Overcoming the ‘Freshman 15’: Freshmen share their stories on shedding first-year weight gain

Students work up a sweat in the upstairs cardio room of the Recreation Center (MTSU Sidelines/ Emily Austin)

Photo by Emily Austin / Sidelines Archive 

Story by Breshaun Oglesby / Contributing Writer and Tayhlor Stephenson / Assistant Lifestyles Editor

Throughout the 2016 fall semester, 19-year-old marketing major Raymond Alexcee gained over 35 pounds.

“I ate a lot and drank a lot of protein shakes, but I didn’t work out nearly enough to turn any of that into muscle,” Alexcee said.  “I was eating really bad foods, too — burgers, chicken sandwiches, cookies and cake.”

Nearly 50 percent of college freshmen gain weight during their first year. Due to late-night studying and early morning classes, many freshmen are forced to skip meals or eat later than they would generally prefer, leaving little time to prepare decent meals.

However, there are many strides an individual can take to guide themselves back to the right track.

“Having ample fruits and vegetables on hand is the first step,” said Middle Tennessee State University nutrition professor Janet Colson. “We all have to eat to stay alive, and having the right foods handy makes it easy to avoid going to McDonald’s or grabbing a donut.”

But eating healthy is only the beginning to the ongoing journey known as weight loss.

“Eating healthy and choosing foods with high nutritional value is important, but so is getting ample physical activity,” Colson said. “You really can’t have one without the other.”

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends two-and-a-half hours of moderate activity or one-and-a-half hours of strenuous activity per week in order to help reduce health risks.

Kati Pittman, an MTSU nutrition mentor at the university’s Campus Recreation Department, advises freshmen on healthy eating habits and assigns personal trainers for fitness workouts.

“The best kind of exercise is exercise that an individual will do,” Pittman explained. “If you hate to run, then don’t run. Find something that you like to do. Once you do that, you can start to mix it up.”

Soon after gaining excess weight, Alexcee changed his diet and began working on his cardio, primarily through walking and jogging every day. As a result, he lost nearly all the weight he gained the previous semester.

“I started to eat bad again and didn’t work out,” he said. “But after that, I told myself during spring break that I was going to change my nutrition and start to get in the gym a lot more.”

Since Alexcee has committed to a healthier lifestyle, he has lost twenty more pounds.

“Now, I’m eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and making my own salads,” Alexcee said. I had to say to myself, ‘Do you want to keep looking bad and out of shape or do you want to look healthy and get in the best shape of your life while you’re in college?’ So I started looking up healthy nutrition online — what’s low in carbs — and changed my entire diet.”

Elva Magana, a 19-year-old business management major, gained over 20 pounds throughout her freshman year.

In order to save money for college through work, Magana took a semester away from classes. She was left with no time for exercise.

Since February, not only has Magana lost the weight that she gained, but she now works out five times a week. She primarily focuses on cardio, which helps her from both a physical and mental aspect.

“I try to get six to eight miles (in) whenever I work out,” she says. “Running and exercising helps (me) to problem-solve and think. It gives me time to myself and helps to lose stress.”

For Alexcee, Magana and any others who may be interested, Colson recommends signing up for MTSU’s Principles of Nutrition (NFS 1240) to further understand the concept of nutrition. The course “provides students with an entire semester of sound advice about how to eat.”

Pittman says losing weight in a healthy way all starts by making small changes to your everyday routine.

“If you have time to skip the bus, walking to class and taking the stairs over the bus is great exercise,” Pittman said. “Also, you can do leg lifts or lift small weights while you’re watching television. It doesn’t have to be anything major.”

To contact Lifestyles Editor Wesley McIntyre, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.

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