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Tips for students to stay healthy during the winter months

By Josh Wambles
On December 5, 2012

With students making the transition from high school to college they face a minor health issue.

Some incoming freshman will battle the infamous "freshman 15" and not even realize it, but if you find yourself gaining this weight, don't fear; it is very simple to battle.

"The etiology of the 'freshman 15' is probably multifactorial. As students transition into college their eating habits often change as do their activity levels," said Didactic Program Director Kathy Stanczyk.

Another thing that could be linked to weight gain in some individuals is seasonal affective disorder, which is a mood disorder that is caused by lack of light.
There are several ways out there to fight the "freshman 15" from diets and exercise to just eating healthy.

For incoming freshmen the best way to fight the weight gain is to remain physically active. As for the college student that has already transitioned into the college life, your best bet is to remain physically active, eat healthy and get adequate rest.

If you are the type that thinks diets don't work, you just need to find the right one and do your research. For the average individual everything in moderation is the best way to go, but focusing on whole grains, fruits, vegetables and non-fat or low-fat dairy products will help.

It's important to note, though, that it's not just "what" you eat but also "when" you eat.  Skipping meals is not advised for various reasons.

"First, studies suggest that when an individual skips breakfast he or she will be inclined to make less desirable food choices later in the day. Second, skipping meals can slow one's metabolism, which certainly doesn't help with keeping off the 'freshman 15,'" Stanczyk said.

Another way to look at fighting weight gain is to change up your eating lifestyle. Lifestyles include vegan, paleo, vegetarian and others.

"In most cases (not all), carefully planned vegetarian diets can be very healthy, but it does require effort to ensure an appropriate balance of nutrients.  For certain populations this is especially true.  For example, adolescent vegetarians must pay special attention to calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, and zinc," Stanczyk said.

When it comes to just getting healthy or losing weight in general, there is no magic combination. Eating healthy and maintaining physical activity is the best way to get healthy and drop weight. Eating healthy is essential if you want to maintain that weight loss.

The transition from high school to college life isn't the only factor that plays a part in weight gain for first-time freshmen. In an article written by The Diet Detective Charles Stuart Platkin, when the fall rolls around, people tend to have higher caloric intake due to various reasons.

According to John de Castro, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, El Paso, "We have a tendency to eat about 200 calories more per day during the fall."

"We tend to blame much of this 'fall' weight gain on the holidays; however, there are other causes," de Castro said, who excluded the holiday periods from his research.

The reason some eat more in the fall could be biological, possibly putting on weight to face the potential winter famine that our ancestors could have faced.

"It all makes sense--the fall harvest, storing up for the long winter months. We have a tendency to eat more when food is readily available in fear of not knowing when our next meal might be," de Castro said.

So just remember to eat healthy and stay active, and you have a good chance at fighting off the "freshman 15" and that fall seasonal weight.

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