Study: ‘Freshman 15’ has little basis in reality

Libby George

“No one wants to be the fat girl when they go home,” said journalism sophomore Rebekah Colonder. “The partying and the late night studying make it hard sometimes.”

But according to Marla Reicks, University associate professor of food science and nutrition, the “freshman 15” might be more of a myth than a reality. A 2001 study conducted by the American College of Health found there was, in fact, no weight gain among freshmen.

“It’s something that’s more based on anecdotal evidence than hard evidence,” Reicks said. “Everybody knows somebody that gained weight their freshman year, but this isn’t an issue that’s researched.”

Many University freshmen do not see collegiate weight gain as a primary concern.

“No one is too worried about it,” computer science freshman Matt Garcia said. “It’s the last thing on their minds now.”

Several students said the University’s square footage would help them stay in shape.

“Basically, it’s a big campus and I walk everywhere,” said Emily Egart, a photography and journalism freshman. “It’s under my control, I guess.”

However, some students say they are concerned college life will expand their waistlines as much as their brain power.

“I’m worried about it,” biology freshman Anne Christensen said. “Everybody says that your freshman year you are going to gain 15 pounds, but I’m pretty into exercising, so I’m not going to stop eating or anything.”

Although their class rank implies they are, freshman are not the only ones concerned about possible weight gain.

“Now that I’m on the meal plan I’m a little worried,” said Shahrzad Grami, a biomedical engineering sophomore. “It’s a little overwhelming with all the food.”

Regardless of the lack of solid evidence, Reicks said several factors make freshmen susceptible to weight gain.

“When you’re in the dorm, there’s a whole lot more (food) available. There’s also a new social setting where food is a method of socializing,” she said.

“It’s pretty good food in the dorms, and you can eat as much as you want, but you are pretty active walking to class,” College of Liberal Arts freshman Derek Farder said.

But most students say beer is the largest contributor to the notorious “freshman 15.”

“Probably drinking,” Christensen said. “Being away from home and not having somebody tell you what to eat.”

“I think beer consumption contributes. It’s probably a little more than high school,” Garcia said.

Despite the hype, Reicks said there are many ways students can avoid the bulge, and it is important they are not pressured.

“We need to be careful that people don’t get too worried and concerned,” Reicks said. Excessive apprehension could prevent students from enjoying food consumption, she said.

Reicks, along with students who frequent the dining halls, said healthy options are readily available, but it is up to students to choose them.

“I basically stay away from the main entrees,” Grami said. “I mean, there’s a lot of greasy food, but I try to eat lighter.”

In the end, it all comes down to individual choice, Reicks said, although that may benefit from settling into an independent status.

“I know some people who gained weight,” Colonder said. “But I actually lost weight.”

Libby George welcomes comments at [email protected]