Every student comes into college warned: the freshman 15 is real. It is not just a myth made to scare young adults into taking care of themselves. The freshman 15 is actually a bit of an understatement now because more and more students are beginning to gain weight far beyond the 15 pounds.
The problem starts with the availability of food. At home, food comes either when parents prepare it, when the student buys it or when the student decides to scrounge through pantry and refrigerator contents for something to snack on. After starting college, this relationship with nourishment is completely flipped: food is available at Market Square, 1873, Union Grounds and other campus eateries on an almost constant basis.
In Market Square, the healthier options are in the middle of the cafeteria, and students usually enter this area at the meal time when they are more likely to meander around and see all the available options, including the unhealthy and often more appealing ones. During their meals, students enjoy a vast landscape of cakes and cookies arranged tantalizingly on a cart smack in the middle of the dining room. If students manage to dodge this obstacle, they then have to contend with the two frozen yogurt stations positioned near both exits.
Another major caloric source for students is weekend parties. Though parties are optional, the fact is that a large portion of college students drink. When surrounded by friends, college students aren’t going to pay as much attention to moderation, especially after they have had a drink or two—a tendency that can lead to problems far beyond obesity.
Colleges know the anxiety students face when it comes to these difficult issues. Colleges build state-of-the-art workout facilities as major selling points to high school graduates to attend their institutions. But despite every school’s good intentions, many students still come to school too intimidated to step foot in the gym. Confronted with a field of strange machines and surrounded by obviously fit people who have been working out for years, students become scared of working out, leaving them in an emotionally charged state that does nothing for their physical states.
One, two or all of these factors combine to create a wide, easy road to obesity, starting in a young person’s college years. However, with just a few tweaks to an individual mindset and college protocol, many of these hurdles can be easily overcome. If Market Square put nutritional information alongside the food it serves and moved sweet treats to corners and sides, it would be easier to ignore temptation. If college campuses offered more classes geared toward exercise newcomers, recreational facilities might become more approachable. Students must also change their mindsets when approaching a healthy lifestyle. Diet and exercise are choices that can only be made by the individual in question—it takes commitment, dedication and a willingness to sacrifice wants for needs to enact a positive change in one’s life.
Students know full-well the effects of eating sweets and drinking. They must choose: immediate gratification or a long-term payoff?
Allana Wolley is a freshman anthropology and history double major from Marble Falls, Texas.