Understanding how the ‘Freshman 15’ occurs

Jennie Barr

Loss of sleep, late night snacking and drinking alcohol are some factors that play a role in weight gain for first-year university students, commonly known as “the freshman 15.” Tanya Falcone, the adult nutrition counselor for the Center of Nutrition Outreach, helps students at Kent State University prevent that weight gain.

“It’s a matter of picking the healthier foods,” Falcone said. “Things that are creamy or fried are foods we should stay away from more often.”

Portion control, eating more vegetables and fruit, and planning meals ahead can help prevent weight gain, Falcone said. Drinking more water and remaining physically active are also ways to help keep off the “freshman 15.”

“Don’t go into the cafeteria blindly,” Falcone said. “Even the cafeterias on campus have the heart shaped apple sticker to show what’s healthy.”

Seventy percent of first-year college students gained what is known as the “freshman 15,” according to a study done by Auburn University in Alabama. The “freshman 15” is the average, 15-pound, weight many freshmen gain when they begin college.

Andrew Balazs, a certified personal trainer and senior nutrition and dietetics major, said cooking your own meals and having access to fresh fruit and vegetables are ways to prevent the “freshman 15.”

Balazs says he knows many freshmen live in the dorms and don’t have a lot to cook with, but students can utilize what they do have, like using the microwave to cook steamed pasta or vegetables. If they don’t feel like cooking there’s always fruit and fruit cups, Balazs says.

Rachel Molnar, a senior human development and family studies major, said she gained 20 pounds her first year at Kent State. Molnar weighed 120 pounds before beginning her freshman year; by November 2011 she weighed 140 pounds.

“I was going to the Rec a lot, but I just couldn’t lose the weight,” Molnar said. “Once I went home for the summer, I began eating on a regular schedule and ate home cooked meals, the pounds just slowly came off.” 

Molnar lived on campus both her freshman and sophomore year and was able to lose the 20 pounds she gained after her first year.

“I lived in a different dorm my sophomore year. I was able to keep the weight off by going grocery shopping at Prentice Hall,” she said. “I just made sure to not buy chips or unhealthy snacks.”

Jennie Barr was a beat reporter for the Summer Kent Stater.