College Weight Gain is Real…and Preventable!


This month, several Seniors, who are clients in my clinical practice, are graduating from high school. Each has brought careful attention to the work required to attain and maintain a healthy body weight. Great success has been the result.

Being invited into the world of a determined teenager who is doing the work of weight and health management is a privilege. Along with the rewards, I also experience concern and hope that each graduate has in place lifestyle skills strong enough to withstand the challenges of the college environment.

We have worked together to establish resilience in the face of all that comes with living a high school life in a country where food is abundant and little exercise is required. While I will remain “Coach” for these kids for some time to come, the college lifestyle can come as quite a shock to even the best weight manager.  Late night takeout, the lure of alcohol, and an extremely high availability of food will leave many first year college students at risk for gaining unwanted weight.

Amidst conflicting opinions, several studies strongly suggest unsettling facts:

Prospects are high that college will present opportunities yes, to make new friends, have life changing experiences and gain weight. Students are especially at risk in the first year, and that risk does not disappear over ensuing years.

The following study results are eye-opening:

  • Since freshman year, the average weight gain for all students was 9.6 lbs.   
    -- J Nutr 2017: Feb49(2):137-141.e1
  • In two separate studies, 70% (+4.5 lbs) and 77% (+7.7 lbs) of students gained weight during their freshman year
    -- Prev Med. 2009 March ; 48(3): 256–261.

    Conclusion: the first years of college may be a critical developmental window for establishing weight gain prevention efforts

The good news is that there are many ways teens can prepare for a healthier, college weight managing experience.  Each requires specific attention and practice. Every day, a little attention to the following may save pounds. Doing One Thing…consistently is the perfect place to start.


Weight is a function of calories taken in and calories burned.  Addressing the first half of this equation, calories in, all foods have a “price tag”. Some are bargains, others very expensive.   It may come as a surprise to hear that a “regular” size muffin (6 oz.) “costs” 750 calories, an 8 oz muffin costs as much as 1000 calories!  2 cups of strawberries, on the other hand, reflect an  “inexpensive” choice at 120 calories total.

Knowing the calorie “price tag” on foods gives way to the opportunity for substitutions, there by conserving calories. “Banking" calories allow for “spending” calories when there aren’t alternatives, or if a calorie dense food is worth the “cost”.


Through out the summer, I will write about different components key to minimizing unwanted weight gain.

Keeping in mind that here are so many adjustments to that first year of college, arriving prepared to manage weight leaves a student only more likely to succeed across the board.



On June 19th I am hosting an informal, relaxed coaching session, "Avoiding the Freshmen 15" in Dover, MA that will make a difference. All are welcome.