Every student might fear the Freshman 15, but there is more at stake to eating healthfully in college than just mythical weight gain.
"For many people, college is their first taste of 'freedom,' so to speak. You can choose to exercise never, eat Twinkies at every meal, binge drink or smoke," said Daphne Oz, 20, a Princeton University junior and the author of The Dorm Room Diet: The 8-Step Program for Creating a Healthy Lifestyle Plan that Really Works.
That doesn't mean students don't need some guidelines. Between late-night study sessions that turn into late-night snacks, emotional eating because of homesickness or stress, busted budgets and the campus cafeteria buffet, students are vulnerable to unhealthful eating behaviors.
The book focuses on what and how to eat and on understanding the importance of forming good eating habits to last for the rest of your life.
"The title (of the book) is a misnomer," she said in a recent phone interview. "Nowhere in this book do I give them a diet as we know it. There are no recommendations for things to cut back on. It's a total-wellness guide."
The book discusses topics including calorie content and easy-to-understand explanations of how the body fuels itself. There's also information on how to calculate body mass index, identify your family eating profile and how to store good-tasting and good-for-you food in a dorm room.
"I try to discuss it all," Miss Oz said. "From what is calorie content of a cheeseburger and what is the value of a carrot stick. It lays out this information on food and allows you to make all the choices, (it) allows you to use your adulthood to come up with things that will last into your adult life."
Miss Oz said she didn't want to write the typical "diet book" with sure-to-fail restrictions. Instead, she wanted to tap into the learning streak that students are into, not just academically, but personally.
"The idea is that you'll start to live a healthy life because any rational person will make that decision when presented with the facts," she said. "It's not that you will never have that birthday cake or eat pizza late at night, but that the next day you get back on the bandwagon."
She started the book while still in high school. Miss Oz, who is majoring in Near Eastern studies, said that she came up with the idea after many of her friends came to her for health advice because she is from a family of physicians (her dad and grandfather are cardiac surgeons) and health specialists (her grandmother is a nutritional adviser).
"Being informed is the first step to making a difference. When I went to college, I realized college is a really unique environment ... and I wanted to focus on the fact that you have this newfound independence, and how do you handle that," she said. "With the Freshman 15, that's a highly recognized phrase, you know. If they're not thinking about food, they should be, so they don't go completely off the deep end. And if they are thinking about food, it should be in positive sense: 'I have all this opportunity, why don't I let it help me more than hurt me.'"
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The book: The Dorm Room Diet: The 8-Step Program for Creating a Healthy Lifestyle Plan that Really Works, by Daphne Oz
The basics: 225 pages, $16.95 from Newmarket Press
Inside scoop: Divided into eight sections, the book includes these chapters designed to help students think and feel better and lose weight.
Here's what is inside:
Step 1. Get Inspired, an introduction from the author
Step 2. Get Informed: The Freshman 15, explores the facts and fictions of the college weight gain
Step 3. Get started: Healthy eating 101, an outline of how to achieve the right balance of calories and nutrients in each meal.
Step 4. Get a grip: Where and how to eat responsibly in college, gives ways to introduce healthful habits within time, money and space constraints.
Step 5. Get prepared: Five danger zones and how to survive them, examines the common roadblocks to eating right in college, such as late-night study sessions, sports events and parties.
Step 6. Get moving: The exercise factor, looks into benefits of exercise, with illustrated instructions for working out in the dorm room.
Step 7. Get your vitamins: Everything you need to know about supplements, offers suggestions on how to get essential vitamins in a diet.
Step 8. Get happy: A more relaxed, more effective you, promotes massage, aromatherapy and meditation as good methods to be calmer, healthier an happier in college.