Eating- The process of consuming food in order to live. It is something that we all have to do. In order to eat, you are required to find food. Now, you could do this the old-fashioned way; go to the shops, buy some fresh ingredients and cook a wholesome and healthy meal. However, many students opt for the very appealing ‘I’ll just bung this ready meal in the microwave’ option. For a busy student, trying to find the time to cook as well as study and attend classes is often just too much, but this convenient alternative comes with a number of pitfalls which can have long-lasting consequences for your health.
What consequences? There is one major consequence, one which is glaringly obvious – weight gain. Many students will argue until their hearts explode that they have not gained weight whilst studying at university; but the shocked expressions on the faces of their family members when they return home for summer break says it all. This surge in weight gain tends to occur among first year students who are still adapting to life away from home. This has now attracted the attention of the world under the name of ‘fat-fresher syndrome’. Whilst this sounds slightly derogatory and cruel, it is unfortunately accurate. So, how many students are affected by this? And is there a way to fix this issue before it becomes too late? Yes, and yes, but not without hard work and effort. It seems fair to state in this case that prevention is far better (and easier) than cure.
For starters (unintentional pun), fat fresher syndrome usually occurs in first year university students who have left the family home for the first time and have yet to adapt to preparing their own meals and finding a nutritional balance in their diet. The problem is worsened by the availability of cheap fast food which is abundant in St. Andrews. It is extremely tempting for a student to just pop in for a quick kebab to eat on the bus ride home. This has had an obvious impact. The WHO have stated that obesity levels have doubled since 1980; but in terms of specifically looking at students; the average student puts on a stone in weight during their first year of university…
A stone. In one year.
The figure is not only alarming but also heavily implies that students cannot simply take care of their own bodies. In part, this weight gain also stems from their inability (or unwillingness) to cook fresh and healthy meals from scratch. According to YouGov, only 39% of students often cook from scratch. Whilst this is an improvement from previous years, it is extremely concerning that less than half of students will cook from scratch often (so not even the majority of the time) and raises alarms concerning what types of food students are fuelling their bodies with. Perhaps, this is not only due to students falling victim to the appeal of ready meals and fast food, but also the inability to get themselves out of their bad eating habits. It is very easy once you begin to rely on convenience meals to lack the motivation to cook and it is the breaking of this habit that can be the largest obstacle to overcome.
So, what can be done to reverse the bad eating habits that accompany ‘fat-fresher syndrome’. Quite simply to cook from scratch. Most students have two priorities when it comes to food:
- It is quick to make
- It drives away hunger
These two needs can easily be met. Let’s face it, a student meal only has to impress your parents – not Gordon Ramsay. The first step is to find some recipes which are quick to do at home, the next step would be to make sure that they are nutritious. Stir fries, ratatouille, pasta (if you make your own sauce rather than opt for a ready-made one) all fall under this category and recipes for them can vary depending on your dietary requirements (a stir fry can simply be made vegetarian by removing chicken from the recipe).
It may also help to plan your meals in advance. Perhaps, allocating some time on a Sunday afternoon to plan your meals for the week ahead. Not only does this ensure that you have healthy meals to look forward to and motivate you to actually create these dishes, but it will help you plan your shopping lists and trips to the supermarket to buy the ingredients for these meals.
It is clear that ‘fat-fresher syndrome’ is a real issue that plagues university campuses across the world and although this is not a relatively new concept, it is one that is just truly beginning to be noticed and there is only one way to solve this issue – get cooking.