You hear a lot about the ‘’freshman 15’’ –the idea that people gain about 15 pounds their first year of college. While it may not be an exact 15 pounds for everyone, research has shown that a large number of students do tend to gain weight once they hit the campus. This is not surprising—no more mom and dad preparing healthy meals, lots of drinking and late night food binges, inadequate amounts of sleep and failure to exercise do not bode well for keeping trim. If you find yourself struggling with your weight, here are some important considerations that speak directly to the college student.
Get On Social Media
Social media can be a great way to lose weight; while you may have to separate the wheat from the chaff ,as far as what information is reliable and accurate, there are lots of people in cyberspace that are sharing great information through these channels about exercise and diet plans—subscribe to their fan pages and follow their tweets. Support, and connecting with other people sharing your struggles and your journey, is important and social media can be a great tool for providing this—even if it is not face to face, it can still be effective. A study from Temple University in 2011 tested the effects of social media on weight loss and made some encouraging findings. Researchers found that visiting Facebook groups that provided diet and exercise tips resulted in greater weight loss than the control group, who received no sort of counseling and was on the wait list to participate in the program. The amount of weight loss was similar to that of face-to-face campus programs; this is encouraging in that it suggests it is possible to still achieve weight loss success without face-to-face interaction, which may not be desirable or possible for certain people.
Make Small Changes
When it comes to weight loss, we want everything yesterday—our lack of patience, and desire for instant gratification, is a major stumbling block to sustainable weight loss and permanent lifestyle change for many of us trying to shed those extra pounds. We are constantly seeking out weight loss plans that promise the least amount of effort. The phrase ‘’slow and steady wins the race’’ is very applicable to weight loss, and may be a particularly good strategy for college students, who have become entrenched in numerous bad habits that are leading to weight gain. Researchers at Cornell University sought to track the effects of small changes to eating habits and their effects on weight loss, and the results are promising. Participants were emailed a list of three tips each month and those who adhered to them at least 25 days during that period experienced a reduction in weight. By consistently applying small changes to your daily routine, you will find yourself permanently adopting habits that support a healthy weight. The tips participants found most helpful were making only healthy foods visible, portioning out food instead of eating right from the package, having a hot breakfast within an hour of waking up, eating something every three to four hours and putting down utensils between bites of food.
Get Enough Calcium
While we often associate calcium with bone health, it appears to play an important role in our weight. While researchers have not been able to pinpoint exactly how this nutrient helps us maintain a healthy weight, numerous studies point to this effect. A study that was just published in March 2013 found that college-aged students who were not consuming at least three servings of dairy—the richest source of calcium—were at much higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a condition that encompasses a cluster of risk factors for serious conditions such as heart disease; being overweight has been linked to development of metabolic syndrome. The researchers stressed the importance of college students getting adequate calcium to keep their weight in check. If you cannot or do not eat dairy, you can find this nutrient in a host of other foods such as calcium-fortified orange juice, tofu, collard greens, beans, kale, Chinese cabbage, almonds and fortified soy milk. You might also consider calcium supplements; if you go this route, do not take more than 500 milligrams at a time as your body cannot absorb more than this at once.