The Freshman Fifteen

By Susan Parish-WalkerAlthough we have begun to conquer the Age of Anxiety, we still are faced with many challenges in the rat race of life. However, researchers have made tremendous progress, but stress is clearly winning the race at this time. Approximately 60-90 percent of physical health problems are related to stress. The onset of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa which is a mental disorder characterized by a refusal to maintain a normal body weight is often associated with a stressful life event, such as leaving home for college. Unfortunately, many changes occur such as learning how to get along with your roommate, doing your own laundry, not eating mom’s cooking, and trying to avoid the freshman 15.

Falling into the habit of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol will slow down the metabolic rate and possibly cause a weight gain.
Rational approach to eating minimizes a weight gain such as implementing frequent feedings every 4-5 hours to regulate blood sugar levels and avoid binge eating.
Emotional eating often leads to binge episodes as well as avoidant behaviors such as coping with stress.
Share only your other personal belongings with your friends, but not your clothes because it may trigger preoccupation with your body image.
Have a dessert or incorporate your favorite foods into your food intake to avoid deprivation, which is the number one reason that one binges.
Make an effort to remain active and incorporate an exercise prescription into your lifestyle to improve stress, body image, and minimize depression and anxiety.
Analyze your nutrition by completing a resting metabolic rate test as well as a nutrition assessment.
Never compare your body type, food intake, or exercise to others due to the difference in genetic predispositions, metabolic rates, body types and diet history.

Focus on foods that you enjoy eating within balance and do not eat foods that you dislike.
Initiate conversations with others that avoid topics about your food intake and body image issues.
Fad diets do not work: Incorporate the concept of “down with dieting.”
Talk to a professional such as an exercise physiologist or a registered dietician about healthy weight management.
Enjoy the eating process because one does receive the endorphin effect from eating and introduce colorful food groups to make your dining experience psychologically pleasing to your palate.
Educate yourself on intuitive eating which allows one to eat when they experience hunger sensation and stop when one reaches satiety.
Never pursue the chronic dieting and do not use the compensatory behaviors.

Research shows that compensatory behaviors such as fasting, excessive exercising, diuretics or laxative, or binge-purge episodes due to the fact that it is not an effective way to manage one’s weight and the longitudinal studies show that it actually results in a potential weight gain.

Generally speaking, one may have an increase or decrease in their appetite when they are experiencing increased stress. However, each gender manages their stressors differently. As an illustration, studies indicate that happily married males reported less stress and fewer contacts with physicians, hospitals, and psychologists. Moreover, stress often manifests itself as a physical health problem for men. For example, heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, cancer, and impotence are correlated to stress.

In women, stress correlates to fatigue, increase or decrease in the appetite, hair loss, bad complexion, insomnia, disruption of menstrual cycle, low libido, and lack of orgasms. Some studies show that women are at a higher risk for increased blood pressure and heart disease. As an illustration, stress hormone readings may remain high for women throughout the day and evening whereas they decline for men after work hours. Furthermore, unhappily married women reported a higher incidence of stress than single women.

We cannot erase all our stressors, but we can learn stress management and coping skills. A comprehensive understanding of how to not allow your stress level to affect your weight will prevent one from dramatic weight changes. Click here for more information on how to manage an eating disorder in college.