Ah yes, the dreaded “freshman 15.” Feared by many a first-time college student. Maybe your mother has been dropping hints about buying stretchier pants or a friend is trying to lose weight before the fall to lessen the effect of this inevitable weight-gain. Except–it is not inevitable.
In fact, the “freshman 15” is not even a legitimate thing. The phrase was first used August 1989 when Seventeen Magazine slapped the phrase “FIGHTING THE FRESHMAN 15” on its cover. The cover girl, ironically, was a 14-year-old Niki Taylor. In a recent study by Ohio State University it was found that on average, both male and female students gain three pounds during their first year. By graduation, most students have gained between 12 and 13 pounds–far from ballooning like our skinny-obsessed society will often lead you to believe. The added pounds can be due to keg stands and late-night burritos but for many, it is due to good-old fashion growing up. When most students enter college, their bodies have not finished maturing. Some students grow a few inches taller during their first two years. Others, especially student-athletes, gain muscle.
Less than 10% of students gain 15 pounds or more during their first year of college. In fact, 25% of students actually lost weight during their first year. Easy access to gyms, workout classes, and nutritionist services help many students become healthier.
Unfortunately, the high stress of starting college and fear of the “freshman 15” can lead to dangerous weight-loss behaviors for many students. Doctors describe the first year transition as the “perfect storm” for eating disorders. According to the National Eating Disorders Awareness Association (NEDA), between 10 and 20% of women and 4 to 10% of men suffer from an eating disorder while in college–and the numbers are on the rise.
To avoid an unwanted weight-gain and stay healthy during your first year, aim to bring your current healthy habits with you to college. If you were a high school athlete but will not be having those daily practices at school, fitting a gym workout into your schedule at a similar time to your practice can ease the transition. Even better, join a club or intermural team. These organizations will let you show off your skills while making friends.
If you need a little extra motivation, find a friend or roommate to be your gym buddy. Additionally, many universities offer free or cheap workout classes–these are another fun way to break a sweat and meet new people. Do your best not to radically alter your diet either–remember to keep things balanced. Be sure to keep your body and mind fueled. Undereating leads to a lack of energy and focus, which will hurt both your social life and your grades.
Instead of worrying about “the freshman 15,” enjoy your newfound independence and ability to continue your old healthy habits as well as develop new ones to carry with you through college and beyond.