It's true that college students tend to get fat, but women are more likely to worry about weight gain in college than men, according to a new study.
"As women gained weight, their attitudes towards eating worsened and their body dissatisfaction increased," she said. Laura Girz, graduate student at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study , which appears in a recent online edition of the journal Appetite.
But perhaps the belief that first-year college students gain 15 pounds (almost seven kilograms) could be misleading. The study of almost 500 university students found that they increase less than 10 pounds (4.5 kilos) on average.
Researchers followed newly enrolled first-year students (with an average age of about 18 years) from just before they entered college and for the next four years.
In addition to recording the weight, they evaluated attitudes about food, depression, and body satisfaction, and plotted the change in those attitudes as the scale changed. The researchers found that the sexual differences were considerable.
The majority of students (303) gained some weight. The weight of another hundred remained stable, and 75 lost weight.
On average, men increased about nine pounds (four kilograms) and women about seven pounds (three kilograms) over the entire study period.
The men who got fat had the same attitudes about food and well-being as those whose weight remained stable, Girz said; however, men who lost weight reported negative attitudes about food both at the beginning and at the end of the study.
In conclusion: fattening is linked with more concern with weight and negative attitudes about food among women, but not among men, while losing weight improves negative attitudes about food only in women.
Men who were fat at first and had negative attitudes about food did not have better attitudes even if they lost weight, Girz found.
He added that the changes on the scale did not have much effect on depression. He speculated that the men who initially were underweight may have been happy about the additional one.
"The first year is a really stressful period that can have a negative effect on eating behavior," Girz warned.
However, as students get used to it, controlling weight may be easier.
Students have told her that the wide availability of food on campus, large portions and school stress can undermine efforts to eat smartly, Girz said.
Stress can cause some people to stop eating, scored, and push others to overeat.
Sexual differences "are probably not too surprising when you think about it," he said. Heidi Wengreen, associate professor of nutrition, dietetics and nutrition sciences at Utah State University in Logan, Utah , who did not participate in the study.
Many men of college age want to increase muscle mass, so gaining weight does not bother them, he noted.
In addition, the transition to college is an important change in life, said Wengreen. In his own research, he found that weight gain was more likely among students who said they exercised less because of school pressures and time constraints.
Girz advises students not to become obsessed with weight gain. "We know that obsessing is counterproductive," he said. Advises college students to listen to their body and recognize the signs of satisfaction and hunger. Instead of chronic regimens, suggests eating a balanced diet.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) advises college students to eat breakfast, look for high-fiber foods, choose lean proteins such as chicken and fish, and limit their intake of alcohol and sugary drinks.