Avoiding the “Freshman 15”

Theresa Kozul

Upon a freshman’s arrival at campus at the start of the fall term, in the midst of goodbyes, parents and friends bestow common wishes and warning such as, “Good luck with classes,” “Study hard,” “Don’t party too much,” or “Beware of the freshman fifteen!”

The phrase “the freshman fifteen” refers to the weight students commonly gain when they begin living away at school.

But concern over gaining weight is not just a problem for freshmen. All students on Villanova’s campus are constantly faced with nutritional choices in the dining halls and dorm rooms.

In actuality, students do not gain 15 pounds while they are away at school, but Villanova’s on-campus nutritionist Jessica Pellicciotta says that, “Students gain two to five pounds their first year.” This weight gain typically occurs because students are not aware of their food intake and fail to exercise regularly.

Nutritional information on college students shows that students more inclined to include fruits, vegetables and whole grains in their diet are more likely to keep off the weight.

It’s a challenge to remain healthy at school when there are so many food options all over campus. Adjusting to cafeteria food is sometimes difficult to students who are picky eaters or accustomed to homecooked food.

Others tend to go overboard with the wide variety of food choices the cafeteria has to offer. Also, snacks in the dorm room can affect one’s waistline because whenever hunger strikes, food is at one’s disposal. A late night order for take-out is also a concern.

In reality, the largest calorie contributor to the college student’s diet is alcohol. “A beer contains about 100-200 calories; and two to three beers a night a few times a week can really add up to 400-800 calories a week which means four to eight pounds gained by the end of the year,” says Pellicciotta.

But students are not alone in the challenge to keep of the weight; Villanova offers numerous ways to be health conscious. First, Pellicciotta’s main role on campus is to provide healthy and wholesome menus at all campus dining halls. The dining halls also provide students with the option of the “Healthy Cat” at each meal, which is food which contains less than 30 percent calories from fat.

Posters reminding students to eat various colors hang in the dining halls, serving as healthy eating guides. “Look at your plate,” says Pellicciotta, “Count how many colors you are eating. A balanced diet has more than three colors.”

Besides nutritional concern, it is important to be active. On campus there are various exercise facilities as well as dance and aerobic classes free for all students.

Many ‘Novans try to remain healthy.

“I’m aware of nutrition, I’m a pretty healthy eater and I like to run,” says freshman Lauren Hazlett. “I know people who have come back and gained weight.”

The key to a healthy diet is balance and moderation. “Enjoy eating, no labeling food good or bad, with moderation and balance,” Pelliocciotta says. Visit Villanova’s Dining Services website to learn more about nutrition on campus.