Back (to College) in Black: Tips for Avoiding the “Freshman 15” During College

Some senior student gives food advice to incoming freshman

Well, summer has come and gone.  It went by really fast, partially due to the fact that I took a nutrition class over the summer because I thought it would be interesting.  I was right.  But now I am entering my senior year part-one.  As opposed to several of the new students on campus, who are still lost as to what they want to do, or where to go, or any other questions that lead to an existential depression.

Any incoming freshman approaching me with these questions are going to have me give them a roundabout answer, while I think in my head “Fuck, I don’t even know that.”  But what I do know is food.  And, as such, I can help people out with that.

For those out there who don’t know what the freshman fifteen is, or are too damn old to recall, essentially it’s the term given to the weight gained during the first year away from your parents, typically during the first year of college, due to a change in lifestyle factors.  So, here are some of my pieces of advice to at least try and help avoid some of this weight gain.

  1. Watch the desserts: One thing apparent when I lived in the dorms was the overall abundance of fatty and sugary snack foods on campus.  A lot of it was deep fried, and covered in sugar.  While you might have had these foods once in a while living at home, now that you’re in control of your meals, the temptation is there to eat nothing but donuts and cookies during the year.  Try to not eat so many of these, as they provide A LOT of excess Calories, which can lead to weight gain.
  2. Be mindful of beverages: My caffeine fix is black coffee.  If I had a dollar for every scrunched face I’ve seen when I mention that, I could afford a nice coffee maker, with one of those fancy coffee grinders.  However, things like sweetened coffees and teas, as well as sodas, energy drinks, etc. are loaded with Calories.  One serving can be in the 100-200 Calorie mark from what I’ve seen, but the bottle might have two or three servings.  These empty Calories from drinks can really add up, if you are not paying attention.
  3. Remember to eat your fruits and vegetables: My experience with the dorm food was way more pizza, burgers, and fries than I care to admit.  Or even remember.  I ate quite a bit of energy-dense foods, but less nutrient-dense foods.  It wasn’t until I started to feel like shit that I made the change to a slightly more healthful diet.  Sure, I still ate pizzas and burgers, but instead of cakes and cookies, on occasion, I would get a banana or an apple for dessert.  Maybe even get a salad and soup for dinner rather than the pizza and burgers.  While this might not save a whole lot of Calories long term, there’s still higher quality nutrients coming in.
  4. Be sure to exercise: Depending on how you look at it, my dorm was pretty far from the buildings my classes were held in, which is either a good or bad thing.  Good because I was getting out and exercising, rather than sitting and “studying” (aka studying YouTube or Facebook), but bad because that meant more walking.  However, walking is only one part of being well.  I did not do many stretching exercises, or strength training.  Had I exercised more, I would probably have been more toned than I am today, as my muscles, and cardiovascular system would have been made more efficient then, aiding me now.
  5. Be sure to stay positive about it all: Now, my advice given here probably won’t prevent ALL potential weight gain; there’s still a plethora of garbage food served in the dorms, whether it is labelled as healthy or not.  Now, here is a question I pose; is it better to try to avoid gaining weight or eating healthy but being miserable, or to gain some weight but have some fun doing it?  I would probably argue if you are getting out, and socializing with friends, and getting enough micronutrients to not suffer from severe deficiencies, then it’s fine to gain some weight.  Dorm food is trash, and it is extremely difficult to avoid the temptations.  And this is coming from someone who LIKES his produce.  Plus, with college you have better things to worry about than getting some extra belly.  Like grades.  And possibly work.  So I would argue here that focusing on LIVING is more important than on maintaining or gaining weight, so long as an adverse health effect is not going to happen.

So there are some of my tips.  I decided to write this post as a way to help alleviate the stress of some of the incoming freshman in college, because that shit is stressful, yo.  Keep in mind, I am not a doctor, and I still don’t play one on TV (the casting crews keep refusing my proposal to play a doctor on the show “Sesame Street.”  They are probably worried that I will “educate” the children on too many new words), so my advice is some psychotic senior student putting in his two cents, before realizing those pennies were better spent on my college debt.

So, what are some tips you have for incoming college freshman who are worried about their weight?  Any college freshman feeling less stressed to avoid the freshman fifteen?

Liar: How Pseudoscience Cause Problems

How can some misinformation cause problems?

You cannot go too far on the internet without finding some sort of ad or article on something that promises some sort of benefit by doing or eating some sort of thing.  You might see them on a website as an ad, particularly the ones promising extreme weight loss during a short period of time, or your crazy aunt or grandma or whoever posts an article from some website saying that GMO crops cause children to spontaneously combust or some other shit like that.

While some of these can be amusing to see, there is actually a downside.  People actually are believing everything someone posts without verifying facts.  It’s easier to read an article on popular news sites about “Bullshitexoticplant Cures Cancer!!” or diets that are “doctor approved” and promise fast weight loss, or even things like vaccines causing autism.

The problem with this is that harm CAN come from this.  Buying an ineffective supplement is one thing; the only loss is money.  However, harm CAN come from buying supplements that do not have accurate labels.  I already wrote about supplements here, so I won’t give more details.  With regards to diets, most fad diets that promise weight loss can actually cause harm.  Some cause water loss, which can dehydrate the person eating them.  Others can cause damage to the kidneys if done long-term.  Recently, the gluten-free diet has taken off, but it really only benefits those with Celiac disease, and can actually cause nutrient deficiencies in those without Celiac disease due to not eating nutritious foods, as many foods containing gluten also contain a lot of vitamins and minerals.  And my final point with the anti vaccination movement, there is virtually NO evidence showing vaccines cause autism.  Vaccines, for the most part, are safe, and are only dangerous in people with weak immune systems, or contaminations.  The main article that found vaccinations causing autism has been since retracted, as there were large amounts of data manipulation.  As for why autism is diagnosed around the time children receive their vaccinations?  That’s correlation, not causation.  When they get vaccinated is about the time children start to have diagnosable symptoms.  Vaccines are a good way to keep everyone healthy, as they boost herd immunity, which is basically how sick or well everyone in a community is.

Now, as a reminder, this is not medical advice.  I spent the whole post talking about not listening to everything you read online, and this blog is no exception.  In no way should my opinions on things be taken as medical advice.  Ask a real doctor, not some dipshit nutrition student in college.

So what are your takes on this topic?  Any interesting ads promising outrageous things you have seen lately?

Lunchbox: Advice for Packing Lunches

What are some tips for making lunchtime healthier while on the go?

For many students, school has started, or is about to.  For others, it’s the same old day-in-day-out Monday to Friday grind.  Whether you are a student, a parent of a student, or someone who works, you can benefit from eating a healthy meal.  Hopefully, it can save you some money, because you would be buying more servings of food for less money, instead of buying the shit they sell at fast food joints.

Beverage:  What should you drink with your lunch?  Things like soda and juices are loaded with sugar, which can cause a sugar crash later on.  I would recommend drinking water, black coffee, or tea.  Water, by nature, is hydrating.  Coffee is less so, but the caffeine can also perk you up for the rest of the day.  So long as you do not add sugar, milk, or creamer to your coffee or tea (or I suppose, your water, but adding those to water sounds fucking nasty if you ask me) you can save Calories on your meal.  A 12-ounce can of soda is about 150 Calories.  Water is zero.

Main course:  For me, I typically go with a sandwich for lunch.  It’s highly versatile, as the interior and bread can be changed around.  Usually, I eat sandwiches with cheddar, lunch meat, and whole-wheat bread, with mayonnaise and mustard.  I would substitute the lunch meat with deli meat or things not loaded with nitrites, but I am a fucking broke college student.  That shit costs too much.  The mayonnaise and cheese can be taken away to lower the amount of Calories from fat, if that is what is desired.  The bread itself can also be substituted with lettuce leaves to reduce the glycemic load.  My goal, however, with the main course is to NOT be too messy, so as to not get food remnants all over my clothes.

Sides:  Instead of eating chips or other snack foods, why not eat something like chopped carrots, broccoli, an apple, or other produce?  A serving of produce is going to be much more nutrient dense than chips or candy.  Plus, it is much more filling for way less Calories.

To recap, what are the benefits of packing meals the way I have described?  Making simple switches from soda to water, as well as something like chips or candy to fruits and/or vegetables has already decreased the meal’s Calories while increasing the amount of nutrients present.  I suggested one main course that is highly variable and can be toyed around with to find what works for you.

Do any of you readers have tips for people on packing their own lunch?  Any advice I missed and did not put up in this post?

Sweating Bullets: What is Orthorexia Nervosa?

What is orthorexia, and why do I care about it?

Eating disorders are a serious topic.  Some people think that things such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia can be cured with a simple “why not eat?  Why not eat and keep it down?” when in reality it’s not that simple.  Mental disorders are a complicated issue, and sometimes disorders are known by people not in the associated field.  For example, orthorexia nervosa.

Orthorexia, as defined by National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is a mental illness not found in the DSM-5, also known as the big ass psychology book of mental stuff. meaning it is not clinically diagnosed.  However, many people have to cope with the symptoms there of.  Some of the symptoms include stressing when deviating from a diet plan (which includes guilt or self-loathing), and spend excessive amounts of time worrying about and preparing food.  As such, orthorexia sufferers might become socially isolated, as they are preoccupied about preparing “healthy” meals and foods, and not spending time with friends and family.

Dr. Steven Bratman, sufferer of, and coiner of the term orthorexia, detailed “I pursued wellness through healthy eating for years, but gradually I began to sense that something was going wrong… My ability to carry on normal conversations was hindered by intrusive thoughts of food. The need to obtain meals free of meat, fat, and artificial chemicals had put nearly all social forms of eating beyond my reach. I was lonely and obsessed…I found it terribly difficult to free myself. I had been seduced by righteous eating. The problem of my life’s meaning had been transferred inexorably to food, and I could not reclaim it,” on the website orthorexia.com.

Treatment for orthorexia nervosa includes identifying the problem, as well as what is causing the obsession.  Then, sufferers need to understand that it is okay to deviate from a “healthy” diet and become flexible with their diet.

So what does this all mean?  Well, for starters, it’s okay to eat unhealthy every so often.  I mean, I write about how shitty one food is for health.  I can list out the dietary consequences of drinking soda, or alcohol or energy dense foods, and yet I still drink soda, liquor, and eat things like cake, pie, and whatnot.

So why am I talking about this?  I feel this is one of those disorders not talked about (possibly because it’s not in the DSM-5).  I grew up loving food.  Everything from fruits and vegetables, to baked goods and, more recently due to my eligibility to do so, beer and liquor.  So I think it sucks that there are so many eating disorders, and I feel any kind of mental disorder gets swept under the rug.  As someone who one day hopes to be a professional in the field, I want to try and break this stigma.

Do any of my readers have any thoughts, concerns, issues etc. with regards to this topic?  If so, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

For more information see NEDA’s coverage of the issue or the orthorexia webpage.

Sugar by Sipping of a Down:  Information on High Fructose Corn Syrup

What is this HFCS stuff, and how is it impacting health?

High Fructose Corn Syrup, or HFCS, is a syrup made from corn.  It also has a lot of fructose in it.  Now that we have broken down what the name means, what are some other facts about it?

Well, it is a sweetener that is slightly sweeter than table sugar (or sucrose, for science people).  The food manufacturing industry uses different concentrations of fructose for different products, most commonly 42% in foods, and 55% in drinks.  Most commonly HFCS is found in sodas, since acidic drinks change the flavor of sucrose.  HFCS is also relatively price stable in the US, due to corn subsidies.

With regards to health though, there is some conflicting evidence.  Some evidence shows that HFCS from things like sodas inhibit hormones in the body, leading to more eating, and thus more weight gain.  Others cite the fact that fructose is metabolized differently in the liver, leading to more fat tissue development.  Glucose is also readily used by the body for metabolic processes, whereas fructose cannot be used right away for energy.

However, other evidence shows that HFCS is not the culprit, as the concentrations of fructose from HFCS is not that different than sucrose (sucrose is 50% fructose).  There is no calorie difference between sucrose and fructose; each are only 4 Calories per gram.  The main problem sited by proponents of HFCS is the overconsumption of ALL sugars leading to weight gain, not just HFCS.  HFCS needs technology to make.  You cannot mash the fuck out of some corn and get HFCS.  In countries where there is low HFCS consumption, due to environmental or governmental or whatnot factors, there are still high obesity rates.  For example, Japan and South Korea has a moderately high HFCS consumption, but lower obesity rates.  Argentina and Mexico has high obesity rates, and low HFCS consumption.

So, with regards to obesity, who is to blame?  Is it consumers for eating too much, or is it companies for providing too much bad stuff?  I chose not to take a side on this, until more definitive answers come out.  In the meantime, though, you probably should drink less soda, and eat less sugar.  Eat fruits and vegetables if you can.

So, what do you guys think about HFCS?  How much soda or sugary drinks do you consume, and why?