College and gaining weight: Why it's perfectly normal

College is a time of change—in lifestyle and routine. Maybe this is why college and weight gain seem to go hand-in-hand. In fact, a 2017 study from the Journal of Nutrition Education & Behavior reported that during a typical four years in college, the percentage of students overweight or obese rose from 23 percent to 41 percent.

With statistics like these and phrases such as “the freshman fifteen” existing, it can prove difficult for college students to find the truth about gaining weight during their studies.

Her Campus sat down with Human Nutrition & Foods Associate Teaching Professor Megan Govindan to find out more information.

Megan pointed out the biggest changes in lifestyle, citing those as some of the main reasons students may see a change in their numbers.

“People aren’t having their families help them with buying food, preparing food, having availability to those foods," she said. "And you have to change how you are operating in the environment. So, the timing of when people are eating often changes. You’re used to being able to access your mom’s kitchen versus trying to be able to get to the dining halls.”

Along with changes in environment, students also change their habits based on their social outings and surroundings.

“You’re looking at concentrated calories if you’re drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, or alcohol, and things like that as well,” Govindan said. “As you’re coming from high school to college, you may have been involved in club sports and you don’t have that regular-structured physical activity. While you do have access to healthy foods, you don’t have anybody that’s helicoptering around you. If you want to eat the chicken tenders everyday, you also have the ability to do that as well.”

Govindan stated students may also experience changes such as these when they eat around their classes, “You’re waiting ‘till the end of the day and then you’re overeating or you’re eating too late and going to bed.”

If students find themselves gaining weight & decide they would like to change their behaviors, Govindan pointed out WVU’s many resources and provided tips of her own.

“Through WVU WOW and dining services, every student has access to the registered dietitian. That individual will be able to help you see where this weight is coming from. And, from what I’ve observed, a lot of it is the sugar-sweetened-beverages, treating yourself to coffee and whipped cream. Those all add up.”

Students should keep in mind that gaining weight in college occurs commonly and that they should be mindful of what he or she consumes in order to be healthy if they so choose. Resources are available to those in need of help.