Metro Learning Curve




Michelle Novielli for Metro Toronto

First-year students are fighting the battle of the books as well the bulge. The key to staying fit lies in making time for healthy meals and regular exercise, said Sara Taman, physician in chief of the U of T's St. George campus Health Service.

Frosh 15, Freshman 15, First-year 15. No matter how you put it, university weight-gain is definitely no fable.

Here’s a look at two university students — one commuter and one from residence — and some professional advice on how to study and snack without tipping the scale.

The Commuter

Julia Argiropoulos never thought she would gain weight in first year. As a student who commuted to the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus, she avoided fast food by bringing healthy lunches from home, but indulged when she was stressed.

“I always thought residence students would be the ones to gain weight because they make unhealthy choices,” she said.

Although gym memberships are included in tuition, Argiropoulos said her timetable left no time for exercise. This led to a six-pound weight gain in her first year.

The Residence Student

Cecilia Yam was lucky to live in an apartment-style residence in her first year. The York University student had a shared kitchen and easy supermarket access. “But laziness soon set in,” she said.

Yam resorted to cafeteria food, which she said was oily and came in large portions. “I was tempted to eat the whole thing,” she said, adding that even the healthier options came in giant quantities.

At the gym, Yam said she spent more time waiting for cardio machines than exercising. This resulted in a seven-pound weight gain in her first-year.

Changes in environment and eating habits cause students to put on weight in first year, said Sara Taman, physician in chief of the University of Toronto’s St. George campus Health Service. “People react to stress by eating more,” she said.

Alcohol and caffeine may also contribute, Taman said. “Caffeine can cause hunger and upset stomachs,” she said, “and this makes people eat to fill up.”

But cooking in a dorm room isn’t easy. Taman said meal plans make eating easier with a variety of nutritious food available. Although “healthy options tend to be more expensive and not within a student’s budget,” she said.

Exercise is an easy solution, but not for all students. “Engineering and science students find it hard to fit time in their schedules,” she said. Some may think studying is more important than staying fit, but Taman said students should manage both.

Motivation is the key. Even with a busy timetable, Taman said a healthy life-style should be a student’s priority.

“Unless you’re healthy, you won’t do well in school,” she said. “It’s worth the effort.”

healthy eating for students

• Eat small amounts frequently throughout the day, to maintain a consistent supply of energy.

• Don't skip breakfast! This will make you hungrier later on and more likely to over-indulge.

• Plan ahead. If you are going to be on campus all day, pack a lunch to reduce the temptation of fast foods.

• Pack healthy snacks for between classes, and keep a non-perishable extra in your bag for emergencies.

dorm-room recipe books

Tired of reading textbooks? Try a few cookbooks targeted for students instead.

• The Starving Student's Cookbook Available at and Price: $12.88

• Recipes 4 Rez Available at Price: $19.95

• Microwave Cooking for One Available at Price: $29.50

• Cooking Outside the Pizza Box Available at & Price: $16.68