Health & Wellness Articles

Fend Off the ''Freshman 15''

Stay Healthy When You Start College

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College brings many life changes that most young adults are excited about: moving away from home, becoming more independent, pursuing a passion and making new friends. But one of the things on most freshmen's minds is the dreadful "Freshman 15"—the weight new college students allegedly gain during their first year of college.
First, the good news: Those notorious extra pounds are a mere myth! A 2011 study published in Social Science Quarterly showed that the typical weight gain during the first year of college is just 2.5 to 3.5 pounds and has little to do with higher learning and more to do with becoming a young adult (commence awkward flashback to health class about your "changing body" here). The not so good news: About 10 percent of freshmen will gain 15 pounds or more during their first year. And that's just the first year. Experts aren't as concerned about these actual pounds as they are about the rate at which students put them on. A 2008 study found that college students gain weight six times faster than the general population. And according to researchers, young adults continue to gain weight (1.5 pounds per year on average) during the four years after they graduate, too. Not all of this can be chalked up to "growing up," though. If left unchecked, the weight gain many experience as young adults can become a serious problem.

So what causes young people to gain weight rapidly when they enter college and the working world? No study has offered conclusive proof, but the authors point to several likely culprits.

1. A change in eating habits. It's no secret that your eating habits can change dramatically when you leave home and have total control over what, when and how much you eat every day. Suddenly, there's no parent to make sure you're eating your vegetables. There are late-night study sessions that can lead to pizza binges. On top of that, "use it or lose it" meal cards and all-you-can-eat dining halls often encourage you to eat more than you should. But there are lots of ways to eat healthy on campus even if you don't have a kitchen. If you didn't leave high school health class with a full understanding of proper nutrition and healthy cooking, you're not alone. Make up for what you missed by educating yourself on nutrition here at SparkPeople, starting with this beginner's guide to healthy eating.
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About The Author

Megan Patrick Megan Patrick
Megan Lane Patrick has been a professional writer and editor for the past 16 years, and was a chronic dieter for at least 30. A combination of weight-loss surgery, mindful eating and daily exercise finally allowed her to maintain a weight loss of more than 100 pounds. When she's not lifting weights at the gym, you can find her walking shelter dogs as a volunteer for the SPCA.

Member Comments

    Monmouth University students created a program a few years back on campus. "COREiculum" It is a new fitness company dedicated to helping college students lead healthier, more fit lives. Their entrepreneurship class spent over two years, but they have started to sell "The 1st Semester" DVD Workout Program. I've seen first hand the impressive results. Check it out
    m - 9/11/2013 7:49:48 PM
  • My daughter has been a Freshman for 3 weeks and has already noticed a small gain. I'm sending her this article right now!
    :-) - 9/3/2013 10:30:00 AM
    Thank you so much for this! I am a freshman in college and am very much worried about gaining the infamous Freshman 15. I also played sports throughout high school and am having trouble getting in my fitness like I used to. This article has some great advice for me to help me maintain my weight throughout college! - 3/8/2013 5:14:08 PM
  • Lots of great tips in this article. I wish I had been better prepared for my freshman year away. It's definitely easy to pack on the pounds when you go away to college--I gained at least 15 my first year--but it's also filled with opportunities for you to establish lots of healthy habits. I was lucky because my college offered healthy options in the dining hall and there was a salad bar available at every meal. There are so many opportunities to get and stay active on a college campus from taking advantage of the fitness center to playing a sport (even if it's just an intramural one) to taking dance lessons. - 1/11/2013 6:15:39 PM
  • This is a really useful article, I wish I had seen it two years ago when I started college. I put on loads of weight, those vending machines sure are tempting. It's next to late to start trying though :) - 1/11/2013 11:49:08 AM
  • I'm a senior in college living in an on campus apartment, and this is still all great advice for me. I especially like the idea of keeping easy to grab snacks on hand, because I know I end up eating out of vending machines a lot when I have late afternoon and evening classes. If I start taking a healthy snack with me to these classes, I can cut calories and save money. - 1/11/2013 11:39:28 AM
    So, the first half of last semester I started out great. I packed health, low fat foods in a lunch box and went to swimming club/gym for weights. Then, as the semester got harder, I was buying Subway or takeout and started missing practices. I gained 8 pounds but it seems like more because I used to be muscular, not any more :(. Suggestions, esp from current college students welcome! - 1/13/2011 5:37:59 PM
  • I gained 10 lbs my freshman year of college but it was almost all muscle. My dorm was built down in a hole, I had to walk up a hill or stairs to go anywhere. The campus as a whole was very hilly and filled with stairs. It was when I came home to student teach and stopped walking so much that I put on the fat lbs and lost muscle. - 8/10/2010 8:33:30 AM
  • When I went to college it was the "Freshman Five" so see how much it has increased since the 1970's! - 7/15/2010 9:33:58 PM
  • My daughter was so worried about gaining the freshman 15 and I kept telling her she has NOTHING to worry about because of all the rushing around she'd be doing on campus, getting from class to class! Well, guess who was wrong - ME! She did gain that notorious 15 lbs. plus a little extra. Luckily she just signed up at a gym, so she can work off some of the gained weight. - 2/22/2009 11:02:07 AM
    this is soooo useful im about to start uni in 17 days and i have saved this page to my favourites list so tht i have easy access to it :D
    thanks! - 9/3/2008 4:55:34 AM
  • The title of this article got my attention. In my day (the 80s), the expression was the "Freshman 10." I guess we've even super-sized that now. Sad! When I was a freshman, I gained my 10, plus someone else's. Too much freedom, too many choices, no sports and sitting around too much. - 8/19/2008 9:52:20 AM
  • Wish I had read this before I was a freshman. I gain 50 lbs my freshman year. Luckily I have lost that but I still have more to lose from my SR year of High School that I gained.. - 8/14/2008 9:08:34 PM
  • This will help for me...I am leaving Sunday for college...thanks for the article. - 8/12/2008 10:19:36 AM
  • Young people going to college are not the only people affected by the Freshman 15. This article failed to mention older students who either start college for the first time or graduate students probably attending a new university in a new city, which means new transitions that may or may not differ from those of younger students. Not only young students go through Freshman 15. Also, they usually encounter an even more (and probably new) independence than the younger students, so their food choices can be bad due to additional, social stress. Fortunately, the tenets mentioned in this article could also apply to them. Most of the tips, however, seem pretty common sensical to me. It is one thing to have the wisdom, it is another to actual apply it to your life. I wish I could be better at doing the latter. - 5/30/2008 1:45:01 AM

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