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Fighting the Post-Grad 15?

There's plenty of information on the Web and elsewhere about fighting the Freshman 15, those pesky extra pounds that some first-year college students pack on as they adjust to dining-hall food and other exigencies of campus life.

But there's not much out there about what happens to folks' eating and exercise habits as they move from campus life to the real world. As I write in this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column, that transition can prove tricky, especially for student athletes whose sports careers are coming to a close. While many college students may learn to eat healthfully along the way, regulating their food intake and physical activity on their own or with the help of campus resources, college football players in particular are required by the demands of their sport to maintain a certain weight. They get accustomed to eating a lot to fuel themselves through practices and games. But when the games end, the eating sprees often continue, and the young people wind up overweight.

I was no athlete in college (far from it!), but I had my share of trouble adjusting my eating and exercise habits after college. My problem stemmed from my having consumed mostly pizza and beer for four years; when I graduated, I was surprised to find that's not considered a healthy diet. On top of that, I didn't find an easy replacement for walking all over campus, and it took me some time to learn to incorporate exercise into my life.

There's a brand new crop of grads coming to grips with life after college. My best advice to them, in terms of diet and nutrition, would be NOT to follow my lead by continuing the beer-and-pizza diet through grad school and beyond.

I'm throwing this out to you, readers: What nutrition advice would you offer a new college graduate? Let me know in the comments, but first, take the poll!

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  June 16, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity  
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Comments

I think activity is as much an issue as un-regulated pizza and happy hour drinks.

College life seems to contain a fair amount of walking around. If you park then you walk to and from classes in different buildings, walks to the cafeteria, time for pick-up games.

But work, particularly if communting in a car, offers much less activity and that can put on pounds.

So as much as watching your diet, building physical activity into your day is important -- particularly if you land a job where you commute by car.

Posted by: RedBird27 | June 16, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse

I worked a full-time job and a part-time job while going to college nights. My apartment was just a place to change clothes and at least three nights a week I didn't get home until after 10:00 pm, no time to eat between work and class. I lived in the city then and was close enough to walk to campus so I got in some good walking time. Weekends were only one meal a day between my part-time job, school work and maintaining a life. Certainly no beer (GAG!) or pizza for me. I had hipbones and cheekbones then. No problems with weight. However, as time goes by....

I suggest you do a column on post-menopausal weight -- once you hit mid-life everything settles in the middle, energy flags, the foods recommended for calcium are also high in fat. We're in a Catch-22 situation.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | June 16, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

This article is me 100%! I'm in my first year post-collegiate athlete. I did soooo well through the Fall & even into the Winter, but once Spring-time came around and I wasn't running track and spending all my time in the weight room and outside on the track with the team, I've started to run around with my friends to outdoor patios filled with fried food and beer.

It makes me so mad because I know better. Sadly, I work for a children's fitness program/website, GoTrybe.com, and I always said I would never let it happen ... but alas it has! It's caught up to me real fast. And before I knew it, I'm 15 lbs heavier than when I left school last year, and my 6 pack is more like a 2 pack... on a good day. haha!

I'm having a hard time learning to get back into the swing of things.

BUT one of my solutions: try to influence my friends (even those with the high metabolisms that don't have to work out) to meet me during my lunch hour at the gym instead of meeting them at Applebees. Hang out with me after work at the track or in the park where we can throw the football around and goof off, instead of at my buddy's lakehouse where beer is so accessible. It's hard and people don't always want to do it, but secretly I think they like me being a healthy influence on them!

Posted by: ricci1010 | June 16, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I was an athlete (Division III, so not like it really counted), but that's not what gave me problems -- I found that when I started training for the season, my appetite went up and I gained 5 lbs, and when the season was over, my appetite went down and I lost 5 lbs. Then again, I played softball, not a size-intensive sport like football.

My post-college experience was more like RedBird's. I didn't expect a problem, because I walked a mile to and from work every day, and had a gym in the building. Plus, with a real life and real kitchen and real responsibilities (i.e., paying off student loans, paying mortgage, starting an IRA), and no good cheap Tex-Mex around to tempt me, I stopped eating out all the time. And yet, in my first year in my "real" job, I gained 5-10 lbs. I guess I underestimated how much I had been out and about before vs. sitting at my desk.

Posted by: laura33 | June 16, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I ate well during college and continued after I began work, but agree with all of those who point out how much exercise they got during college just walking around, having easy access to gyms and pick-up games with friends. I struggled to find the time to make up for that lost exercise and had to compromise-- eat even LESS than I was eating (which wasn't much to start with) and exercise whenever possible. That's when I began to exercise while watching TV!

Posted by: Laurelann | June 16, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I have been very active all my life playing 3 sports while in high school. After graduating from high school I went on to play college football at the Division I level. I became a high school teacher and coach of football and track after graduating from college. I ended up coaching high school and college football for 25 years. I have done my best to eat properly all of my life and have never stopped exercising and trying to stay fit. I believe I have have been eating Healthy for as long as I can remember except for my love of Chocolate. I am now approaching 70. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't work out on a regular schedule. Staying Fit is great fun. I don't plan on letting up.

Posted by: terry121 | June 16, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

It's been 2 years since I graduated college, and I still struggle fitting exercise in. I've gotten a lot better in terms of balance and thankfully DC is very pedestrian friendly.

I went from working as a waitress every night, on my feet for 6 hours or so at a clip to doing nothing but sitting for 8 hours every day. It can be a real challenge.

Posted by: lobsterplacemat | June 16, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

My simplest advice to new grads is to avoid highly processed foods and eat natural, whole foods as much as possible. That should keep you out of a lot of trouble.

-Steve Parker, M.D.
-http://advancedmediterraneandiet.com/blog/

Posted by: SteveParkerMD | June 16, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I was a Dance major in college; and yes, it was a struggle to move from the academic world where I would take dance classes 5 hours a day to sitting at a desk.

As a young graduate, the problem was never that I did not know HOW to eat in a healthy manner. Rather, the depressed wages facing the current generation of graduates cut out many fresh vegetables and reintroduced ramen as a food group.

The other piece that I did not expect moving into the post-college world was the physical toll of sitting at a desk all day. I was never injured in all my years as a dancer, but now find myself in physical therapy for an injury caused by the sedentary lifestyle of office culture, even after hitting the gym most mornings.

Posted by: mobull | June 18, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

In college I went on a few strange, short term diets, worked out but drank every weekend, and ate lots of cheap high-sodium noodle dishes. Once I had income, I joined a gym and cooked meals with roommates, and at the end of a horrible commute, nothing de-stresses like a good workout. I was probably in the best shape of my life! (Though I'm pretty much the same size now, so I think it has a lot to do with establishing life habits.) I remember seeing a lot of the girls in my college dorm with borderline anorexia, and they 'dieted' in groups. I think that for especially women, it is a lifelong struggle with body image and acceptance, and many of them gained weight once they were away from the influence of others. Kind of the opposite of the 'beer and pizza' problem, but similar in that they still needed to figure out healthy life habits.
Lastly, we all know that good eating habits and exercise are more often than not one of the lower priorities in a workplace. The bottom-rung entry-level college grad often feels they need to put in long hours and skip lunch breaks to make a good impression. It takes a while to learn some balance (and boundaries).

Posted by: fat_kitty | June 18, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

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