Eating Behaviors in the First Year College Students
Eating Behaviors in First Year College Students
The transition from high school to undergraduate life is perhaps of the most challenging experiences from adolescence into early adulthood. One of the common side effects of this transition is weight gain that occurs during the first or freshman year of college. The paper will discuss how behaviors related to eating habits and alcohol consumption contributes to the general weight gain of first year undergraduates. Among college students, this weight gain is fairly typical and is known as "the freshman 15," referring to the average amount of pounds undergraduates gain over the course of freshman year -- fifteen pounds. It is a requirement of most colleges and universities of the United States that students are mandated to live on campus and eat from a school meal plan for their freshman year. This means that for a lot of young people, it is their first experience of living independently away from their families and parents. Young people in college learn very quickly that they are in charge of their lives at school rather than at home, and they can make their choices without having to directly or immediately defend or answer for those choices to anyone. For students who come from home with many restrictions, the college experience is exceptionally liberating and for the first time these students have the opportunities to explore parts of life previously forbidden or restricted from them. Some of these forbidden aspects of life include food and alcohol. Students who grew up vegetarian may go to college and experiment eating meat. Students who come from strict religious home may go to college and begin experimentation with drugs and alcohol. Students that were varsity or otherwise competitive athletes may go to college and stop exercising as much as they did previously. All such behaviors contribute to weight gain. The paper will discuss factors and offer conclusions as to what factors coupled with appropriate circumstances make for this prevalent phenomenon of accelerated weight gain during freshman year of college.
Lowery et al. claim that separation from the home and one's familiar surrounding during the freshman year of college, puts students in the position to evaluate themselves from a different perspective. (2005) Furthermore, this new perspective often leads to poor sense of self and poor body image. These feelings directly contribute to factors such as excess alcohol consumption, excess consumption of food, and lack of motivation for exercise, all of which result in weight gain over time:
Body image dissatisfaction, weight concerns, eating problems, and physical attractiveness have become especially significant issues on college campuses (Harris, 1995; Mintz & Betz, 1988), with up to 90% of college students reporting that they worry about body image…As an aspect of physical self-worth, body image dissatisfaction is related to global self-esteem. (Lowery et al., Body Image…, Page 613)
According to their research, most college students are fixated with body image and generally assume the worst about themselves. These feelings easily overwhelm the mind and the emotions and the resulting actions cause weight gain. This is not an isolated issue, but a sort of psychological and physiological epidemic across countries such as the United States. Therefore, the self-esteem of college freshman are direct links to their eating habits and their alcohol consumption. If most freshmen have low self-esteem, then it makes sense that most freshmen acquire "the freshman 15." Thus one way to combat the seemingly inevitable weight gain of freshman year is to cultivate and practice techniques that build healthy senses of self-esteem and self-worth, which lead to positive body image. When there exists positive body image, self-esteem is maintained and the likelihood of accumulation of excessive weight reduces drastically.
Anderson et al. performed a study charting the weight gain of a freshman class of a university. (2003) Their study found that most students did gain a moderate to excessive amount of weight over the course of their freshman year, with relatively even distribution of occurrence across lines of sex, class, and ethnicity. (Anderson et al., The freshman year…, 2003) Interestingly, the majority of the weight gain…