Don’t Believe Everything You Hear: Debunking The Freshman 15


Every August eager freshman flood college campuses across the country, armed with exorbitant amounts of enthusiasm, knick knacks to decorate their dorm rooms and a twinge of anxiety about making new friends. These college neophytes find comfort in the sage wisdom of upperclassmen who share urban legends about the worst professors, best study locations on campus and – especially – how to avoid the “freshmen 15.”

Despite limited evidence of the existence of the rumored “freshmen 15,” this folklore persists as teen magazines publish dozens of articles offering tips to avoid college weight gain. In order to demystify this widespread phenomenon, The Fourcast investigated your burning questions so you can spend more time picking out college courses rather than reading self-help guides.

Q: Do college students gain weight during their freshman year?

A: Yes, but definitely not 15 pounds. A 2008 study by Nicole Mihalopoulos from the University of Utah debunked this myth; according to her research, the average college student gains 2.7 pounds in their first year. However, this weight gain does not affect everyone. Fifteen percent of students surveyed lost weight. While these results prove that weight gain is far less significant than many expected, college students do gain 5.5 times more weight than the general population, which leads me to the next question.

Q: What really causes college weight gain?

A: Heavy drinking. A 2011 study showed that the only factor that affected weight gain in college was drinking more than six alcoholic beverages at least four days a month, and even students who engaged in this behavior only gained on average one more pound than their sober peers. Additionally, weight gain often occurs at this age; college freshmen only gained a half pound more than those who did not attend college. In summary, if you stay healthy by eating well and getting enough exercise, you have little to worry about.

Q: Where does the myth originate?

A: Like most myths, the origins are a bit murky. The first time “Freshman 10” – an older but similar term that predates “Freshman 15” – was printed in a Newspaper occurred in 1981 when the New York Times wrote about actress Jodie Foster gaining 10 pounds in her rst year at Yale University. References since then have generally only cited anecdotal evidence, resulting in undue hysteria among college freshmen.

Q: I still want to stay healthy. What should I do to keep up my fitness?

A: Current Hockaday seniors who will attend college next have great advice for those looking to stay fit. Twins Mary Claire and Eleanor Wilson both plan on running local marathons with roommates and friends to stay mo- tivated. Other seniors, like Melanie Kerber, hope to join club athletic teams to get their exercise. Not as ambitious as these three Hockadaisies? Just head to the campus gym! A Washington Post survey of 48 colleges showed that these institutions spent $776 million on athletic centers combined. Surely those hundreds of millions of dollars will supply enough treadmills and ellipticals to go around.

Ashlynn Long- Staff Writer