The Truth About The “Freshman Fifteen”

My experience

The “freshman fifteen” is real; at least it is in my book. It may not be fifteen pounds, it could range anywhere from five to more than twenty but the weight gain is real, not for all people but for is some. Unfortunately I was one of those people. I was as bright eyed and bushy tailed as they come on my first day of college. I couldn’t wait to have the freedom I had been wanting for all of high school. Like many I was athletic in high school, I played sports and I worked at a gym, I was not going to let the “freshman fifteen” get to me. But it did, and it hit me hard. I became unmotivated when I got to JMU. I was nervous about my classes and made more time for my friends than for working out. I had no more sports so practices to count as a workout, and it showed. Before I knew it none of my clothes fit anymore and I wasn’t happy with the image I saw in the mirror; I knew I needed to fix it. I went home that summer ate healthy and worked out just about every day and I am happy to say that I am a survivor and I beat the “freshman fifteen”. I am now a junior at JMU and have revamped my lifestyle to incorporate more healthy foods and workouts and less junk and laziness. If the stress of college or the misuse of freedom has added on a few unwanted pounds in your life worry no more. I am here to give you the facts about weight gain in college, tips on how to get rid of any weight you may gain and how to keep it off for good.

Myths about the “freshman fifteen”

The “freshman fifteen” in itself is a myth (for most people), there are no scientific facts to prove that students do gain fifteen pounds their first year of college. According to the Huffington Post the phrase “freshman fifteen” was born when Seventeen Magazine released their August 1989 cover with the sub head reading “FIGHTING THE FRESHMAN FIFTEEN” and ever since then the saying stuck. The Huffington Post says that there is some weight gain the first year students arrive at school but it is around three pounds and only ten percent of students gained 15 pounds or more. Weight is gained steadily throughout college rather than just in one year and their studies show that women gain seven to nine pounds by graduation and men gain between 12 and 13 pounds. According to a blog “The Myth of the Freshman 15” in order to gain 15 pounds over the course of two semesters you would have to be eating 1750k calories in a week, an entire extra days worth of calories per week than you are supposed to be eating. Overeating this amount over the time span of two semesters is out of the ordinary and not every single person on campuses around the country could possible be eating this excessively therefore this myth has been debunked.

The facts about weight gain in college

Yes, you may gain some weight but it doesn’t have to be fifteen pounds. It is all up to you and your lifestyle choices that affect how much weight you personally will gain. According to emotions are a major cause of weight gain in college. It is your first time away from home, you have a lot on your plate (figuratively speaking of course) you don’t know how to live on your own plus balancing classes is tough. All of these stressors and extra emotions built up could lead to over eating or stress eating. Again the weight you gain is all up to you. Eat only when you are hungry, not out of boredom or stress. Those that gain weight their freshman year and throughout college gain it due to excessive drinking, not choosing healthy food options and do little to no physical activity. states, “Bad eating is contagious”. You see someone eating unhealthy snacks such as pizza, chips or cookies and you feel like you should partake in that as well. Someone in your dorm may ask, “does anyone want to venmo me and I’ll order a Chanello’s cheesy bread or Campus Cookies” and your immediate response is yes. Stop and think before you agree next time, did you workout that day, did you eat healthy that day? If the answer is no, then maybe you should stay away from that order. College is all about balance and this is the same when it comes to unhealthy eating, it is acceptable to indulge sometimes but when it becomes an every day thing that’s when you start to see problems.


Tips for those that do suffer from the “freshman fifteen” realizes that there is a weight gain phenomenon for those in college, it may not be 15 pounds it could be more and it could be less, and it isn’t just affecting freshman either. They have created a list of reasons why students may be seeing that unwanted weight gain:

  • Eating late at night
  • Eating unhealthy cafeteria food
  • Keeping unhealthy snacks and food on hand in the dorm room
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Energy drinks
  • Cheap food coupons and offers
  • Fast food delivery to dorm rooms
  • Skipping meals
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor nutritional skills and education
  • Poor sleep habits and sleep deprivation
  • Not understanding what their bodies need nutritionally to be healthy

Don’t worry if you’re reading this and you’re thinking to yourself that you do any or all of these things they have also created a list of tips for you to change your eating, fitness and all over bad lifestyle habits to create a new and improved you. Here are a few of their “Tips on How to Nip it all in the Bud”:

  • Make it about health, not about looks, image, or anything else.
  • Don’t skip meals
  • Eat a good breakfast
  • Avoid eating unhealthy cafeteria food
  • Avoid eating food late at night
  • Snacking while studying leads to mindless eating.
  • Take advantage of exercise facilities.
  • Avoid lots of late nights – get lots of sleep. image2

Photo by: Angela Lewis suggests that keeping a scale in your dorm or bedroom. According to their studies weighing yourself everyday can help with putting on unwanted pounds, those who weigh themselves everyday don’t see as much or any weight gain at all.


All about balance

Weight is not something to become obsessed with while in college, and you shouldn’t add extra stress to your life by thinking too much about it. It is perfectly normal to gain a few pounds and is not something to become alarmed or you should consume your thoughts with. When the weight gain gets out of hand and is due to an unhealthy lifestyle that’s when changes should be made. College is all about balance. Balancing school, health, friends and even sleep can be a challenge. It is alright to treat yourself with a few cookies, a slice of pizza or a much needed rest day where all you do is watch Netflix, but don’t make that your everyday schedule. Any type of workout, even if its just walking to class instead of taking the bus can be one of the first steps in creating a healthy lifestyle. If you do end up gaining weight your freshman, sophomore, junior or even senior year don’t become discouraged it is reversible. Through hard work, healthy eating, physical activity and making those things a habit you can work through it. If you are lucky enough to not see the dreaded “freshman fifteen” then keep up the healthy lifestyle you have created for yourself and help others struggling with weight gain. JMU has many healthy eating options at every dining location and UREC has options for classes or for working out on your own. It is doable, you just have to make it a habit; routine and schedule are everything. So give yourself a break, you’re not alone and you can do it.

Peace, Love and DDP,




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