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The freshman fifteen: more than an issue of weight

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As if college students didn’t already have enough on their plate, a study recently revealed the major impact unhealthy eating can have on these young adults and how 59% of students actually consider themselves “food insecure”.

“Household food insecurity is defined as the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways,” reads the study, completed by researchers from Oregon State University, the Benton County Health Department, and Western Oregon University. The study was based on a survey taken by students at Western Oregon.

“Among college students, financial hardship can translate into budget demands that compete with food dollars,” continues the study. These financial demands, however, vary greatly from student to student. While some might be enjoying a free ride to school or have extremely generous parents, others are squeezing in side jobs to keep up with outlandish tuition bills and attempting to attend the classes they’re working so hard to pay for.

When push comes to shove, sometimes eating a healthful meal is not an option on the table. During the first year of college, many students gain weight, infamously referred to as the “freshman fifteen”.

“When you live at home, there’s so much structure. Then, you leave for college and it’s a free-for-all. And on top of it all, money is a constant issue,” explains Fotini Haralabus, a recent graduate from Stockton College in New Jersey. Unhealthy eating, however, is a habit with further, more serious consequences.

Think about it. A body that is not well nourished will not function optimally, meaning food insecurity is affecting students’ abilities to perform inside and outside of the classroom.

From high anxiety and consistent tiredness, to skin breakouts and lowered immunity, an unhealthy body batters productivity. According to the study, food insecurity can have intoxicating effects on students’ cognitive, academic and psychosocial development, as these individuals are often still transitioning into adulthood. The findings even suggest food insecure students are less likely to get a GPA of 3.1 or higher.

Alternatively, a healthy body feels great. Good energy transpires through the day and students can go about their daily routines with the natural boost they need to successfully achieve goals with ease and a much needed pep in their step.

“Staying healthy in college is definitely a challenge. As students, we’re juggling so many new things in life,” says Victoria Hagel, a freshman at Bloomsburg University. “Between being away from home for the first time, classes, having a social life, budgeting money and trying to eat right, it can be exhausting. The key is finding a workable balance that you can maintain.”

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