Of all the memories of college, gaining weight in the first year is not among the fondest. Many will recall it as a time when chins sagged and hips grew before they really ought to have.
The memory is no myth.
A new study of 69 incoming students at Rutgers University eating at university dining halls found that between fall and spring they put on an average of 7 lbs.
The weight gain was the result of consuming an extra 112 calories a day, the study found. Three-fourths of the students in the study put on weight.
"This suggests that the freshman year may be an environment where eating more food than the body needs is the predominant state for a significant number of students," said Peggy Policastro, a nutritionist in the university's Department of Nutritional Sciences. "This may be associated with a decreased physical activity level, prompted by no longer participating in organized sports, having less leisure time than while in high school, or making less of an effort to stay active."
And anyone who ate in those dining halls might remember they weren't exactly home-cooked.
"Significant dietary changes are occurring which may include an increased energy intake due to eating at buffet-style dining halls or increased alcohol intake, although we did not measure these factors in our study," Policastro said.
"The fact that a relatively small change in the calories consumed compared to energy expended could result in a significant gain of fat underscores the importance for eating a balanced diet and engaging in moderate exercise on a regular basis," said Daniel Hoffman. "In theory, if this level of positive energy balance is maintained through all 4 years of college, these students have the potential to gain 27 pounds by graduation."