By Maleesa Johnson
Have you ever looked at pictures of yourself from high school, sighed and said to yourself, “Man, I looked good back then.” You are not alone.
In college, weight fluctuation is almost inevitable. According to Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, one out of four students gains about 10 pounds during the first year of college.
Kilgore senior Dustin Dubose was one such student. He said he gained about 10 pounds his freshman year. There were multiple factors that led to him adding pounds.
“Any weight I gained as a freshman was more because of the choices I made on what to eat than the amount I ate,” said Kilgore senior Dustin Dubose. “I didn’t eat any more than I had before, but I ate a lot more Penland pizza, hamburgers, burritos and quesadillas. I ate a lot of quesadillas that year.”
Georgetown senior Briana Trevino, a nutrition major, is conducting a study on college weight gain with Dr. Donna Burnett, assistant professor of family and consumer sciences. The study follows the trends that cause student to put on a few extra pounds.
“It’s been really interesting,” Trevino said. “We’ve been finding a lot of trends we noticed just in our research, but we’ve found even more here on Baylor campus.”
Trevino and Burnett’s study analyzes all classifications at Baylor. The causes of weight gain tend to change based on the location of the student. Since all freshmen are required to live on campus and have a meal plan, the trends were different for them.
One of the main trends Trevino noticed for freshmen or meal plan holders was the obligation to make the swipes worth it. The cost per swipe on most meal plans averages between $8 to $9.
“People were realizing, ‘I need to get more bang for my buck. I can’t just go in there and get a salad, that’s not worth $9,’” Trevino said. “So they would go back and get what they felt was worth the cost of a swipe.”
Another factor with meal plans is the availability to all types of food. No matter what day it is, students will always have access to less healthy options at the dining halls. In Penland Dining Hall, for example, pizza is available daily almost anytime of the day.
Trevino said stress eating is a common problem, but some students in the study have lost weight from stress. Dubose said he fell into that habit as well. Anytime he would stress, he would eat more and, inevitably, gain more.
College students’ schedules typically change immensely in comparison with high school years. Eating outside of a normal schedule, especially eating late at night, strains the metabolism.
“A lot of students we talked to said they didn’t have an eating schedule,” Trevino said. “That’s a big difference from life at home. Mom isn’t ringing any bells for dinnertime.”
Dubose was one of those students without a meal schedule. His freshman year, he was part of the Golden Wave Band. That added to the difficult transition of budgeting time in college. Dubose selected a meal plan based on his schedule.
“I had a block plan, 250 meals or something like that,” Dubose said. “It was way better than any of the weekly meal plans because you could use the meals anytime during the semester, and my study habits were irregular.”
The transition from meals plans to living off campus also created trends in weight fluctuation. Trevino said the cooking environment played a large role. Many students said if the kitchen was dirty from their roommates, they weren’t going to clean it up and would go out to eat instead. Dubose echoed that sentiment.
“As far as living off campus, living on my own brought on a whole range of chores and responsibilities,” Dubose said. “But the most difficult thing was living with three slobs. The kitchen was a mess, so I ate out a lot.”
Fast food is both convenient and cheap, but it lacks necessary nutritional values. Given the proximity to campus, students will often choose to eat fast food.
“Off campus I ate a lot of fast food junk,” Dubose said. “Bush’s on Sunday was almost sacred to freshmen. McAlister’s if I wanted to pretend to eat healthy.”
Trevino said not knowing how to cook was another hurdle to healthy living off campus. With that came a lack of knowledge on what to buy at grocery stores. Easy options for culinary-challenged college kids include Easy Mac and Ramen, neither of which offer any nutritional value.
Trevino said a big misconception with nutrition was carbohydrates and calories.
“You’re body need fats and carbs,” Trevino said. “Moderation is the key, not avoidance.”