Jenn Casler, a junior computer science major, shoveled another spoonful of chocolate ice cream into her mouth, nearing the end of Tuesday's all-you-can-eat CSU residence hall dinner.
Casler is a seasoned veteran of buffets like the one at Corbett Hall. She said the three square meals per day she had at home have turned into a daily couple of multiple-serving feasts. Dessert was also a rarity at home.
One night during Casler's freshman year, "I had two or three plates and I just chowed down. I was so hungry," the she said, laughing.
Like many of CSU's approximately 4,000 entering freshmen, Casler became another victim of "the freshman 15" – the number of pounds college newcomers supposedly pack on once they leave home.
Her case is not unique said CSU registered dietician Dawn Clifford -cm. Once freshmen leave home and escape their parents' discretion, they tend to overeat junk food and gain weight.
But Clifford said that in the minds of students, the average weight gain has been bloated.
"The truth is, there is no such thing as 'the freshman 15,'" Clifford explained. In reality, it's really closer to 5 pounds, she said. -cm
All-you-can-eat buffets in residence halls are a major contributor to the extra luggage, the diabetes and weight-loss specialist said, along with constant snacking and lack of exercise.
Students have the opportunity to eat healthy or unhealthy food, and as much or as little as they would like, Karl Bendix, assistant director of residential dining services cm, wrote in an e-mail interview.
At Corbett's dining hall Tuesday, fried chicken fingers and quesadillas lined one edge of the buffet while marshmallow-topped brownies and cookies blanketed a countertop across from an ice cream bar.
But a variety of salads, grilled chicken and similarly healthy fare were also easily available to students.
Officials who make up menus take into account cost, variety, popularity and nutrition, according Bendix. The university's buffets generally display a wide variety of food, from Tex-Mex and noodles to deli and salads, Bendix wrote in an email.
"If [students] have developed a healthy eating lifestyle prior to coming to CSU, that is what they tend to stay with," Bendix wrote. "Unfortunately the same is true if they have acquired poor eating habits."
Clifford recommended students try to eat no more than they used to consume at home and try to craft a meal plate from healthier foods.
"They throw so many options at you, you're bound to see at least two things you're curious about," said Geoff Johnson, senior English major, who sat at a cafeteria table before a quesadilla, a bowl of fruit and a plate stacked with fried chicken.
Clifford said a little patience might be part of the cure; the food will be there all semester.
"The meal you choose at the dining hall could look like a well-balanced meal," Clifford said, "or it could look just like the food you picked up at McDonalds."
In Corbett Hall's cafeteria, Casler claimed she tries to eat healthy foods. She pretended to hide her half-eaten dish of chocolate ice cream beneath the table, giggling.
"Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean," she said. "I'm eating my vegetables."
To contact or schedule an appointment with CSU's dieticians at the Hartshorn Health Center, call 491-1702.