Undesired weight gain is a common response to adjusting to a new environment; the amount gained varies from person to person.
Why does it happen?
Students cope with a variety of emotional challenges and lifestyle changes. Some directly affect your eating habits; others can have indirect effects.
Changes in eating habits
Eating in the dining hall can be difficult because you have no control over the menu, meal times or portion sizes. In addition, there are unlimited quantities of food available. Meals also tend to be a key time for socializing, so many students linger at the table and may wind up snacking on junk food.
Facing new challenges
College can be a very emotional time. In addition to adjusting to a new lifestyle, you're dealing with other pressures, such as making friends and academic challenges. Sometimes people turn to food to relieve anxiety or avoid facing feelings.
Diets don't work
Dieting leads to a vicious cycle of weight loss followed by an even greater weight gain, and in some cases, development of an eating disorder.
You can’t starve yourself forever, so at some point you’ll go off your diet. When you do, you’re bound to eat more than usual because you feel deprived. Dieting slows down your metabolism; when you eat, you won’t burn as many calories and will gain more easily. Often muscle mass, not fat, is lost, but fat, not muscle, is what’s gained back.
There are strategies that can help you eat healthier; call UHS for an appointment with a nutritionist to learn more.
Fears about weight gain may only drive you to eat more. Instead, try to understand why you’re gaining weight and focus on your underlying feelings, rather than on the symptom of weight gain. If you’re in touch with your feelings, you’ll be less likely to turn to food for relief.
Are you getting enough?
Many times, students play sports in high school but don’t go out for a team in college. This translates to less energy burned, and often loss of muscle mass. If caloric intake remains the same, weight gain will occur. If caloric intake decreases, inadequate nutrients may be consumed.
Get into an the exercise routine at the beginning of the school year. It’s easier to maintain habits than to start something mid-semester, when you’re already very busy.