‘The Freshman 15’ weighty problem

Students are most affected by the freshman 15 during the first semester.

By Nicole Veenstra
veenstran@theridernews.com

When making the transition from high school to college, “worried” can be an understatement to describe the feelings of a freshman student. Liking the person — or people — who can now be referred to as “roommate,” making friends and figuring out where each class is can all cause stress during one of the biggest adjustments in a person’s life. Add to that the potential horror of a little something called “the freshman 15” and suddenly college life can seem overwhelming long before move-in day even takes place.

According to a study done by Nutrition Journal, 23 percent of freshman gain 5 percent of their body weight during their first year in college.

“I think there are a few reasons for why the freshman 15 exists,” Kristin Lopez, a junior, said. “The excitement about having so many choices in Daly’s with no one to stop us from eating the unhealthy ones, late night meals, no sleep and large amounts of alcohol consumption, just to name a few.”

During the transition, freshmen have to drift away from their comfort zones in order to meet new people. For some, this is easier said than done, causing them to turn to food.

“Food can be a comfort when you’re homesick,” Rachel Sinoway, a freshman, said.

Regardless of whether a student is homesick or not, the structure of home can be forgotten when one is pushed into an entirely new environment.

“Being alone without a set meal that my mom cooked makes it hard to make good food choices,” freshman Kate Bain said. “Being without my dad to work out with makes it hard to get out and go to the gym. I know when I get out of class, I just want to eat junk and hang out. You get bored and say, ‘Well, let’s go to the diner.’”

Most students hear about the freshman 15 before moving into their dorm room from older siblings and friends, but the question is whether or not there is a difference in the way males and females react to the possibility of weight gain.

“I think girls are way more concerned about gaining the weight than guys are,” Lopez said. “I also feel as if it is easier for us girls to gain weight. Plus, we judge our bodies so critically sometimes that we are the first to notice any changes.”

In a study published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in 2005, it was found that females were more concerned with achieving their ideal body figures and they were more dissatisfied than males when it came to weight and physical appearance, reinforcing Lopez’s statement.

“For males, we see it as something that can be done as a challenge, or as a bet,” Zach Clark, a freshman, said. “I think females wouldn’t think about doing the freshman 15. They are more self conscious of their appearances than males.”

When it comes down to it, the possibility of gaining weight is different for everyone. Two people with the same diet and exercise regimen can see two completely different numbers on the scale depending on each individual’s height and body type.

Healthy ways of reversing the effects of the freshman 15, however, are the same for everyone.

Going to the gym more frequently can help to burn the extra calories that are being consumed, freshman Kristen Ciccollela said.

In addition to going to the gym, some ways to try and keep the scale steady include avoiding eating late night snacking, getting enough sleep and eating well-balanced meals.

“If you have a fear of gaining the freshman 15, switch things up,” Lopez said. “Instead of the french fries smothered in hot sauce, opt for a salad on some days.”

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