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Why Do People Gain Weight in College?

The infamous “Freshman 15.” It’s the worst fear of so many weight-conscious teenagers embarking on their college adventure for the first time—and with good reason. According to the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, studies have shown that students actually do gain weight during their first years of college. College freshmen don’t have to fall victim to this vicious cycle. Knowing what causes college weight gain is the first in preventing it.

Stress Of College Studies

Even the most competent student can feel the stress associated with crunch time near midterms, final exams and term papers. Being away from home, forming new friendships and missing old ones, and work can cause stress. For freshmen, the stress associated with college life can be something fresh and new, and that can lead to weight gain. Stress creates a hormone called cortisol, and people with higher levels of cortisol tend to gain more weight.

Calories from Alcohol

What Are the Most Common Causes of Stress?

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Alcohol is a big part of the freshman year for many college students. According to a survey cited by "USA Today" in "College Freshman Study Booze More Than Books," of 30,000 college freshmen across 76 colleges, more than half did more drinking that year than they did studying. Breaking away from home, meeting new people, trying new things—a lot of this involves alcohol for college freshman. Alcohol has have several drawbacks, and calorie count is one of the major ones. Calories from alcohol are often not taken into consideration and can lead to unexpected weight gain over a long period of time.

Changes in Diet

Unless they stay close to home, many college freshmen do not get a home-cooked meal very often. Between fast food, cafeteria cuisine and midnight snacks, it is easy to pack on the pounds. Unhealthy snacking and calorie-loaded foods lead to extra pounds, and over time it can lead to serious weight gain.

Less Time for Exercise

Problems College Students Face When They Don't Exercise

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A college student's life is busy. Between classes, social events, work and sleep, many students have little time to exercise. Although it is important, exercise often takes a back seat to other things in life, and this is the case with college freshmen. During high school, athletics and extracurricular activities are often enough to keep young metabolisms going; these things often change in college.

Stopping the Cycle

College students worried about gaining weight have the power to stop the cycle. Poor diet, lack of exercise and stress are huge parts of a college student's life, and understanding which of these risk factors are problems for you is critical to reversing the trend. Invest in healthier snacks for those late-night study sessions. Squeeze in a trip or two to the gym each week, or take up an active hobby like biking or jogging. With a bit of work and conscious living, it is possible to turn the legend of the Freshman 15 on its head.