Freshman 15: Fact or fiction?

It is the one thing everyone warns students about before heading off to college: the freshman 15.

Human environmental studies faculty Najat Yahia said gaining weight freshman year is often due to adapting to the new surroundings.

“A student’s environment changes; their eating habits change, and there’s often a lot more stress during that time,” Yahia said.

Students often feel isolated and eat more or rely more on fast food, because their parents aren’t there to cook meals.

Oklahoma freshman William Boleman said he noticed a weight gain after his first semester on campus.

“More like the freshman 25, but sure, why not?” Boleman said. “I definitely have gained the freshman 15, or did gain it first semester. I suppose second semester is about trying to work it off.”

­­With the endless amount of residential restaurant food readily available, there are options, but they're not always healthy.

Boleman said he often finds himself stepping away from greasy food in the residential hall cafeterias and going to the salad bar.

“I know that if I don’t, my freshman 15 will change into a freshman 50,” he said.

However, Ovid freshman James Wilson said he hasn’t noticed anyone gaining extra flub since coming to CMU.

“CMU offers so many opportunities to workout, and so many people partake in that that it is rare,” he said. “I have not seen one person at CMU gain the freshman 15.”

Wilson said one thing he cut out of his diet is pop.

After gaining 20 pounds by drinking pop, he stopped drinking it and went back to his regular weight.

He said he often finds one food to always be present in the cafeteria: potatoes.

“It’s a lot of carbs,” he said. “You have to work harder to maintain weight if that’s all you eat.”

Yahia said most students overestimate the serving suggestion.

“Students need to read labels, and it’s important to have a nutrition education early on,” she said.

Yahia said an extra 100 calories per day can lead to about 11 pounds of weight gain over a year.

Some foods, such as processed diet meals, might mislead consumers by seeming nutritious but can be filled with sugar that tacks on pounds.

Another source contributing to the freshman 15 is drinking.

Yahia said one gram of alcohol is equivalent to seven calories.

“A drink can easily be 150 calories, and people don’t think they’re gaining weight because they’re not eating; it’s just a drink,” she said.

Boleman said it sometimes feels like a lose-lose situation.

“All the drinking and partying is definitely a lot of empty calories, but I don’t think the on-campus dining does them a favor, either,” he said.  “We go out and consume mass amounts of calories, or we stay in and consume mass amounts of calories. We really can’t win.”

Detroit freshman Brittany Burnside said she often finds herself eating more on campus than when she was at home.

“My unlimited meal plan doesn't make it any better, because some days, I have two or three lunches and two or three dinners,” she said.

Yahia said the most important thing to do is read labels and get informed.

Since most freshmen eat in the residential restaurants, the labels aren’t available while looking at food options. It is often useful to log on to the campus dining website and use the nutrition calculator to plan your meals ahead of time.