Defining Healthy

We are flooded with messages and images of dieting and tips on “how to be thin” and “healthy”. Being thin has not always been desirable – it wasn’t until the 1800s that Americans became concerned with dieting. At the time, however, it wasn’t about being thin and “beautiful” – it was about minimizing fat to be healthy. Now, there are a plethora of diets but healthy has become synonymous with thin, but being thin does not mean someone is healthy and vice versa, being healthy does not mean being thin.

What does being healthy actually mean and what does it look like?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a physical, mental, and social well-being.  But they also emphasize that a healthy lifestyle means leading a full life. Being healthy goes beyond exercising regularly and eating less junk food. Being healthy is about feeling good  - both inside and out. Being healthy is a lifestyle and the WHO refers to this as a state of enhanced well-being, meaning that being healthy is a life-long process of wellness. It’s moving forward and making positive choices that impact your physical, mental, and social well-being with the goal of living a full life.

How does this apply to you in college? College can be stressful and chaotic. Being healthy can slip to the bottom of your priority list. Western culture and social media place importance on quick fixes to getting healthy, such as dieting, and it’s often misguided. The challenge for you then, when you’re thinking of eating better or exercising, is to ask yourself what would help you live a full life and what does that life look like? When answering these questions, try to come from a place of acceptance – you are uniquely you and your full life will not be the same as someone else. Lastly, take baby steps towards being healthy and see how you feel along the well. Being healthy is a life-long journey!

The Freshman 15

The Freshman 15, the idea that young adults in their first year of college gain approximately 15 pounds, is well-known and has been popularized in media – it was first mentioned in a Seventeen magazine article in 1989. But is there research to support the Freshman 15? No. College weight gain has been studied many times and the Freshman 15 is a myth.

The average young adult in college gains anywhere from 2 to 5 pounds and this is normal. Whether or not you’re a college student actually makes little difference – college-aged young adults gain weight even when not in college.

What does contribute to above average weight gain in college?

  • Alcohol, especially binge drinking, can contribute to weight gain, especially as you are likely to make poor food decisions during or after drinking.
  • Irregular eating habits – figuring out when to squeeze in meals around classes can be difficult, but if you can commit to a schedule and not skip healthy meals, your body will thank you.
  • Snacking – eating regular meals will help with snack cravings but try to be aware of mindless eating, especially during studying or when you’re feeling stressed.

So, what does all this mean? You should be kind to yourself about small amounts of weight gain in college. Media has popularized being overly weight-conscious and paranoia over weight gain in college for both men and women. College is a stressful time and you will make choices that are not 100% healthy – that’s ok. It’s normal. Healthy eating, such as mindful eating, avoiding alcohol, and exercising can help you feel better long-term. All in all, try to not put so much pressure on yourself, especially regarding weight, and try to embrace the college experience mindfully - even the late-night treats!