Don’t fall victim to the ‘Freshman 15’ myth

Cleveland Clinic Freshman 15

Many new college students have a lot on their plates, and often one of their biggest concerns is whether what’s on their plate will lead to 15 pounds of weight gain.

But according to Susan Albers, PsyD, of Cleveland Clinic, the ‘Freshmen 15’ is really just a myth.

“Research indicates that women, on average, tend to gain 3.1 pounds and men 3.5,” said Dr. Albers. “Only ten percent tend to gain more than 15 pounds during their freshmen year, so this is good news for students.”

While it might not be a whole 15 pounds, Dr. Albers acknowledged that it can be easy for students to gain weight during their college years. She said there are several situations that make it easy for students to over-eat in college. Late night eating, social eating, snacking, lack of sleep, and skipping breakfast can all lead to weight gain. Often, the biggest contributor to over-eating is stress.

Research shows that weight gain often goes hand-in-hand with times of stress – during exams and at the end of the year – so Dr. Albers said it’s important for students to be mindful of their eating habits during those times. She said stress makes us crave carbs, sugar and fat – anything that provides a quick energy buzz, all of which can lead to weight gain. Dr. Albers said new college students often struggle with knowing what to eat.

For many, it may be the first time they’re making all of the decisions on what their options are. She said it’s key for them to know that social eating can easily lead to mindless eating.

“There’s a lot of social eating that happens, and particularly late at night,” said Dr. Albers. “It’s fine to hang out with people, but if you’re not hungry, have some coffee and just spend time with them.”

Dr. Albers said rather than focusing on weight, it’s more beneficial to teach our college students how to eat healthy.

“It’s really important that we stop using the term ‘Freshmen 15,’ said Dr. Albers. “It creates a lot of anxiety in students. For new freshmen that are coming in, if they are worried about gaining 15 pounds, it can cause disordered eating or trigger eating disorders.” Dr. Albers also said that it can create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If students think it’s normal to gain 15 pounds during their first year in college, they will start to head in that direction.


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