Students should maintain healthy habits despite college lifestyle

The year is coming to an end and the difference between August and May is incredible.

Students, whether it is the first or last year, people tell you to gain a wealth of knowledge, independence, responsibility, friends and skills. The list could go on. Although these are beneficial, there is one gain we should be wary of: the gain of the freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, “15.” Those pesky pounds students tend to pack on during their time of freedom.

When heading off to college, every student hears of roommate horror stories, late night cram sessions and the myth that we will all gain 15 pounds by the end of our first year. While this may by very easily attainable, it may not be necessarily true.

A 2006 Rutgers study weighed 67 students in the fall and again in the spring, and the average weight gain was 7 pounds. Although the weight gain was not 15 pounds or universal, three quarters of the students still managed to pack on a few.

If 7, 15, or even 20 pounds does not seem like a big deal, then consider these facts. Eating just 100 extra calories a day will result in a gain of 10 pounds in one year. So that means if someone starts eating one innocent looking 100-calorie pack or drinking a refreshing Gatorade, he or she will not only increase the reading on the scale, but also increase the risk of being overweight or obese.

According to a 2006 report from the Food and Drug Administration, 65 percent of Americans are now overweight and more than 93 million are obese. The percentage of overweight children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 has doubled from two decades ago to 15 percent.

The Weight-control Information Network explains that being overweight increases an individual’s risk of: Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, metabolic syndrome, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, fatty liver disease and pregnancy complications.

It is not difficult to take in a few (hundred) extra calories here at TCU. We have several food operations here on campus and about 32 places to buy food within walking distance. Also, the dining plans, which will start at $1,799 a semester, tempt us to purchase more food, snacks, beverages, etc.

I found it difficult to pass up grabbing a goodie bag at the bulk bar in Frog Bytes and rationalized the purchase because I had plenty of money on my meal card.

Interested in the subject, senior nutrition students Chelsea Cartwright and Shea Saunders conducted a research study comparing TCU students’ eating habits from high school to college. Their results showed a trend of decreased fruit and vegetable intake and exercise, and an increase in fast food consumption. The most common reason given for the decrease in healthy habits was the time restraint. Also, current average fast food visits a week is 2.5, and 77 percent of students said their weight had changed since high school.

When we enter college, it is likely our participation in sports decreases, our time gets increasingly crunched and restrictions on food choices or food preparation from parents no longer remain.

Perhaps the focus should be taken off of gaining the extra pounds and placed on programs to help students make healthy choices for themselves. Whether students have restrictive parents that did not allow candy or soda in the house, a mom that prepared home-cooked meals each night or ate fast food every day, everyone could benefit from guidance on healthy choices and making the transition to being self-sufficient. One day we will all be on our own and completely responsible for our choices, including how we take care of our bodies.

As this year closes and a new one fast approaches, make efforts to gain the benefits of maintaining or making changes toward a healthy lifestyle.

Kristina Keilson is a senior nutrition major from The Woodlands.