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How Can I Avoid Weight Gain in College?

08/28/2009

Question:

I`m a college student getting ready to head back for the fall. I don`t want to gain weight like I did last year (with the Freshman 15). I have seen several dietary supplements and weight loss programs on TV. How do I know what is right and healthy for me?

Answer:

Thanks for your question.  You're wise to start getting into the mindset of preventing weight gain now, rather than having to try to lose it later.  Stop the freshman 15 before it becomes the freshman 50!

As for dietary supplements and weight loss "programs" targeted for weight loss, I would suggest cutting back on excess calories and increasing exercise, rather than going for an advertised gimmick.  Here's why.

1.  Most dietary supplements sold for weight loss have not been scientifically tested for safety or efficacy.  Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA.  This means you could be taking something potentially harmful, or something that simply just doesn't work.  Many over-the-counter weight loss supplements contain stimulants, which can become addictive or have other negative side effects such as high blood pressure or increased heart rate.

2.  Weight loss programs or fad diets are often used in the short term, but may not be feasible to follow long-term.  Some weight loss programs force you to buy their portion-controlled, pre-packaged food.  While this may limit your portion sizes, it can be expensive and boring over the long run.  In addition, many of these programs do not teach you how to eat right for long-term success.

3.  Any diet you follow will result in weight loss.  Recent studies suggest that the type of diet followed isn't as important as the compliance to that diet.  Study participants that were most successful in weight loss followed a reasonable, calorie-controlled diet that was low in fat and moderate in carbohydrate.

4.  Exercise will help keep weight off long-term.  Cutting calories is great for losing weight, but regular physical activity is what will keep that weight from creeping back on.  Find an exercise you enjoy (such as walking, biking, swimming, exercise machines) and stick with it.  Successful dieters require at least 45-60 minutes of vigorous activity 5-7 days/week to maintain weight loss.

5.  Find a dietitian to help you!  Many college campuses offer wellness programs and employ Registered Dietitians.  A dietitian is trained to develop meal plans and counsel clients based on their lifestyle and eating habits.  Check with your campus health dept for more information. 

Good luck!

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Response by:

Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Adjunct Faculty
University of Cincinnati