Freshman 15: 7 Reasons You’ll Likely Gain Weight in First Year

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As many first year students fall victim to the infamous freshman 15 phenomenon, a key to fighting back excessive weight gain when you enter university is understanding the causes and planning ahead.

What is the Freshman 15

While it is unclear where exactly the term “freshman 15″ originated, it generally refers to the tendency of students in North American universities to put on weight during their first year of studies (sometimes around 15 pounds of fat!). Although this tendency varies from student to student, and is by no means unavoidable, it can largely be attributed to several lifestyle changes that most students tend to experience when entering university.

Top 7 Reasons for Weight Gain in First Year

1. Cafeteria Food

It is no great secret that the typical dorm cafeteria is replete with unhealthy food options.  While you might find a small salad bar or assortment of veggies, the overwhelming majority of food you will be exposed to consists of processed carbs and greasily cooked meat. As well, since most cafeterias are all you can eat (allowing you to stuff as many items on your plate as you desire) it is quite easy to go overboard and consume more food than your body can properly process.  If you were used to eating clean home cooked meals growing up, this change will likely lead to weight gain unless you are very strict about the cafeteria items you select.

2. Late Night Snack Bar/Vending Machines

Not only is cafeteria food often a bad substitute for your traditional meals, but many dorms also tend to feature a late night snack bar including delicious goodies like pizza, chicken nuggets, fries, and hamburgers. If you fall into the nasty habit of making regular use of your dorms snack bar, then you will be consuming countless empty calories and most likely packing on excess weight. As well you will likely have easy access to vending machines with various sweets and chips to further compound the problem.

3. All-Nighters

All-nighters have a nasty habit of derailing your eating regimen and throwing your hormonal system out of wack. Basically as your body becomes sleep deprived, it tends to become increasingly hungry.  Moreover, when you are staying up all night to finish of that term paper due the next morning, chances are you will trade in the time needed to prepare a healthy meal for something quick and greasy. The effects of sleep loss carry on through the rest of your week as your body seeks to recuperate by taking in more calories. Neglect your sleep long enough, or pull frequent all-nighters, and your will most certainly gain unwanted weight.

4. Changes in Exercise Regime

If you were physically active prior to entering university, then you might fall into the bad habit of making up excuses for not exercising due to your increasingly busy and stressful new life. Yet a decrease in exercising equals a reduction in the amount of calories that you burn. And if you burn less calories, while taking more in due to the other factors on this list, then you have a recipe for fat gain!

5. Drinking

Often cited as the most common reason for weight gain in university, frequent nights of binge drinking are sure-fire ways to pack on the pounds. A drink of any alcoholic beverage usually contains upwards of 100 calories. Thus a night of hard drinking, usually followed by the munchies and some late night binging on greasy fast food, and you may very well come close to doubling your daily intake of calories. By doing this often for a couple of weeks, typically during the start of your semesters when the workload has not piled on yet, you could easily pack on five pounds of fat!

6. Peer Pressure/Surroundings

Sadly even if you go into university knowledgeable about the aforementioned pitfalls and health risks, you may be unwilling to resist the peer pressure you will encounter. When your surroundings are full of your new friends splurging on junk food and drinking, then it is quite understandable that you would like to join in on the fun while you are still young. That said it is up to you to decide where to draw the line, and to take responsibility for your own health.

7. Maturing Metabolism

For some of you, your eating habits might have been far from ideal before heading off to university. Yet what might have kept your body relatively lean during your adolescent years, was the fact that you were still experiencing growth spurts and the benefits of a high teenage metabolism. Yet as your body begins to settle down around the age you enter university, you will find that you might experience weight gain simply by carrying on the same as you had in the past.

Preventing the Freshman 15

By understanding the root causes of your likely weight gain in university you will be much better equipped to deal with issues of unwanted fat build up in your body. Granted you will still want to enjoy the occasional night out of drinking with friends or splurging on fatty food after a stressful week, you can work to minimize your weight gain by taking simple actions such as, exercising regularly, avoiding late night snacking, and planning ahead to prevent all-nighters. Even if you ultimately do fall victim to this trend (as did the author of this article) do not stress about it too much. With a bit of time, and a lot of work it is always reversible!

Peer Pressure: Top 5 Sources of Peer Pressure in University

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A look at the prevalence of peer pressure in university and the most common forms that students experience.

Does Peer Pressure Really Exist in University?

Yes, like any other social environment that you will enter throughout your life, pressure to conform to certain norms and trends that the crowd around you practices is going to exist. Since university for most students takes place at a time when they are leaving adolescence and finally entering adulthood, there are various forms of peer pressure that seem to prevail in most university campuses. Below are some of the top sources of peer pressure that you will encounter in university.

Top 5 Sources of Peer Pressure in University

1. Alcohol and Drugs

Drinking has for a long time been a deeply engrained part of university culture on many campuses. For schools that are located on college towns, where most of the students are not from the area and are living away from home for the first time, university is often the time in many students lives where they first begin to experiment with alcohol and recreational drug use.

While alcohol will become increasingly common at many of the social functions that you attend in university, you should always do what makes you comfortable and participate in drinking for your own enjoyment, not because other people are pressuring you to. The same general principle applies to any drug use, although it is highly advised that you stay away from hard illegal drugs as there might be dangerous repercussions.

2. Unhealthy Eating Habits

Throughout your time in university there will likely be a great deal of pressure on you to develop unhealthy eating habits. From late night binge eating during all-nighter team projects, to munching on fast food after the bar, to ordering pizza during group study sessions, there will be ample opportunities for your peers to pressure you into eating unhealthy food and developing bad habits.

More than anything else, this form of peer pressure in university requires a tremendous amount of discipline. The most effective way to combat this problem is to develop a solid eating and exercising regimen so that the nights where your friends and classmates pressure you to eat unhealthy are outliers rather than the norm. Being on top of your academic workload and planning ahead is also a great way to avoid late night cram sessions and the possibility of unhealthy food binges every now and then.

3. Club Initiations

Many clubs and student organizations in your university may have all sorts of long-standing histories and traditions that go along with them. Fraternities in particular are notorious for their club traditions that often involve initiation ceremonies. Initiations are essentially rights of passage that signify that a person has accepted their new adopted group and is willing to become one with that organization and its customs.

The issue with certain fraternity initiations in particular, however, is that they often involve various forms of hazing. Hazing is essentially any form of initiation that involves either physical or psychological harassment. Thus if it is a prerequisite for the club you are interested in joining that you endure some form of pain or sexual humiliation, it is wise to seriously reconsider whether you want to associate yourself with a group that promotes those types of values. Always do your research before rushing to join a fraternity or sorority.

4. Skipping Class

One of the freedoms that becomes immediately apparent when stepping inside your first university lecture is that this is no longer the tightly monitored environment that you have grown up accustomed to until the end of high school. Most classes in university do not take attendance, and from attending club meetings, to waking up hungover, you will continually find more and more reasons to put off going to class.

It is best to always keep in mind what the primary purpose of going to university is, as well as to remember that either you personally or your family is literally investing ten of thousands of dollars into your education.  While all sorts of social pressures might encourage you to skip class, you should always think about your long term goals.

5. Conforming to Political Views

This form of peer pressure differs somewhat from the aforementioned points as it is more likely to come from your instructors than any of your fellow students. Nevertheless, the pressure to conform to, and to adopt various political views is prevalent in many university faculties. While there are many professors that are open minded thinkers who encourage seeing issues from multiple viewpoints, the sad reality is that many times you will discover that the instructors in various faculties often share similar worldviews.

In arts and humanities faculties that place a strong emphasis on teaching ethics and socially progressive values it is not uncommon to run across professors with strong left-wing tendencies. Meanwhile, in business faculties professors are often much more conservative and much less inclined to teach students about ethics.

While there are intelligent and thoughtful arguments to be made on any side of the political spectrum, and while some of your professors may very well be brilliant, the problem with having one particular viewpoint expressed over and over again is that it can become very dogmatic. Moreover, when it appears that all of your professors are rooting for the same side, it can create a bit of a relay effect and convince you that all educated people have one way of thinking or viewing the world. Because these people also happen to have PhDs and are standing in front of the classroom it may also appear very difficult to challenge them.

As a result, you may very well convince yourself that they are right and that your view point is less important. However, the point of higher education should always be to learn to think for yourself and question other people’s viewpoints. Therefore when you are confronted with such pressure from academics you should always question everything you are learning and stick to what you feel makes sense to you personally and not what it appears the crowd supports.

Getting Past Peer Pressure in University

Throughout your four years in university you will likely experience a great deal of growth as an individual. It is quite likely that you will conform to some of the peer pressure that you face and that your attitude on these issues will change. Above all else it is important to do what feels right for you and to refuse to take part in any activity that you wholeheartedly disagree with and might regret in the future. University, above all else, is about finding yourself and strengthening your identity as an individual.