Students find ways around gaining weight their first semester



Simon Husted

Weight gain is typical among college freshmen, but some students have learned the Freshman 15 isn’t as scary as they first thought.

Not only did Shannon Hauska avoid the Freshman 15 when she came to Kent State last year, she burned off 10 pounds by the end of April.

Hauska said she lost weight mostly because she visited the Student Recreation and Wellness Center five or six times a week—biking, lifting weights and training her abdominal muscles for “almost an hour to the T.”

“Once I started going, it was addicting,” the junior communications studies major said.

This hasn’t been the case for many of Hauska’s friends, who caved into temptations of a comfort food diet and packed on the pounds to show during their first year of college.

“We definitely see changes when students enter college,” said Natalie Caine-Bish, a licensed dietician and a professor who teaches nutrition classes at Kent State.

“If you read the research, it’s not 15 pounds,” Caine-Bish said. “(The average) is more like six.”

Caine-Bish added that not enough research has been done on college students to indicate whether the Freshmen 15 has grown, died down or remained the same over the past several years.

One thing is for sure: weight gain trends are still alive and well in college, but students like Hauska and James Hojnowski said they have an easier time managing their fitness living at Kent than at home.

Hojnowski burned 25 pounds during his freshman year at Kent State by swimming and lifting weights “almost every day” at the rec center, which is the first gym he ever used.

“There was always the high school gym, but machines were limited because sport teams used them after school,” Hojnowski said.

Last September, students swiped into the rec center 50,716 times, according to attendance records. That’s more swipes than any month that year and 135 more swipes than in January, the month for new year’s resolutions.

Statistics show that the same trend holds true for aerobic and other types of exercise classes offered at the rec center.

“During the beginning of the semester, especially with Group X classes, you’re going to see a much higher influx (of students) than towards the end of the semester,” said Jason Hawk, marketing director at Recreational Services.

Starting Aug. 29, Recreational Services will offer free classes and program lessons for patrons throughout the week—as part of their “demo week.” Tae Kwon Do and Jujitsu classes are new to this year’s schedule and Hawk said he’s excited about patrons trying out the new labyrinth exercise machine, PurMotion, in the fall semester.

“We’re offering free orientations on how to use that piece of equipment because when you look at it, it’s kind of overwhelming the amount of things you can do,” Hawk said.

Hojnowski said it’s easier to manage his weight and fitness on campus because his needs and diet are the priority. When he lived at home, Hojnowski said his diet didn’t include much fresh food because both his parents worked.

“It definitely changed for the better,” Hojnowski said.

Starting this fall, students will have more power in deciding what they consume.

Richard Roldan, director of Dining Services, said his department hopes to post the nutritional facts of “almost every” food item served at all on-campus venues like Prentice Café, Eastway Café and Rosies’ Diner by fall semester.

“It’s going to highlight the big five,” Roldan said. “The calories, fat, carbs, sodium and protein.”

“It’s great that it’s there, but it doesn’t help students who don’t know anything about nutrition,” Caine-Bish said.

Aside from LER courses like Science of Nutrition, Caine-Bish suggests students should participate in the Nutritional Outreach Program where they share their daily consumption with a licensed dietician to map out a healthier diet for free.

Starting this fall, the School of Health Sciences will provide nutrition counseling at the Deweese Health Center every Wednesday.

This way, doctors can refer patients to an appointment with a dietician if they see a nutritional problem, Caine-Bish said.

Recreational Services also offers its own diet analysis program—a one-day evaluation for $7 and a three-day evaluation for $20.

But Hauska said the best way to avoid weight gain like she did is to “keep looking in the mirror.”

“That’s probably my honest answer,” Hauska jokingly quipped. “If you think you’re gaining weight then you should hit the gym once in a while.”

Over the summer, Hauska said she’s picked up her own “Summer 15,” and plans to burn it off when she comes back to school in the fall.

Contact Summer Kent Stater reporter Simon Husted at [email protected].