Women fret more over weight gain in college - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Women fret more over weight gain in college

Updated: June 20, 2013 10:02 AM
© iStockphoto.com / Sean Locke © iStockphoto.com / Sean Locke
  • What's Going AroundMore>>

  • What's Going Around - April 16th

    What's Going Around - April 16th

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 11:16 AM EDT2014-04-16 15:16:33 GMT
    Sinus infections are going around this week. Nurse Practitioner Christy Johnson from Bay Medical-Sacred Heart Family Medicine says, "A sinus infection is inflammation or swelling of your sinuses. WhenMore >>
    A sinus infection can make a person feel miserable. More >>
  • Jessica Foster

    Jessica Foster

    Jessica Foster is originally from Atlanta, Georgia and has worked at WMBB since 2004. She is excited to bring the news to you each weekday on News13 This Morning. Jessica produces 3 medical segments weekly- What's Going Around, Modern Medicine and Mayo Clinic reports.More >>
By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- It's true that college students tend to pack on extra pounds, but women are more likely to be troubled by that weight gain than men, according to a new study.

"As women gained weight, their eating attitudes worsened and body dissatisfaction rose," said Laura Girz, a University of Toronto graduate student and lead author of the study, published online recently in the journal Appetite.

The "freshman 15" may be a misnomer, though. The study of nearly 500 students found undergrads add less than 10 pounds on average.

The researchers followed the incoming freshmen -- whose average age was about 18 -- from just before they entered college through the next four years. Besides charting weight, they assessed attitudes about eating, depression and body satisfaction, and charted how those attitudes changed as the scale shifted.

Gender differences were considerable, the researchers found.

Most students -- 303 -- gained some weight. Another 100 remained weight stable and 75 lost weight.

On average, the men gained about 9 pounds and the women about 7 over the entire study period.

Guys who porked up had the same attitudes about eating and well-being as the men who remained weight stable, Girz said. However, men who lost weight reported negative eating attitudes both at the study start and at the end.

The bottom line: Weight gain is linked with more preoccupation with weight and negative eating attitudes for women, but not men, while weight loss improves the negative eating attitudes only of women. Men who started out heavy and had negative attitudes about eating, Girz found, did not have better attitudes even if they lost weight.

Weight changes didn't have much effect on depression, she added.

Girz speculated that men who were underweight to begin with might have welcomed the additional pounds.

"The first year is a really stressful time and that can have an effect on eating behavior," Girz said. However, as students settle in, the weight control may become easier.

Students have told her that widespread availability of food on campus, large portions and school stress can undermine attempts to eat sensibly, Girz said. Stress can make some people stop eating, she noted, and prompt others to overeat.

Another expert indicated the findings were to be expected.

The gender differences "are probably not too surprising when you think about it," said Heidi Wengreen, associate professor of nutrition, dietetics and nutritional sciences at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, who was not involved with the study.

Many college-age men may want to put on muscle mass, so the weight gain does not concern them, she noted.

Also, the transition to college is a major life change, Wengreen said. In her own research, she has found weight gain more likely for students who said they were exercising less because of school pressures and time constraints.

Girz tells students not to obsess about weight gain. "We know the more you obsess, it's usually counterproductive," she said. Instead, she advises college students to listen to their body and recognize signals of fullness and hunger. Instead of chronic dieting, she suggests eating a balanced diet.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises college students to eat breakfast, look for high-fiber foods, choose lean protein such as chicken and fish, and limit intake of alcohol and sugary drinks.

More information

To learn more about smart eating at college, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Health News Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.