can take a significant toll on your health. Here are 5 simple tips undergraduate students can use to improve their health.
Finding ways to relax, de-stress and unwind is critical. In fact, it’s something you will do very naturally, but there are healthy and less healthy ways of doing so.
Increased stress may be a contributing factor to many college students developing a drinking problem, putting on excess weight or even developing a drug addiction. If you don’t find healthy ways to relax and unwind, you will naturally be drawn to unhealthy ones – it is a guarantee.
2. Stay Active
In addition to learning how to relax, it is also important to stay active. While relaxing and being active can both have some of the same benefits, they also have different benefits.
Going for a run is great, but so is getting a massage. Taking a kickboxing class can certainly help relieve stress, but you need both active and relaxing activities to maintain balance.
3. Take Advantage of Mental Health Counseling
Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health, particularly since they both have a profound effect on each other.
While there is still a great deal of stigma surrounding mental health issues, you can simply view it as an opportunity to speak honestly about what is happening in your life with someone who can provide some insight and wisdom.
4. Leverage Other Types of Counseling, Too
Some of the stressors that college students face can include overwhelming course loads, discovering learning issues they didn’t even know they had, not being certain of their career choices or even learning how to balance school with new “life” responsibilities.
Career counselors, academic advisors, and other guidance counselors are all available to help you navigate the new landscape you find yourself in that can sometimes be overwhelming.
All of this can have a profound impact on your mental health and well-being.
5. Eat Well
In college, it can be easy to just reach for whatever is quick, cheap or convenient. This can include instant noodles, pre-packaged snacks and sugary beverages – none of which will give you the nutrition you need.
Try to make a once-weekly trip to the grocery store to load up on food that comes from the ground, not a box, package or vending machine.
Not only will eating a healthy diet help you stave off the dreaded Freshman 15, but it can also have a significant impact on your moods, your mental and emotional health, energy levels and even your concentration.
Taking care of your health is not simply about managing your weight – but your overall health can have a significant impact on your weight.
This involves managing your physical, mental and emotional health. If you want to experience good health in one area, you need to manage all three.