Experts: Freshman 15 not likely for most first-year students

Erin Hopkins

Late-night snacking, alcohol consumption and hectic schedules can all contribute to weight gain in college. Many college freshmen hear they will put on an extra 15 pounds during their first year, but experts say a 15-pound weight gain is not likely.

According to a 2002 study by Tufts University researchers, the freshman 15 is a myth. The study found that while some students do gain weight their first year, it is only about six pounds for men and 4.5 pounds for women. 

Diana Keuilian, certified personal trainer and author of the book Avoid the Freshman Fifteen, said that weight gain is not guaranteed for every student.

“I think that it is important to let students know that they are in control of whether or not they are going to gain weight,” Keuilian said in an e-mail interview. “Food, lack of exercise and busy schedules all contribute to a student’s weight.”

According to a Cornell University Web site, some reasons students gain weight are:

  • Extra eating at the dining halls
  • Skipping meals and overeating later in the day
  • Alcohol intake, which adds hidden calories
  • Lack of exercise

Jason Settles, junior computer information systems major, said he did not exercise as much his first year as he would have liked to.

“I played sports in high school, and I was very active,” Settles said. “Then when I got to college, I just sat around and did nothing. I ended up gaining weight.”

Junior nursing major Laini Harden exercised to keep the weight off.

“I danced my freshman year – I was still active,” Harden said. “My advice is to stay in shape and not be lazy. And if your dorm has a kitchen, go in there and cook something!”

Commuter students also can struggle with weight gain, but it is not as much of an issue as it is for those living on campus.

“I think staying healthy will be much easier because I won’t be eating ramen noodles everyday,” said Ashley Middlecoop, freshman business marketing major at Kent Stark. “I can eat healthier with my parents buying everything. I also plan on exercising more so I don’t gain that weight.”

Keuilian said commuter students should be just as wary of their habits as on-campus students.

“Increasing calorie intake, decreasing activity and killing one’s metabolism apply to all students, no matter what their location,” Keuilian said.

Kent State offers a variety of resources to help students whether they need to lose weight or just keep it off.

The Nutrition Outreach program provides free services such as health assessments (Body Mass Index, waist-to-hip ratio) and nutrition guidance (diet analysis).  

Sarah Hallsky, graduate assistant in the Office of Health Promotion at DeWeese Health Center, said she teaches a program called Body Image in Focus. The workshop explains how nutrition and body image are related. Resident assistants can call the health center and request this program for their students. 

Keuilian said to remember every student is different, regardless of their age, race or sex.

“The numbers we see about weight gain are just averages. It all boils down to each student’s individual lifestyle as the determining factor of whether of not they will gain weight while in college,” Keuilian said. “Anyone can avoid the weight gain when they have a solid plan of action in place.”


Quick tips for avoiding or losing the freshman 15:

  • Exercise in the morning. Instead of hitting the snooze button when the alarm goes off, strap on your tennis shoes and walk briskly around campus for 10 to 15 minutes. Aerobic activity done on an empty stomach forces your body to recruit energy from storage.
  • Forget the late night snack.  Not eating three hours before bed reduces fat storage throughout the night. If you normally go to bed at 11 p.m., stop eating after 8 p.m.
  • Kiss the frappucino goodbye.  The average venti-sized frappuccino weighs in at 530 calories. This staggering number equals 2.5 bagels, or one-third of the recommended daily calories for an average woman. Try having tea or a plain coffee.
  • Fuel your fire.  Eating a small meal every three hours is a great way to keep your metabolism high all day long.
  • Curb the carbs.  While it’s probably not best to throw out your breadbasket entirely, consciously cutting carb-filled items out of your daily food intake is a great idea. If you normally have a sandwich for lunch make it open-faced, thus cutting out half of the bread. If you enjoy eating pasta for dinner, reduce your pasta portion and add extra vegetables

Source: Diana Keuilian,

Contact features reporter Erin Hopkins at [email protected].