23 Feb 2012

Freshman 15 myth debunked

Author: Tara Keller | Filed under: Science, Health, Environment, Spring 2012, Student Contributor

Among popular college tales are bad roommate situations, strict professors and the weight gain trend referred to as the “freshman 15.” As the story goes, the average college freshman will gain up to 15 pounds during his or her first year at college.

BGSU students can exercise at the Student Recreation Center to help keep a healthy weight. Photo by Tara Keller



New studies recently debunked the “freshman 15” myth. The gain is actually about five pounds, and many factors contribute to the weight increase.

An average male student weighing about 164 pounds will typically gain about four pounds his freshman year. The average female student weighing about 134 pounds will gain about two pounds according to a 2011 issue of the International Journal of Health & Wellness.

Two Bowling Green State University professors Robert Carels and Mary-Jon Ludy are studying “the freshman 15“ and the causes behind it.

“Eating typically makes you feel good,” psychology instructor Carels said. “When you get stressed or bored, you eat.”

Freshmen may experience a greater class load and more peer pressure than they did in high school, which could lead to some weight gain, Carels said.

Some students may also use the freshman 15 craze to their advantage as an excuse to eat more because it is expected of them anyway, Carels said.

“This may allow students to gain weight because they think everybody else does,” Carels said. “They think, ‘Oh, I’m doing well if I gain five and they gain 15.’”

When students live on their own for the first time, their independence may affect their eating habits.

“This is the first time students are making food choices,” Ludy said, an instructor in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences. “There’s an imbalance between fruits, vegetables, protein and deserts.”

Most students aren’t aware of the proper serving size and amount of each food group they should be consuming per day and dining halls aren’t always known to serve the healthiest options either, Ludy said.

Not all weight gain is unhealthy. BGSU senior Kelci Crawford said she credits coming to college as the reason why she is no longer underweight.

“Ever since I came up here, I eat more on a regular basis,” Crawford said. “It was a change for the better. At least now I’m healthier, and I’m confident with my weight.”

The two-dimensional arts major said she eats more often and goes jogging and swimming every Friday to maintain her healthy weight.

Ludy said she agrees some freshman weight gain is healthy particularly because some students are still growing when they enter college.

“Some guys shoot up a few inches their freshman year,” Ludy said.

However, if the weight gain does push a student into the overweight or even obese category, there are options available to combat it.

A new food pyramid called “My Plate” is a nice visual representation on how much a person should eat per day and how counting calories can also healthy, Ludy said.

Many people use exercise as a tool to keep weight under control by burning fat and adding muscle, Carels said.

“Exercise is a great way to stay healthy and relieve stress,” Carels said. “Get a handle on how much you’re eating and take it one day at a time.”

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments are closed.