Fresh­ers: avoid the per­ils of the carbo-vodka diet

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

It’s your first term at univer­sity, and you’re loving it. You’ve em­braced col­lege life and, fi­nally, free­dom is yours. The first night away from home, stu­dent loan squashed into your sticky mitts, your new friends in­form you that “eat­ing is cheat­ing”. Oh, OK then, you say, and crack on with drink­ing in­stead, be­ing a proper fresher, con­sum­ing ev­ery­thing in your path in case a cry of “Down it, Fresher!” should go up from some­where close by.

The first food shop might com­prise a whip around the pasta aisle, and a more de­ter­mined look at the spir­its, be­fore speed­ing to the check­outs. What do you plan to have for din­ner ev­ery night? Carbs, carbs and more carbs! No sweat.

Cut to Christ­mas, nine weeks later. “You’re look­ing well, dear!” says Gran, in a tone that is re­served only for tact­ful sug­ges­tions of weight gain. Gulp. “Are you sure you want that last roast potato?” some­one else asks, a lit­tle meanly. Yes, you’re sure.

It is a recog­nis­able se­quence of events. Go to univer­sity, eat lots – of the bad stuff – drink lots – of the even worse stuff – and promptly put on weight. But do you look that dif­fer­ent? Not on your carbo-vodka diet? Ap­par­ently, you do. Ac­cord­ing to new re­search con­ducted by dairy drinks company Up­beat, nearly half of stu­dents gain weight in their first year, av­er­ag­ing a 10lb in­crease. This is the bit that the prospec­tus omits – it is an in­con­ve­nient de­tail lost.

The sub­ject of stu­dent di­ets was raised on Ra­dio 4’s To­day Pro­gramme ear­lier this year, fol­low­ing another survey, this time con­ducted by Sains­bury’s. This showed that more than a third of stu­dents can­not boil an egg, and almost half are un­able to rus­tle up a spaghetti bolog­nese. They might have the aca­demic skills for the best univer­si­ties in the coun­try, but many have a cook­ing age of 12, the Don’t skip meals Start the day with some­pro­tein – eggs or beans on toast – and you are less likely to want to snack

Avoid eat­ing heavy starch-based meals late at night

Steer away from sug­ary drinks, how­ever hard it­maybe

Fill up on pro­tein and fi­brous vegetables if you’re in catered ac­com­mo­da­tion, and choice is limited re­port says.

But who is to blame for this? Is it the par­ents, the chil­dren, or the beige food cul­ture that is in­sti­tu­tion­alised at univer­si­ties? A num­ber of ed­u­ca­tion­ists be­lieve that as a na­tion we have be­come too ob­sessed with do­ing ev­ery­thing for our chil­dren at univer­sity, and that part of the fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion process should be to learn to be self-suf­fi­cient and re­silient. Em­ploy­ers have con­tin­u­ally crit­i­cised grad­u­ates for not be­ing “work ready”, claim­ing that their stead­fast­ness is lack­ing. But th­ese in­ad­e­qua­cies are in a pro­fes­sional ca­pac­ity – not in the kitchen. Have we bred a gen­er­a­tion of spoon-fed, cot­ton-wool-wrapped chil­dren?

I talked to some of my peers to fig­ure out what prompts a tip­ping of the scales. “I no­ticed a change in my weight be­cause I had the free­dom to eat what­ever I wanted, when­ever I wanted,” Rosie So­bieraj, a re­cent Sh­effield Hal­lam grad­u­ate, ad­mits. “I ate all the wrong kind of food,” she says.

“When I lived at home I’d eat healthily be­cause that’s what my par­ents cooked me,” agrees Univer­sity of Leeds grad­u­ate Car­rie Rose. “But in my first year I’d eat pasties and crisps for lunch, have a fatty din­ner – pizza, maybe – and then a take­away after my night out. The weight sim­ply piled on.”

Drink­ing can of­ten have an in­sid­i­ous ef­fect, too. “You don’t no­tice the al­co­hol weight – you blame it on the food,” Sophie Chad­wick, a re­cent dance grad­u­ate, says. “You gain calo­ries from the al­co­hol, of course, but it’s the night-out food that is the shocker. The al­co­hol en­ables you; you don’t go out and drink and then not eat – you do both!” Miki Simp­son, now 22 and work­ing in the City, agrees. “I wasn’t sure about drink­ing the amount of al­co­hol that I did over the first two weeks of univer­sity,” she ex­plains. “I ended up down­ing tons of al­copop vodka con­coc­tions and eat­ing lots of aw­ful mid­night snacks.”

Is it th­ese snacks that play a prom­i­nent role? “Def­i­nitely,” Chad­wick says. “When I’m drunk on a night out, it gets to a point where I’m starv­ing and then I’ll or­der the big­gest meal pos­si­ble, one I wouldn’t have wanted if I had been sober, or eaten be­fore I went out. I think a lot of it comes from that, and it’s hard to es­cape it in first year.”

Not ev­ery­one in­dulges in roundthe-clock booz­ing – I didn’t, and yet I found my­self not quite squeez­ing into my old school skirt that first Christ­mas. “I think it was a lack of ed­u­ca­tion,” Rose says, con­firm­ing my fears. “But I was lazy too in my first year. I’d rather cook up a quick bowl of chips, cheese and beans and then head out drink­ing. I rarely ex­er­cised, too, and that didn’t help.”

Chad­wick agrees. “I couldn’t cook a thing be­fore I went to univer­sity – my mum had to write me a man­ual, even down to how to switch on an oven. I was shock­ing!”

In de­fence of my peers, it is easy to be un­nerved by cook­ing, if you’re not used to do­ing it for your­self. “I didn’t cook meat for about a month when I first moved out, ter­ri­fied I’d poi­son my­self,” Chad­wick ad­mits. “I only started ex­per­i­ment­ing be­cause the girl next door could cook and she helped me.”

But what can par­ents do if they are wor­ried about their chil­dren’s eat­ing habits at univer­sity? One op­tion is to pro­vide the food them­selves. Chris Man­dle, now 25, stud­ied English lan­guage at New­cas­tle Univer­sity and re­ceived food pack­ages from his par­ents in the post. “It wasn’t purely fi­nan­cial,” he says. “It was also so I got the ba­sics of how to eat. They’d send big bags of pasta and rice, maybe a loaf of bread, tins of toma­toes and pulses, and fresh veg. It was their way of say­ing ‘this is what you can build a meal with’. I got a bit of flak from my mates, but I’d do the same for my kids.”

Re­mem­ber­ing the cries of “Let’s go to Dixie chicken!” after nights out at my alma mater, I ask an ex­pert about what can be done to re­duce fresher weight gain with­out look­ing like a spoil­sport. “The key to suc­cess lies in hav­ing a bal­anced diet. Univer­si­ties can help by of­fer­ing freshly pre­pared foods on site, too,” nu­tri­tion­ist Dr Adam Carey ex­plains.

It isn’t just good for your body, but your brain too. “Re­search iden­ti­fies that in­di­vid­u­als who fre­quently snack on re­fined car­bo­hy­drates like bis­cuits and crisps have poorer con­cen­tra­tion,” Carey adds.

Is it just my gen­er­a­tion, though? Ab­so­lutely not. “We recog­nise that most stu­dents drink al­co­hol and we all know that in ex­cess, this is not healthy, but the con­sump­tion has not re­ally changed over the last 30 years.” Phew.

Some ad­vice from the mouths of babes? Don’t be afraid of buy­ing meat in the su­per­mar­ket, and invest in a small wok. “The wok was the game changer for me,” So­bieraj says, when I press for a so­lu­tion. “When I dis­cov­ered stir fries and rice noo­dles, ev­ery­thing fell into place.”

Carbs and more carbs: pasta may be easy to cook but don’t over do it, and limit your in­take of bis­cuits and crisps

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.