The freshman 15 is quite arguably the greatest myth ever perpetuated by a generation. It works on so many levels, playing on parents’ insecurities and fears as to how their precious darlings will fare away from home. How will they deal with the distance? Even worse, how will they deal with the horrid campus food?
This fabrication also enables the lazy young adult mindset that it’s OK to let go of a healthy lifestyle once you graduate high school and fly free of the nest. Natural dips in metabolism, change in environment and, dare I say it, the greater availability of alcohol in vaster quantities are all contributing factors that tend to be neglected in favor of blaming a nonsensical phenomenon.
In my first year at Rider, I noted that the people packing on the pounds were not usually the ones who overindulged their sweet tooth. Rather, it was the students who adopted a partying lifestyle, primarily in regards to alcohol consumption, were more prone to gaining a little extra around the middle.
So, how exactly does this legend continue to make its mark? Well, for one thing, it suits the purposes of the student body as well as the families at home.
If the parental units express concern over what they perceive as an unhealthy alteration in their child, the student can simply attribute their weight gain to that darned freshman 15 that seemingly dogs every student to walk into the campus cafeteria.
This invention serves to alleviate accountability for all parties involved. The new student is supposedly helpless to resist the temptation of supremely mediocre food and its constant availability, though most likely not the price of takeout food.
However, you will find that this weight fluctuation is hardly a supernatural force preying on the weak and the homesick.
In fact, at college you really have even less of an excuse to pack on the pounds if you aren’t pounding back the beers. Necessity dictates that all students walk from one corner of the campus to another for classes and socialization. The gym is free and well-equipped, and Daly’s closes at 8 p.m. on weekdays and even earlier on weekends, so free grazing at all hours of the night is not an option.
Sure, students can go to the Diner and keep food in their dorms, but those are secondary resources available in different forms at home as well.
Student drinking is almost a taboo subject when it comes to many parents. I’ve heard college graduates with master’s degrees say — with a straight face, no less — that their son or daughter has gained a bit of weight during their first year but that’s to be expected because, you guessed it, they are victims of the freshman 15. It’s as though some people selectively forget their youth and desire to drink, as well as the fact that lying to one’s parents is not a recent invention by our generation.
A lot of things are changing for new students, but rest assured that there is not a mystical presence specifically targeting the freshmen, nor is there a feasible excuse to fall out of shape. Both portion control and self-control are key elements of maintaining a healthy weight. Neither students nor parents are doing any favors by propagating this excuse.
– Megan Pendagast
Sophomore English major