How to battle ‘the freshman 15’

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Going to college can be a new and exciting experience for incoming students.

Many have heard of the adage, “the freshman 15,” but is this an accurate phrase? What is this caused by?

There are copious theories and reasons as to what triggers this weight change, and as time goes on from a student’s first year to their last, the reasons change too.

According to a study on, the average student only gains about 7.5 pounds in their first year of college. Almost half of the students in total gained weight, and 22% gained anywhere from 6-15 or more pounds.

Some causes of this can be linked to the shift from home-cooked meals to cafeteria food or fast food. Others are linked to stress, but two of the most compelling links were the connection between consuming alcohol and lack of vigorous alcohol.

According to, roughly 80% of college students drink alcohol, and over 50% do so regularly. Though spirits have their effects on the body, this act can lead to a change in eating and exercise habits. Students’ parties and social gatherings tend to occur in the late evening hours, leaving few food options except for fast-food restaurants with high fat and calorie content. Lia Sinclair, a third-year nursing student at FAMU, agrees.

“I think it’s definitely not having home-cooked meals, because you’re always snacking and eating out, eating quick stuff. I feel like it can also be stress as well like binge eating from stress, from assignments, not doing good, or trying to be perfect in school,” Sinclair said.

Sinclair also says that sleep could be a major factor in the way students gain weight. Harvard’s School of Public Health reports that short sleep duration can lead to an increased body mass index. This is due to reduced levels of leptin and increased levels of ghrelin. Leptin helps regulate your body’s energy by suppressing hunger, while ghrelin increases hunger and helps your body store fat.

This lack of sleep can cause hormonal changes, especially among college students, causing them to eat more and burn less energy.

To combat this, students can aim to snack better, with whole foods like nuts and fruit. Also, to manage stress with activities such as walking or yoga. This, along with efficient sleep and water, can help battle the fractious freshman 15 before students reach their senior year.