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FRESHman 15, a SHORT tour
This article is dedicated to my friends and those who struggled with "freshmen 15" phenomenon, including myself.


What is "Freshmen 15" ?

While very few students in our country knew about this phenomenon, it is very widely known in western countries, and the prospect of having freshmen 15 is actually scarier than having a lecturer who actually takes attendance. This is the term given to fresh college students who gained extra weight in the first year of their college live. The myth is that the students in their freshman year will gain 15 pounds of extra weight, while actual weight gain may differ and some students actually lose weight in their freshman year. Currently in more and more cases, the actual weight gain is being replaced with 20-22 pounds of extra weight, a scary trend seen on the current western college students.


What causes "Freshman 15"?

It is generally agreed upon that the extra weights gained by the students are caused by the lack of exercise among fresh college students, stress developing from increased workload and peer pressure, and eating disorder. It is a known fact that very few college students actually continues to be active in sports after entering their college years because they need to spend more time on their studies, and without much leisure activities, they became stressed out easily and some resort to consuming large amounts of food to relieve their stress. By living away from their parents, many students found the freedom to eat whatever they want, whenever they want. This results in unbalanced diet, and easily cause them to suffer from obesity and malnutrition.


Do you have "Freshman 15"?

If you...

•  Regularly eat large amounts of fried food,
•  Eat more than necessarily especially near exam times
•  Became 'stressed out' easily,
•  Would rather prefer to drive rather than walk to the next lecture,
•  Spend a fortune on snacks and in-between meal dips,
•  Regularly attends late night "conference" at the nearest dining place with your peers,

.......then you could be at risk of putting on the dreaded "freshman 15",


What can you possibly do to avoid extra weight gain?

  • Decrease the amounts of foods consumed. Moderation is the key to success.
  • Eat well balanced, lower-fat meals. Remember to follow the food guide pyramid.
  • Take time to sit down and enjoy the meal. Pay attention to when you are full, and stop eating.
  • Drink lots of water. An adult should consume eight glasses of water daily. (Using the dining center's glasses, that would be about eight glasses filled 3/4 of the way full.) Stock the room refrigerator with some bottled water, and add some with flavors. (Remember carbonation may cause some water retention)
  • When eating at the dining centers, try these simple changes:
    • Use a light salad dressing (remember that just because it's light doesn't mean that it is calorie free).
    • Try skim milk instead of drinking whole milk. If you need a little bit more fat in your milk, try mixing a half of glass of each and making a 2% milk. The 2% milk has less calories and fat than one glass of plain whole milk.
    • Minimize the amount of fried foods eaten during a week. Sit down and look at the menu for the upcoming week and do some planning ahead for balanced meals.
    • Grab a piece of fruit to eat for a "sweet dessert" instead of cakes and cookies.
    • Choose more vegetables in your lunch plate.
    • Don't forget the salad bar. Making a fresh garden salad can be a healthy alternative if low-fat toppings are used.
    • Diet pop or a low-calorie noncarbonated beverage can be a wise choice. There are 125 calories in one of the 10 oz. cups of naturally-sweetened pop the dining centers offer. There are 150 calories in a can of naturally-sweetened pop. These "hidden" calories add up when you start drinking 3-4 cans a day. (That 125 calories is only if the cup is filled completely full and there is no ice.)
  • Snack foods are as important to consider when watching weight as the meals. Try stocking your residence hall room with things like:
    1. Fresh fruit
    2. Low-fat pretzels
    3. Bagels (a little low-fat cream cheese would be okay)
    4. Bottled water
    5. Lightly-buttered popcorn
  • Avoid eating out of a vending machine every day. Theses foods are typically higher in calories and in fat. It might be hard to find nutritious snacks in these machines.
  • When people are stressed out or bored, they tend to hit the snack foods harder to provide comfort. If you do find yourself "snacking," grab a bottled water to help fill you up and don't depend on chips or other high-calorie food.
  • Eating out can be a tricky issue. Think about the amount of food on your plate. If it is more food than you usually eat when you are "at home" (in the dining center) you may want to make a conscious decision to leave part of it. There is no reason you have to eat everything on the plate you order. Most restaurants will provide some sort of "doggie bag." Be sure to refrigerate those foods that you will eat later. Check out some more useful information at . Look under the FAST FOOD section for downloadable nutrition facts from some of the more popular fast food chains.
  • Exercise is an important part of every healthy person's life. Find something that you enjoy doing, and it will be easier to stick with it. Experts say that we should exercise 3-4 times a week for at least 20 minutes. You don't have to be a power lifter every day to keep in shape, power walking will work just fine. Even simple things like walking to class or riding a bike instead of driving can count towards the daily exercise amounts. Daily exercise not only burns calories while you are doing it, but builds muscles that will burn more calories even when your body is sleeping!

Composed by:
Tan Yiaw Wei
Faculty of Electrical Eng.
University of Technology Malaysia


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