'Summer Reading to Prevent the 'Freshman 15'

07/26/2010 02:55 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Are you worried about gaining the infamous "freshman fifteen" this fall? If so, there are five books you may want to check out this summer.

The freshman fifteen is known as the extra weight college students gain during their freshman year. The good news is that this concept may be blown a little out of proportion. Students actually tend to gain less than fifteen pounds--generally only about five pounds according to research.* While some students gain weight, others drop pounds. Unfortunately, the fear of weight gain may actually lead to a "self fulfilling prophecy," or acting in ways that are more likely to make weight gain happen because they believe it is inevitable.

For students who do struggle with eating right, gradual weight gain from freshman to senior year can impact the rest of a student's adult life. Stress eating, skipping meals, not eating well balanced meals and consuming too much junk food may set the stage for heart disease, cancer or diabetes in 20 years. "Dieting" is not the answer. In fact, dieting may interfere with your ability to study. Studies show that dieters tend to do worse on cognitive tasks.

Thankfully, many students today are invested and interested in their health. They are demanding healthier food options in cafeterias and making smarter choices. Help students start off the school year on the right foot.

If you are seeking summer reading to learn how to eat mindfully while in college, here are some suggestions:

1) Mindful Eating 101 by Dr. Susan Albers helps students learn how to stop mindless eating and adopt more mindful eating habits. The book reveals tips for successfully navigating unlimited buffets, avoiding stress eating, managing weight anxiety, and ways of coping with exam stress, academic competition and self-esteem problems.

2) Eat This, Not That by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding It's inevitable that students will be eating on the run and grabbing cheap eats at fast food restaurants. This is an easy, visual guide of simple swaps at popular restaurant chains.

3) Beginner's Guide to ED Recovery. Nancy Kolodny, MSW, LCSW
A self-help guide written specifically for teen and college-aged readers (and their loved-ones) who are confronting an eating disorder for the first time.

4) 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food by Dr. Susan Albers. Readers learn how to stop comfort eating. It's perfect for helping students cope with the stressful demands of college life without calories.

5) The Dorm Room Diet by Daphne Oz. Oz offers an eight-step program that advocates sensible, healthful eating, exercise and vitamin use.

Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns, and mindfulness. She is author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Eating Mindfully, Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful, and Mindful Eating 101 and a Huffington Post blogger. Her books have been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, O, the Oprah Magazine, Natural Health and Self Magazine and on the Dr. Oz TV Show. Visit Albers online at

*Hodge, C., Jackson, L., & Sullivan, L. (1993). The "Freshman Fifteen" facts and fantasies about weight-gain in college women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 17, p.119-126.

*Holm-Denoma JM, Joiner TE, Vohs KD, & Heatherton TF. (2008) The "freshman fifteen" (the "freshman five" actually): predictors and possible explanations. Health Psycholology, 27(1 Suppl), S3-9.

**Jones, N. & Rogers, P. (2003) Preoccupation, food, and failure: An investigation of cognitive performance deficits in dieters. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 33(2), p. 185-192.