Weight gain in college can be avoided

Q and A

August 12, 2005|By Gailor Large | By Gailor Large,Special to the Sun

Our daughter is heading off to college this fall. She's mentioned that she's worried about the "Freshman 15." Is there any advice I should be giving her? I don't want to make a big issue of it, but I do want to help.

The "Freshman 15" refers to the notion that many people gain 15 pounds their first year away at college. The stress of a new academic and social environment, coupled with the realization that no one is going to stop you from ordering pizza at midnight, can lead to overeating.

The fact that your daughter is aware of this possibility means that it's less likely the weight will creep up without her noticing. But it's also possible that in an effort to keep weight off, she could fall into unhealthy eating habits or develop an eating disorder.

If she hasn't had any eating problems in the past, odds are she'll be fine. But watch for red flags, such as skipped meals. Here are a few things you can do to keep her on the right track:

Send regular packages filled with healthy snacks.

Help her track down a list of intramural sports, club sports and cool exercise classes on campus.

Encourage her to walk or bike to class instead of driving or riding the campus shuttle.

Offer to help her find a registered dietitian on campus for some professional advice.

I moved to Baltimore last fall and still haven't joined a gym. There are at least four near me, and I've heard good and bad things about each of them. How do I choose?

Get a free weeklong guest pass or trial membership at each. If you're still having trouble deciding, create a chart comparing the pros and cons of each. Here is a list of factors to consider:

Location (between home and work is ideal)

Cost (ask about specials and corporate discounts)

Staff / clientele

Equipment (quality and availability)

Group classes

Locker room and shower facilities

Parking.

Orthopedic surgeon Wayne Leadbetter contacted us with a few more points about one of last week's topics, the use of hand or ankle weights when working out.

Leadbetter says that older exercisers need to be particularly careful with weights because they are generally more vulnerable to injury. If you've suffered from joint problems -- shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee or ankle -- it's safest to avoid extremity weights, he adds.

Ankle weights in particular can put undue stress on the body. "While hand weights are fairly adaptable, running with ankle weights is basically not a good idea," Leadbetter says. Overall, professional guidance and moderation are key.

Do you have a fitness question? You can submit questions via e-mail to fitness@baltsun .com, or online at baltimoresun.com / healthscience, or in writing to The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278.

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