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The Truth Behind the “Freshman 15” Myth

By: Travis Bauer

Weight conscious college students rejoice! A recently published study refutes the all-to-prevalent notion regarding weight gain during a student’s first year at college, otherwise known as the “freshman 15.” This notorious myth lead many newly minted college students to believe that they were bound for major weight gains their first year in college, but the study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University suggests something quite different. In it, researchers indicate that if students gain any weight at all during their first year, it usually averages out to about 3-5 pounds (male students tend to fall under the higher end of the weight gain spectrum). A much smaller portion of those studied (less than 10%) reported a weight gain of 15 pounds or more. Many students monitored over the yearlong period reported no weight gain at all.

The study not only contradicts the “freshman 15” myth, it also suggests that a good portion of students (a whopping 25%) actually lose weight during their first year as an undergraduate. The findings make sense when you consider the stereotypical eating habits of a college freshman: ramen noodles, sandwiches with the occasional meat filling, and whatever the dorm cafeteria has to offer. When you consider the fact that many freshman don’t know how to cook for themselves, it’s no wonder that so many lose weight.

Atrocious collegiate diets not withstanding, the news is a welcome relief for all students; whether you’re a calorie-counting Nutrition major or a calorie consuming undeclared liberal arts student, you can safely assume that you won’t need to shop for a new wardrobe come sophomore year.

The study’s findings also come during a period where self-awareness of one’s image pervades every aspect of a college student’s life. To most college students, image matters as much (if not more) than classes. It’s bad enough that most freshman college students fret over their physical appearance during classes and when socializing among fellow students. But now students upload their pictures to social networks like Facebook where they’re exposed to potential critiques of their image 24/7. Every picture uploaded from “last night’s party” has the potential to incur comments from less tactful users who don’t mind commenting on something as personal as someone’s weight. Several reports indicate that some people use social media to boost their self esteem, but that just makes them much more vulnerable to personal attacks on their image. I’m sure more than a few college students recall posting or receiving a comment on a picture that somehow related to someone putting on the old “freshman 15.”

Now with the solid scientific research invalidating the phrase, perhaps new college students will learn to focus on things that really matter during their careers as undergraduates.


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