Combating the supposed Freshman 15

Nick Blank

Subject to their first taste of freedom from high school and parental guidance, freshman students take on new responsibilities like the taxing balance of work, school and a social life.

Nutrition isn’t always high on their list of priorities.

The “Freshman 15” is considered the period where students gain weight when they enter their first year of college. The origins of the “Freshman 15” are dubious, escalated by teen publications in the late-90s.

As Market Day came to a close Wednesday, I asked Campus Dietitian Yemila Lowry if the Freshman 15 was a myth.

“Absolutely,” Lowry says, “It’s not the 15 that’s actually stated, it’s more like two to five pounds.”

Lowry said college students gaining weight is much more than eating unhealthy. The weight gain is heavily linked to other behavior.

The threat of weight gain freshman year may be over-exaggerated.Graphic by Ben Cross
The threat of weight gain freshman year may be over-exaggerated.Graphic by Ben Cross

“I believe it’s not being prepared for the college life, staying up late and studying hard, and eating fast food because that’s what’s available late at night,” Lowry said. “It’s getting involved in parties with drinking and those extra calories and not knowing that there’s these resources [on campus].”

One of the biggest culprits of this first-year weight gain — drinking — is something embedded in college culture. Lowry seeks to offer healthy alternatives rather than completely ruling out alcohol consumption, which she says is inevitable.

“It’s not that we’re trying to stop them from drinking, it’s just how can we get them to incorporate healthier options,” Lowry said.

Besides unhealthy eating habits, the other primary causes of the initial weight gain go hand-in-hand with studying and partying: increased stress and lack of sleep. Adding to that, students have access to buffet-style dining halls where they can gorge themselves, though healthy alternatives are offered.

Jose Cisneros is a sophomore video production major who said the “Freshman 15” was real because it happened to him and some of his friends.

A variety of factors contribute to weight gain for college freshmen.Graphic by Ben Cross
A variety of factors contribute to weight gain for college freshmen.Graphic by Ben Cross

“You’re coming to the Cafe for the first time. You just swipe your card and you have access to all this amazing food. It’s easy to get in the habit of not cooking and eating unhealthy,” Cisneros said.

Ashley Allen is looking forward to her freshmen semester at UNF.

“I heard about it. I’ve heard the rumors,” Allen said with grin. “I’m scared.”

Other students gave their opinion about the Freshman 15 in this week’s People of UNF.

Registered dieticians like Lowry use the “Freshman 15” concept to promote a healthy lifestyle for students. Obviously not every college student gains 15 pounds, but it’s worth informing students about unhealthy food choices and healthy alternatives.

Health Promotions and the Nutrition Services are doing their best to get the word out about the “Freshman 15.” At their booth, they had models of food showing portions of healthy food options they handed out copies of “8 Ways to Beat the Freshman 15,” an informational flyer with tips to adjust to the first-year of college in a healthy manner.

For more information check out the Nutrition Services website here.

 

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