The “freshman 15,” a common slogan which refers to the idea that students will gain 15 pounds during their freshmen year of college, is one of the most common myths about college.
Freshmen do gain weight, but not nearly that much.
The average freshman weight gain is just under three pounds, according to a study by the ACHA-National College Health Assessment, a research group that collects data about students’ health habits, behaviors and perceptions.
Students gain weight in college due to stress and not enough exercise, said Dr. Bruce Benz, chair of the School of Natural & Social Sciences.
“It is fairly common to gain a little weight your first semester of college,” Benz said. “And stress eating has a lot to do with it.”
The best way to reduce stress is exercise, he said. However, it is also human nature to find comfort in junk food, because foods with a high level of carbohydrates tend to be more comforting due to the chemical compound.
The college student’s lifestyle leads to an inconsistent school, work and social schedule, said Aaron Whaley, director of Morton Fitness Center.
This can make it hard to adhere to the timed healthy habits necessary for the body to maintain a healthy well-being, said Whaley.
“I think the freshman 15 is a fact,” Whaley said. “I have talked to so many students in the fitness center who have said, ‘I need to get back in shape. I’ve already gained some weight.’”
It is easy to slip into a non-active state in college, especially if you live on campus, he said. The new freedom of being away from home for the first time and awkward class schedules can lead to weird habits.
“The college life just hits them in the face sometimes,” Whaley said. “Some realize before the full 15 or so and some realize after.”
Weight gain can also happen later in a student’s college career because weight comes with age and lifestyles change throughout college, he said.
“I’ve seen some girls and guys come into the fitness center after freshmen year and notice that they have gained weight,” he said. “Some just become involved with academics only as they get closer to graduation and let go of all the social clubs, groups and organizations they were actively involved in freshmen year.”
Much of this depends on a student’s goals and habits, Whaley said.
“Eating accessibility plays a big role too, especially where Wesleyan is located, food budgets and everything else with college life,” Whaley said.
Students often believe healthy food is expensive, and find grabbing fast food cheap and easy, Whaley said.
All the major fast food places are located just down the street from the campus, said Thomas Balter, a freshman computer science major.
“I believe the ‘freshman 15’ is a myth, and if it were true, it would be due to bad habits,” he said. “I have done more walking than I have ever done before. I have actually lost weight since I started college.”
The West Express Eatery, a full-service dining location commonly known as the sub, located in the Brown Lupton Campus Center, offers students a convenient, fresh and nutritional food choices, said Darrel Smoot, West Express Eatery chef.
“I like to think I make a difference in student’s lives,” he said. “Everything I cook I make it like I was cooking it for myself.”
The menu is designed to serve students healthy and nutritional food, he said.
“I think the ‘freshman 15’ is definitely a myth, especially if students are frequently eating my food,” he said.
Students living on campus for the first time can easily gain weight because they are transitioning from eating scheduled, divided, and regular meal times set in high school to eating anytime and anywhere they want, said Lizeth Menchaca, a Morton Fitness Center student worker and junior education major.
“I believe I am experiencing the ‘freshman 15’ right now,” she said. “I have never been as big as I am now. I am a big stress eater and that definitely does not help, plus I’m always running around.”
It is hard for students to find time to work out because they become so busy with their crazy schedules, school, studying and work that there is no time left, she said.
“The ‘freshman 15’ can happen to anyone at any time,” Menchaca said. “The odds are definitely against you.”