The “Freshman 15” isn’t just for college students

Close up detail girl weighing herselfEver heard of the “Freshman 15”? It refers to the amount of weight gain by young adults during their first year of college. It’s also referred to as the “Freshman 10.”

The good news is that most college freshman don’t appear to actually gain that much weight in just one year. Research shows average weight gain by first-year college students is more in the 2- to 5-pound range. The bad news? Over four or five years of college, a 10- to 15-pound weight gain is not uncommon.

While it’s called the “Freshman 15,” gaining weight over time due to poor food choices, large portion sizes and too little exercise is surprisingly common — whatever your age. Here are some of the best ways to combat long-term weight gain:

Don’t skip breakfast. Research shows that people who skip breakfast in an effort to maintain or lose weight actually end up gaining weight instead.

Keep healthy snacks with you. If you’re a college student, keep healthy snacks in your backpack. If you work in an office, keep healthy snacks in your desk drawer. Don’t purchase junk food as snacks at home. Consider keeping healthy non-perishable snacks in your vehicle, especially if you have children.

Control your portions! Even healthy snacks can cause weight gain if you are eating two or three or more servings at a time. Many people simply eat too much food at each meal. Here’s a handy guide to portion sizes.

Find time to exercise. Research shows even moderate exercise can have a big impact on your overall health.

Take the focus away from (unhealthy) food. Getting together with friends and/or family? Don’t always make getting together mean a big meal. Try a fun activity instead. Or if you’re having a potluck and someone asks what they can bring, suggest a vegetable tray or other healthy option.

The health benefits of friendship

44696099 - friendship selfie happiness beach summer conceptFriendships aren’t just fun, they’re actually good for us. Here are three reasons why:

Friends make us healthier overall. Four large studies compared a range of biomarkers such as blood pressure and body mass index in a wide range of participants ages 12 to 91. They found people with weaker social ties were less healthy overall. For example, a lack of social connections more than doubled the risk of high blood pressure in older participants.

Friendship fights depression. Studies show that having high-quality social relationships can lower a person’s risk of depression. A study of more than 2,000 high-school students showed that if clinically depressed participants had enough friends with what the study called a “healthy mood,” it doubled their chances of recovering from their depression.

Friends help keep us sharp. Evidence suggests that having strong social ties helps reduce the risk of developing dementia. A 2012 study followed more than 2,000 people ages 65 or older for three years, none of whom had dementia at the beginning of the study. Of those who said they felt lonely at the start, 13.4 percent developed dementia over the three-year study, compared to only 5.7 percent who didn’t feel lonely.

We all get busy and friendships and take work. But it’s important to stay connected. Don’t just rely on social media and texting to keep in touch. Pick up the phone and call. Put a kind card in the mail. And carve out time for face-to-face interaction, such as meeting for coffee and going out to lunch.