Poll Shows Weight Gain is Prevalent Among College Seniors

I decided to poll college seniors nationwide to see how they personally compared to the results from the latest Indiana University study. I asked how much weight on average they gained between freshman and senior year. Twenty-five college seniors responded–see below for the results of the survey.

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“Senior Seventeen”–Fact or Fiction?

While reading the newspaper a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an article discussing the recent IU study and its results. Not only was I extremely interested in learning about the phenomenon known as the “senior seventeen” but also, I was thrilled that a study tracking weight gain among seniors in college existed.

When going off to college freshman year, parents, siblings and older friends warn you not to gain “the freshman fifteen.” Yet, no one heeds advice about the potential weight gain down the road. As we get older, we’re faced with more responsibilities, more challenges and ultimately more lifestyle choices. Eating healthy and maintaining an exercise routine fit into the equation. Thus after polling students, talking to friends and interviewing health experts, weight gain senior year seemed to be a common problem.

I decided to take matters into my own hands and conducted an anonymous online survey to see how closely the results of the IU study reflected the sentiments of current college seniors. Twenty-five current students nationwide responded. Here are some of the results:

• 57.1 percent of seniors polled said they increased their physical activity between freshman and senior year
• When asked how much of a priority it was to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine, more than 65 percent of respondents cited it as being “important” or “very important” versus “rarely important.”
• 57.1 percent of respondents said they gained weight between freshman and senior year

These results proved puzzling, as more than half of the respondents said they were fairly active, yet more than half of them also gained weight between freshman and senior year. This contradictory statistic not only disproves part of the Indiana study, but it also shows that factors besides decreased physical activity may cause weight gain.

Specifically in my poll—lifestyle choices, diet and stress were all noted as weight gain factors. With this supporting evidence, it shows some results of the IU study may not be reflective of senior students everywhere. Additionally, no two students surveyed shared the same responses. Some students on rural campuses cited a decrease in physical activity as a reason for weight gain, while others on larger, more urban campuses, noted lifestyle changes and vice versa. Thus, the type of college environment may be another cause of weight gain.

While my survey only polled a small sample of college students, the results show weight gain is a problem for senior college students nationwide. More importantly, with the rising trend, college administrators (with the help of students) should create ways to halt this phenomenon and prevent it from contributing to the growing obesity problem in America.

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BU Students Weigh in on “Senior Seventeen” Study

“Should I make a salad for dinner or maybe I’ll just order a pizza?” “Do I really need to go out for a third night this weekend?” “I walked all the way to class today, do I really need to go to the gym later?”

These questions are all decisions college students face everyday and while the “right” answer seems to be obvious to most, it’s not that simple.

From juggling schoolwork and internships to living on your own for the first time, senior year of college can be more intimidating than the hype surrounding it. Add in an unknown future post-graduation and attempting to maintain a social life and you have a stress bubble that could burst at any given moment.

Recently, Indiana University released a study revealing seniors in college gain an average of seventeen pounds between freshman and senior year. Decreased physical activity and increased stress were the main contributors to the weight gain.

While the study surveyed only students at Indiana University, students at Boston University offered their views of whether the same results applied to a more urban university.

Marc Filippino, a senior in the College of Communication, finds the survey to be inaccurate. He says he has lost weight since entering BU four years ago.

“When I was a freshman, I was still adjusting to everything in college life that I was so overwhelmed by what was going on that I very rarely had enough time to work out….I really didn’t take advantage of the facilities [Fitrec] until my sophomore and junior year.”

Photo Courtesy of www.bu.edu
Filippino cites walking to and from his off-campus apartment to class as one way he is able to stay in shape. ”I think BU, the way it’s set up and where it’s located really helps and pushes a healthy lifestyle.”

For Filippino maintaining a balanced lifestyle has helped him control his weight.

“You go out a few nights a week and you have a couple of drinks, maybe you fall off the wagon for a couple of meals. But as long as you keep it in check with some really well-balanced meals and getting to the gym two to three times a week, you really can tackle the ‘freshman fifteen’ or the ‘senior seventeen’.”

(To hear more of the interview with Filippino, click here)

Erika Brownson, a senior International Relations major, also relies on her daily commute to stay in shape. However, unlike Filippino, she has noticed different results since the beginning of college.

“I feel like my metabolism has slowed down, I’m eating the same and still working out as much as freshman year, yet I’ve definitely gained weight… I used to eat a large burrito, and workout after and I’d be fine. Now I eat a large burrito and it’s visible on me for 2 weeks,” she explains.

Brownson says she goes to the gym about five days a week and “never takes the T or the bus. I always walk.”

Despite her frequent exercise routine, Brownson insists she has gained weight over the past four years. She cites maintaining a social life as another possible source of weight gain. “You’re going out, you’re drinking, you’re probably 21 and there’s the stress of next year and grad school. I know for me I’m just so stressed.”

Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Going out on the weekends provides an outlet to ease stress for many seniors.
College of Arts and Sciences senior Jordan Sisson shared similar sentiments as Brownson.

“Once you’re legally able to drink, you find yourself drinking more because it’s easier. You know, drinking wine and beer with dinner casually.”

Yet, Sisson who transferred to BU from the University of Connecticut sophomore year finds her eating habits have improved since moving to a more urban environment.

“Since we don’t really have a campus and we’re in the city, you’re forced to walk more. Also, on weekends, when you’re out—you’re walking more. You’re walking down Newbury, you’re walking down Boston Commons versus being on a small campus where it’s limited in size.”

While the Indiana University study focused mostly on physical activity among seniors, diet was also found to be another contributor to weight gain.

While Brownson said her eating habits have hardly altered since freshman year, not being able to rely on a dining hall has made eating healthier more difficult.

“I don’t make vegetables, I’ll make microwaveable pizza—it’s easier and I’m a terrible cook,” she confesses.

Living with three other roommates, all who have various eating schedules has made avoiding snacking during meals challenging for Brownson. “You smell someone making something good and you think you’re hungry so you make hot chocolate but you don’t need it.”

Sisson disagreed. Coming from a school with a dining hall with “many unhealthy options” Sisson says she finds herself eating better now that she lives on her own.

“The older you get and if you’re in an apartment cooking for yourself, I feel like you tend to eat healthier and you don’t really eat as much.”

Sisson says it is sometimes difficult to deal with stress and resist buying junk food
Photo Courtesy of Google Images at the supermarket, but when she thinks of the results, she chooses healthier options.

”In the long run, it makes you feel worse. You don’t have as much energy. You look worse. Overall it doesn’t work out.”

BU’s Sargent Choice website offers a variety of healthy recipes and video demonstrations to help you make easy meals from your apartment.

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Farewell Freshman Fifteen?

The notorious ‘Freshman Fifteen’—the trend that students gain fifteen pounds in their first year of college—has haunted college kids for years. Yet, a recent study shows that college seniors NOT freshmen may need to take notice of their expanding waistlines.

Published November 10 at the American Public Health Association meeting in Denver, the latest study from Indiana University revealed college seniors significantly decrease their amount of physical activity from freshman to senior year—ultimately leading to weight gain.

The study polled 1,672 students at Indiana University and asked questions about exercise and inactivity. This included how much time students spent vigorously exercising, walking and sitting still.

According to the study, freshman on average spent 16.5 hours involved in physical activity while seniors spent only 12 hours doing the same. Additionally, college seniors were found to be eighteen pounds heavier than their younger peers.

While the results proved disheartening for the Hoosiers at IU, does the study still apply to students on a more urban college campus such as Boston University?

Laura Judd, a registered dietician at Boston University’s Nutrition and Fitness Center says she is unsure whether the results of the survey pertain to BU. However, she notes that students’ proximity to campus may lead to weight gain in the last few years of college.

“Many upperclassmen live off-campus and thus rely on public transportation rather than walking to class,” she said. Judd attributed having classes in one specific building rather than throughout campus as another possible contributor to decreased physical activity. For students who live in apartments, “grocery shopping and cooking are extra challenges in an already busy schedule,” she noted.

Drinking can also contribute to weight gain.

“Alcohol needs to fit into our elective calorie [or non-nutritious] energy budget, which can easily be surpassed by a few drinks,” said Judd.

According to the Sargent Choice website, students should limit non-nutritious foods in their diet and learn to say ‘no’ to junk food they do not wish to consume.

Stress eating was also a part of the study. According to Judd, more than 75% of females and 33% of males admit to eating while under stress. While this is not directly connected to weight gain she said, it reveals that food is used as a method to cope with stress.

Judd offered tips on living a healthy college lifestyle, including battling stress accumulated by college courses. She suggested using study breaks to exercise and to take the stairs whenever possible. She also recommended students enroll in one-credit courses to stay fit and learn about nutrition. Click here for a complete list of PDPs offered at Boston University.

Healthy food tips and how to survive a college lifestyle

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It’s All About the Food

Boston University is home to over 200 extracurricular groups. Recently, I was able learn more about one of the more “delicious” groups of the bunch–C.A.K.E. Appropriately named for its focus on food and cooking, “Culinary Arts Kitchen Entertainment” was formed in January 2010 by two BU transfer students who were looking for a way to get together and discuss their love for food. Click below to learn more about C.A.K.E. (and try not let your mouths’ salivate too much)

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The Race for Governor: Live from the Jill Stein Election Party

The atmosphere has been very exciting in Massachusetts with the upcoming midterm election, particularly in the gubernatorial race. On election night, I had the opportunity to attend my first campaign election party. The headquarters for Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein were a lively atmosphere as her loyal supporters gathered to see their months of hard work pay off. While Jill Stein earned only 1% of the vote, her supporters remained positive about the results. Click below to see what they had to say (including Dr. Jill Stein herself).

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An Inside Look At Farmer’s Markets

Farmer’s markets are a popular place to buy fresh, healthy, fruit and produce from local vendors. Recently I trekked to the South End of Boston to visit the South End Open Market. Here’s what I discovered.

A Trip to the Farmer's Market

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