20070409

Freshman Fifteen Theory

I've long had my own theory as to why teens add that chunk of weight right out of high school. It kind of goes along with a few other reasons that the experts have come up with but it is slightly different and may stand on it's own for some individuals. To me, it was common sense after I had the realization as to what each person has in common. First let's look at some of the reasons that people already attribute to it. Each reason listed below is valid and could be responsible. The likelihood increases with the more reasons you have. I'd say that depending on whether you live at home or move off to the big city, your propensity for the freshman fifteen changes. Let's examine a few...

  • Increased homework and studying leads to increased snacking
  • Decreased levels of sleep which deprive the body of leptin. Leptin is what tells your body you are full when eating.
  • Cafeteria style foods in the dorm serving unhealthy food.
  • Teens fending for themselves for the first time in their life having trouble setting good habits.
  • Increased popularity in fast food
  • Larger socials circles leading to more partying and social events with food
I think that each one of those is very valid and in most cases leads to weight gain for teens going off to college. For some people, the partying alone will lead to large amounts of alcohol consumption and the startings of the "beer belly". Fast food franchises are currently opening at an alarming rate and make it more (in)convenient for people all the time to "grab a bite". If you stop and think about it, nobody ever grabs a "bite". This is typically when people eat worse than they usually do. It's more along the lines of "grab a bunch of stuff that I normally wouldn't eat if I were home in larger portions than I really need" instead.

Now for my theory. Think back to when you were in school. Doesn't matter when. Elementary, junior high school or high school. When did you eat? It was between the same 2-3 hours every day for almost the entire year. Let's assume you start school at age five. By the time you leave high school, you have spent the better part of your life (75%) eating at roughly the same time every day. On top of that, you are eating the same portion sizes too. You get home from school and typically have dinner around the same time. Your body has come to depend on getting certain sizes at certain times and makes adjustments accordingly. It burns stuff off because it knows you're gonna give it more in just a few more hours. I feel bad for today's kids because with mom and dad both working sometimes two jobs, there is less chance of the family sitting down together at one time for dinner. "Just make yourself something to eat" is not the best thing for a teen to hear.

Now, you're in college. You might be living at home still, but now you're doing something completely different to your body. Your classes might start later so you are eating breakfast at a different time. You might be sleeping in (through class) so you grab something on the way. What about those classes that are sandwiched together in the middle of the afternoon? Your lunch ends up getting pushed back a little bit or perhaps you are snacking in class. Gotta spend some time in the library? Take something with you. In the end, your body has no idea when it will be eating again, so it starts to store things instead of burning them.

This is evident in people who go straight to work out of high school too. Maybe you're working a closing shift at the plant. When are you eating? It's not the same time as your body is used to. Where do a lot of kids get jobs right out of high school? Restaurants. I don't even need to get into how that affects things. I think that the "routine" is probably the biggest reason that people put on weight. It doesn't stop after the first year of college either. If you have taught your body how to burn and store things, it will react adversely if you throw it out of whack. Ask me later about how much I hate the "desk" job that I have had for the l8 month. Ask me about what I would do when I was bored. Here's a small hint, it rhymes with "eating".

So now, I'm running almost daily. I'm also snacking all throughout the day. The difference here is that I am eating very small things that are healthier for me. I also do it every 3 hours or so. It feels like my body is catching on to what I am doing. I am trying to get my body into a routine that it can memorize for me.

1 comment:

DT Money said...

I'm willing to bet that a lot of the kids that do put on weight after high school didn't have a good sense of what "eating well" was. Parents and caregivers are responsible for establishing healthy eating habits. This gives teens a benchmark or a waypoint to follow when they are finally out on their own. Good article!