High caloric dining hall choices result in Freshman 15

By Emily Sokolik

Fresh vegetables and whole grains were not part of Sneha Patel’s diet during her freshman year at the University. Patel, junior in LAS, lived in baggy sweats to conceal her expanding waistline after gaining weight from an eating regimen consisting of pokey sticks and beer.

“I used to be super skinny coming into college,” she said. “I really did gain a lot of weight.”

Patel is a victim of the Freshman 15, a term referring to the weight gain first-year college students commonly experience. An affinity for late night snacking and heavy drinking caused Patel to gain sixteen pounds.

However, as USA Today reported last Monday, new research from the Obesity Society, the leading scientific society dedicated to the study of obesity, reveals that many freshmen seem to escape the predicted 15 pound weight gain. The organization found that a majority of students pack on only an average of eight pounds.

Despite the good news, Karen Morton, a registered dietitian, urges University students to remain vigilant.

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“Moderation is probably the biggest thing to remember,” said Morton who works at iPower, 1612 S. Neil St. in Champaign, a weight-loss and exercise facility.

Morton said the first year of college is a vulnerable time for students. Eighteen-year-olds often experience difficulty coping with academic and social stress, she said.

The alcohol associated with bars and parties, as well as unlimited food choices in University Dining Halls can contribute to extra pounds, Morton added.

“It’s the first time you’re away from home and you’ve got a little more freedom in regards to when, what and how much you’re eating.” Morton said. “Who’s going to stop you from ordering that pizza at midnight?”

University Dining Halls provide residents with healthy options like a salad bar and menu items including stir-fry tofu with vegetables. However, most students are enticed by the greasy french fries and triple chocolate cookies, said Kirsten Ruby, assistant director for University housing.

“We talk to our residents all the time and there’s a bit of an interesting paradox,” she said. “On paper, students say they want to eat healthier, but when faced with it, chicken fingers continue to be our most popular menu item.”

Portion control is critical to maintaining weight in the dining halls where the supply of food never seems to run out.

“All that food is still going to be there tomorrow,” Ruby said.

Fiona Chen, junior in Engineering, said she gained seven pounds during her first semester at the University. Chen, who is from Singapore, was not used to the highly caloric food offerings available at her fingertips.

“I managed to lose almost five pounds from cutting back on desserts in the dining hall,” Chen said.

For those who have succumbed to weight gain, Morton assures students that all hope is not lost.

“I understand it sounds a bit cliche, but a healthy, balanced diet is important,” she said. “Get with friends after meals and take a walk. Study breaks don’t have to be food breaks.”