The Freshman 15: A myth to be left in the ‘90s

Grace Visco, Opinion Editor

In my first week of college, all I ate was salad and fruit. I wouldn’t even look at a hamburger.

There were a million things to be nervous about upon entering college, but my biggest concern was gaining the “Freshman 15.”

During my first semester, I put more energy into feeding my intrusive thoughts than actually feeding myself.

As the semester progressed, however, I diversified my meals while maintaining a healthy weight. I learned to listen to my body when it’s hungry and eat the foods I want to eat, regardless of whether or not they are “healthy.”

I was happier and less stressed when I felt comfortable eating what I wanted.

First-years shouldn’t spend time worrying about the Freshman 15, they should focus on their personal development and their happiness.

The Freshman 15 is a myth. The term was first used in a 1989 issue of Seventeen magazine, in an article titled “Fighting the Freshman 15,” according to a 2014 article by the Atlantic

Other media outlets began to use the phrase and it became a fad. The concept of the Freshman 15 began to dominate pop culture.

However, there has never been any research to support the claim that first-year students have a tendency to gain 15 pounds at the onset of their college experience.

The average student only gains about 2.5 to 3.5 pounds their first year of college, according to a 2011 study by Ohio State University

The term “Freshman 15” also demonizes weight gain.

In reality, many people, especially women, begin to gain weight in their early twenties. The reason for this normal weight gain has nothing to do with college—it’s a part of getting older, according to a 2015 Cosmopolitan article.

The Ohio State study concluded that oftentimes, unhealthy weight gain is actually a result of heavy drinking, not poor eating habits.

The negative connotations of the term “Freshman 15” can create a toxic mindset for new students. 

Distorted thoughts around eating can lead to disordered eating—unhealthy or restrictive eating patterns—or eating disorders—obsession with weight and eating habits—according to a March 22 Very Well Mind article.

Perpetuating the myth of the Freshman 15 can create a false narrative for young college students, leading them to develop unhealthy habits and thoughts surrounding eating. 

To make matters worse, it is already common for eating disorders to arise during major life transitions, such as the transition away from home and into college, according to a Sept. 7, 2021 U.S. News article.

I have struggled with disordered eating my entire life, but the transition to college reignited dangerous eating patterns and negative thoughts I hadn’t dealt with in a while.

The combination of living independently coupled with the voice in my head begging me not to succumb to the Freshman 15 put me in a vulnerable spot. I didn’t know how to handle eating at a dining hall where I could have whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it.

Eventually, I got the hang of taking care of myself in a holistic way, but it took a lot of unlearning to comfortably eat pizza and cookies in the dining hall.

It’s okay if your body looks different than it did in high school. Bodies are supposed to change. Dining hall food and late night pizza aren’t necessarily the culprit. 

College is an incredible time to try new things, explore passions, make great friends and live independently.

Don’t waste time counting calories and obsessing over a number on the scale. College kids are so much more interesting than their weight.