Freshman 15: Truth or myth?

By Ann Griswold • Published: July 10th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Moving away to college can be one of the most exciting times in a teenager’s life. The newfound freedom, the all-you-can-eat buffets and, of course, the stimulating coursework add to the fun of freshman year, but many students worry these same frills will cause them to pack on the pounds.

Recent studies have taken a closer look at the freshman fifteen to see if it’s anything more than a legend. Researchers at Auburn University, Rutgers University and the University of Vermont found that freshman year is indeed a high-risk time: Almost three-quarters of all newbies gain weight. But most gain fewer than five pounds and get a grip by the second semester, when their waistlines begin to stabilize.

Why the sudden gain? College often signals the end of organized sports and the beginning of high-energy diets, partying and stressful study sessions that leave little time for exercise. But that’s not all. A study of six-hundred freshmen at Dartmouth College found that the parent-student relationship also plays a role. Male students who get along with their parents tend to maintain trim waistlines. The opposite is true for females, who gain more weight when they genuinely miss mom and dad.

So if you’re heading off to college for the first time, have fun and plan ahead to choose healthier foods in the dining hall, and walk or bike to class instead of riding the bus. Simple strategies can help you stay slim and trim.