Late night snack-a-thons, pulling all-nighters and partying may become a typical past-time for college students — a routine that could possibly lead to the” freshman 15.”
The “freshman 15,” a popular culture term coined in 1989 by Seventeen Magazine, predicts that the average freshman gains roughly 15 pounds during his or her first year of college. Although this term holds no scientific value, there are studies that point at factors in weight gain during the college years that students should understand.
A study conducted at The Ohio State University says the average weight gain per student during freshman year is closer to two or three pounds versus the stereotypical 15, resulting in about 10-12 pounds gained by males by senior year and 8-9 pounds gained by women. Coincidentally, researchers also discovered that young adults of the same age group as freshmen through senior students, who were non-college students gained about the same amount. There was additional weight gain for heavy drinkers.
Research conducted at Auburn University in Alabama shows similar results. Researchers followed 131 students throughout all four years of college. The study determined that 70 percent of them gained an average of 12 pounds by graduation.
Joyce Byers, RD, owner of Byers and Gaston Dietetics and Nutrition attributes college weight gain to lack of time management and high stress levels.
“College students sometimes find it difficult to find the balance between their social lives, studying and healthy living,” she said. “Developing a system that allows you to work hard, play hard and lead a healthy life through exercise and proper eating can be trying.”
April Boulter Ruther, program director of fitness and aquatics at the Halas Recreation Center, says that weight gain and unhealthy eating habits can come along at any part of a person’s life.
“Oftentimes you will hear that whenever people become engaged in a relationship that they gain weight,” she stated. “They choose to focus all that time and energy into that relationship, so it can happen at any stage of your life.”
Ruther said she believes college is the first stepping stone in students making independent decisions.
“Usually going to college is the first time that people realize that they have choices to make,” Ruther said.
Gabrielle Caputo, a 20-year-old junior English major, agrees with Ruther. She said her lifestyle is a choice she has to make.
“Since I’ve started college I take better care of myself.” Caputo said. “I think it is part of being an adult … You are responsible for your body when you leave your parents’ house.”
However, Caputo said she did gain weight during her freshman year.
“I gained a few pounds when I was a freshman — when I was stressed out — but I lost that and some when I became more conscious of what I was putting into my body, that and all my exercise,” she said.
Like Caputo, 20-year-old junior Sergio Gonzalez said he gained a few pounds in his early college days. However, Gonzalez attributes his weight gain to his metabolism and holiday eating. Despite the initial weight gain, Gonzalez said he now works hard to keep in shape.
“I go to the gym four or five times a week,” Gonzalez said. “I eat whole wheat and [don’t drink] soda.”
Gonzalez said being healthy is a choice for which he’s responsible.
Gonzalez and Caputo both have advice for their fellow peers. Caputo said students should be more positive with their decisions when it comes to keeping away the extra pounds.
“Rather than doing something negative like make an unhealthy choice, do something positive like workout or go for a jog, take the stairs instead of the elevators,” she said.
Gonzalez suggested that students organize their schedule to help make time for exercising.
“Get a planner to keep track of your life,” he said. “That way you can see where you can fit in exercise.”
Ruther suggested that students just find what works for them.
“I would just encourage people to do what works best,” she said. “My philosophy on fitness is that there’s something for everyone.” Ruther said students should “find what fits [their] schedule and body.”
Ruther encourages Loyola students to contact her via phone or email if they have any questions or concerns about healthy living. She can be reached at 773-508-2609 or firstname.lastname@example.org.