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.