The Freshman 15: Myths vs. Facts

Before coming to college, one of the things I most commonly heard about was the freshman 15. It makes sense that students would be likely to gain some weight during their first year at college. Many students who were involved in high school sports teams find themselves without that source of physical activity, and at least at my school, a swipe at the dining hall gives you access to an all-you-can-eat buffet, making overeating easy.

So, just how real is the freshman 15? Here are a few myths and facts.

Myth: College freshmen gain 15 pounds on average during their first year at college.

Fact: The average weight gained by college freshmen is actually only 2.5-3.5 pounds. But, let’s be honest, “freshman 15” sounds a lot better than “freshman 2.5.” The 15 was just a random number, but the saying has stuck. A lot of freshmen do gain some weight, but using the number 15 makes the situation seem a lot more dramatic than it actually is.

Myth: Everyone gains weight their freshman year of college.

Fact: Only about half of students actually gain weight their freshman year, and 15% actually lose weight. While it is easy to gain weight in college, it isn’t inevitable. Many students maintain a healthy lifestyle in college by eating mostly healthy food in the dining hall and working out at the rec center or joining intramural sports. Making healthy choices might be a little harder in college, but it’s not impossible.

Myth: Gaining weight in college is always a bad thing.

Fact: Some weight gain is just a natural part of aging, which is normal and shouldn’t necessarily be seen as negative. Many college students are at the age where their metabolism starts to slow down, which makes weight gain a lot easier. And as people get older, their activity patterns change as well. In high school, many students spend large amounts of time dedicated to sports, dance or other physical activities - activities that often don’t continue to the same degree after high school. Given this change, some level of weight gain can often be expected. The bottom line is that as long as you’re still at a healthy weight for you, putting on a few pounds in college isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The freshman 15 is part myth and part truth. Students on average do gain a few pounds their freshman year of college, but not anywhere close to 15, and weight gain or loss is different for each individual. Even though minor weight gain might be a part of freshman year for many students, that shouldn’t necessarily be seen as negative. It’s important to try to make healthy choices while in college, but there’s really no need to be afraid of the freshman 15.


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