Millions of kids are packing up to head off to college. But there's one thing they'd like to leave behind: the dreaded "Freshman 15".
Annalee Tacuri is a junior. She admits, "After a semester I probably gained 10 pounds."
Indeed, studies find 70% of college kids pack on an average of 12 pounds in the first semester. It's part of the nationwide escalating obesity epidemic with 40% of Americans now obese.
"It's huge, everyone wants to lose one or two pounds, or twenty pounds or a hundred pounds," said Huntsville Hospital dietitian Linda Steakley.
She says she sees a trend with today's collegiates.
"I think all the eating out our society is doing is making the problem of being overweight much much worse," said Steakley.
Nutritionist Sameera Kahn, the best-selling author of "Regain be Gone" and a nutritionist with North Shore University Hospital, counsels people before and after weight loss surgery on how to keep the pounds off.
Now up to a third of her clients are young and looking for surgery, many saying their weight gain started in college.
"It's at least 10 to 20 pounds. Per year. I used to see people in their 60s going for surgery, now parents in their 30s are coming. Women in 20s want it for fertility, since once you lose weight, your fertility improves."
Tacuri managed to shed the pounds this summer and is now arming herself with an app to keep them from coming back. But which one?
A dizzying number of apps promise to keep the bulge at bay, but can cost anywhere from two dollars a month to $30 — even $50 or more monthly.
"I was shocked to see them ranging so much," Tacuri said.
Worse, she said the apps made it difficult to know just how pricey they are.
"I had to download the app, create an account and find out prices from there."
Some wellness apps, like Myfitnesspal, offer a free version, but the cost comes in when you choose to access some of their premium features.
She mapped out her findings and eventually settled on "Life sum" at $2.47 per month.
The app tracks her food intake, exercise, and provides some encouraging feedback — all essential elements for success, says Kahn.
"They need motivation, consistency, and discipline, which the app can provide," she said.
Steakley warns clients: regardless of which app you choose, use it correctly.
"I always tell patients those apps may or may not be accurate," Steakley said. "It depends on how accurately you out the food into the app. Don't rely on them. It's a good way to write it down."
And failure can lead to serious consequences. Kahn explains, "Obesity is an inflammatory disease so that leads to diabetes and heart disease and hypertension. We see a lot of infertility in females — because of weight gain. So this can have massive life-changing ramifications."
One recent study shows 70-percent of college graduates gained 37 pounds by the time they got their diploma.