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Is the Freshman 15 Just a Myth?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
You’ve probably heard of the dreaded “Freshman 15”, the weight many college students typically gain when making the transition to life on their own.  It’s easy to see how weight gain is possible for some students:  dining halls with lots of unhealthy food choices, increased alcohol consumption, more time spent studying and less time spent exercising.  Even with these changes, I always thought that 15 pounds sounded like a lot.  Of course there are some who gain more, some who gain less and some who don’t gain any at all.   But a new study says that the Freshman 15 is really a myth, with the typical weight gain being much less.
The study, published in the journal Social Science Quarterly, found that freshman gain an average of 2.5 to 3.5 pounds in the first year of college.  It found that noncollege people of the same age also gained, although it was about a half-pound less.  As you could expect, heavy drinkers gained more and those who had a job gained less.   There were no significant differences between income levels or those who lived on or off campus.  In general, a small amount of weight gain seems common at this point in life. 
Even though the Freshman 15 might be a myth, it can still be a struggle to make healthy food choices and exercise regularly when making this transition into adulthood.  SparkPeople’s College Living Lifestyle Center is full of helpful information to get you (or your loved ones) on the right track.  Establishing healthy habits early on makes it easier to continue them long-term. 
Did you gain weight when you went to college (or just at this point in your life)?  If so, why?  If you have loved ones who are headed to college (or you are in college yourself), how are you helping to establish healthy habits and avoid unnecessary weight gain? 

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SHERYE 10/28/2019
My roommate gained the dreaded 15 pounds but then what do you expect when she lived on junk food - kegs and partying all the time (what an awesome time haha) Report
I personally didn't gain the freshman 15, but I was so determined NOT to gain it that I focused on eating healthy. At some point, though, I did put on seven pounds and added working out to healthy eating to keep the weight down. However, I don't think it's a complete myth. While I don't think the people around me gained as much as 15 pounds their first year, fall football season at Ohio State meant beer, wings, and pizza, and many people I knew did gain something. Report
I grew 2 inches taller starting in my freshman year of college after only growing 1/2 inch the previous 3 years. Good thing I wasn't obsessing about weight at the time!
I ate healthier and was much more physically active in college (walking the huge campus and using the campus facilities). I was also for the first time in my life away from a stressful home situation that triggered emotional eating. So I lost a little weight my freshman year and by graduation I was the smallest and fittest I had ever been. Report
Weighed 168 lbs. and had a 32 in. waist when I graduated high school - same when I graduated from college. Now (30 yrs later) I'm at 183 lbs coming down from 212 on my way to a goal weight of 169 lbs. I guess it's a second childhood of sorts. Report
I lost weight my freshmen year because I lived on the 4th floor of a building with no elevator and had no car so there was lots of walking along with the gym. I did gain the sophomore 15 sadly Report
I dreaded the "freshman 15" when I came to college last year so I did nothing but force myself to eat right and with living in the dorms I lived across the street from our workout center. I worked out every day and dropped about 10 pounds. Now that I am living on my own about 20 min walking distance from the workout center I have gained about 15 pounds. So I gained the "sophomore 15 " Report
I lost 15-20 pounds my first semester. I worked at McDonalds during highschool, and I ate a LOT of french fries. I went to college 7 hours away from my family. I had to get out and meet people. I walked every where on the campus. I also hit up the gym and started eating salads and broccoli.

Unfortunately, after graduating and moving off campus in the city I gained all the weight I lost during college and then some. I really do miss being able to walk every where. What a great work out. I walked a minimum of 1 hour daily - and that's not including my gym time! Report
Unfortunately this is true...even for Graduate students. I'm speaking from experience.
I'm in my first year of my graduate study (working towards a PhD). Since August I have gained about 10lbs (I had lost over 25lbs with SP since 2008), simply because there just isnt time to workout. A heavy course load + lab work (30hrs/week) + the commute to and from school has made it impossible to workout. I try to eat healthy but I already wake up at 4am each morning to study and I have to sit down to study in the evenings once I get home (usually at 7-8pm). I gave myself a semester to settle down in a new place and gauge the new schedule I am going through, although I cannot help feeling extremely disappointed over the weight I have re-gained.
I'm hoping to get back on track once I am done with finals in about 2 weeks (through the holidays hopefully). I am also planning on managing my time better right from the beginning of the next semester so as to incorporate a workout atleast 3-4 times a week. :) Report
I gained about ten pounds my freshman year...Beer, pizza and wings all the time and I only gained ten pounds? Man those really were good times! These days if I ate like that for a WEEK I'd gain ten pounds for sure! Report
I gained weight in my last two years of high school because I quit figure skating when we moved. I kept eating like an athlete, so I gained about 18 pounds in two years and lost muscle tone (so it was more like gaining 25 pounds). I went from being a super-fit and almost too slim 120 (at 5'7") to 138 by age 18.

I lost about 15 pounds in my first year of university (so I did the reverse Freshman 15). I was already somewhat unhappy with my weight when I went away to university, but it wasn't until I got dumped by my first college boyfriend (who said he was "embarrassed to be seen with me in front of his friends" - what a jack***) that I felt inspired to really do something about it. This was far from being the best reason to lose weight - but "Ha - I'll show you" worked well as a catalyst for a healthier lifestyle. I started eating better and exercising in late November, and came back to school in January having lost 8 pounds. I lost the next 7 in the following month or so.

One of the more satisfying moments of my first year of university was having my ex walk up to me at a college dance and tell me I looked great. I said "Too late, jerk!" and walked away to join my real friends. Report
I gained 10lbs my freshman year because I went from being extremely active (exercising 12-16 hours per week) to being pretty inactive. Report
I didn't gain weight my freshman year. In fact, because of the stress I lost a lot of weight. It wasn't until my junior year and I started drinking that I gained weight, and a lot of it! I could have also been a part of the statistic about if your friends are overweight... We would go out several times a week after evening rehearsal (we were music majors), eat deep-fried soft pretzels, a dessert and have a couple of drinks.

I was appalled when I saw my pictures at graduation so I began to take better care of myself and lost most of the weight in grad school. I lived by myself, off campus, so I could cook for myself and keep only healthy choices in my kitchen. Report
I attended a private university 3,000 miles away from home on athletic scholarship.I watched others on my team gain, and while I didn't, I certainly should have. I had never planned a meal, washed my own clothes or really had to take care of daily living chores.

My freshman year I used to eat a dozen donuts, A DAY! No really. See, I was introduced to Krispy Kreme donuts, and we didn't have them in CA (at that time).

By the time I finished college I had gained 20 lbs, however I ended those years at 165 lbs at 5' 11". Like Michael Phelps, I could eat & eat without that much affect. At age 30 when I stopped training for competition, woah, I have been fighting (and have lost) my unhealthy appetite and excessive portion sizes. I am not giving up, but so far this is the hardest thing I've tried and failed at! Report
I lived in a "walking" community, I did a great deal of walking, and since food wasn't that good on campus, and we had to find it later, I really didn't gorge myself much. I was lucky back then and remained the same weight throughout. Report
I gained about 40 pounds! My first fast food job coupled with a surgery that left me couch-bound didn't help. Report
I can't remember exactly, but I think I may have gained 5 lbs my freshman year. Report
No, I did lots of walking, dancing, skateboarding and waterskiing...Party!! Report
Yes, the "freshman 15" was a myth for me. I gained 25 pounds that first year! Report
I didn't gain weight the freshmen year but I was walking more as there was a mile between some buildings on campus. Also my dorm room had a small kitchenette so I only ate 1 meal a day in the dining hall and ate my usual breakfast and lunch. Some of the time I was living by myself and found I don't eat as much when there is just one to cook for. , I did however go to Europe my last summer and gained 10 pounds then, 5 of which became permanent. Report
I didn't gain until a few years later :( Report
I gained due to eating very unhealthy choices at the cafeteria, and they did have good options, I just did not choose them. Report
I'm not sure about freshman year but throughout my college career I gained about 40-45 pounds. Mostly I just wasn't making good food choices, eating whenever and whatever I wanted. Luckily I have since lost a little over half that and on my way to losing the rest. Report
I was still living at home and I had a physical job in the summer so and didn't worry al that much. If anything I was filling out and it was mostly muscle. Report
Attended college living at home and didn't gain any weight. Report
Whether I gained weight or not when I entered college depends..... my first couple of years I went to a 2-yr. public university campus in my hometown to save money & get general classes out of the way. I still lived at home so I continued eating as I normally did (mom buying groceries, home-cooked meals most of the time). I actually lost weight. After those 2 years I went to a different college in a bigger city & lived on campus. Since I lived on campus I had to have a meal plan. While they had some healthier options & I tried to be mindful of them, I still gained about 5-10 pounds. I moved off-campus to an apartment with a friend of mine & now that I'm cooking/feeding myself again, I lost the weight. Report
I actually lost about 25 pounds during my freshman year. The main reason was I tried out for the university's volleyball team and made it. The practices were from 5:30 - 8:30pm, so dinner was impossible. Even the two times I ate dinner I ended up losing it because the practices were so intense.

It was a blessing for me to lose that weight at that time in my life. Report
I lost my freshman year because I joined crew but once that ended, I definitely gained. Report
I gained 12 lb my first semester in college, mostly due to all-you-can-eat dining hall food for dinner... and breakfast *if* I could wake up in time for it. I basically never worked out, so that also contributed. The next semester, I controlled myself a bit better in the dining hall and lost 6 or 7 of those 12 lb. Report
yeah for me it was the freshman 50...in the first 3 months. no kidding. ARGH!! Report
Absolutely true! Report
Hard for me to gain weight when I was in university as I had to walk up and down hills between the faculty and dorm, especially when no bus wanted to stop at our faculty (darn that law faculty!) or I was too impatient to wait for next bus, haha. I think it was at my first job that I gained my pounds in just short 6 months! Report
I didn't gain weight my freshman year. However, I DID start regaining weight during my sophmore year. Report
I actually gained 15 lbs. eating in a dorm cafeteria and pizza & hamburgers with shakes on the weekends and no exercise other than walking less than 5 minutes to class. Report
Yes, I gained about 10lbs but it's more because I moved the the US for college. I grew up in Japan eating healthy food and small portions all my life and suddenly I was surrounded by huge American size portions, fast food and pizza delivers in the middle of the night. I was not used to this kind of unhealthy lifestyle. When I moved off campus and stated cooking my own food, I lst all the weight I had gained. Report
I was fortunate enough to lose quite a bit of weight. I don't know how much for sure because I have been on a dieting yo-yo since I was eleven or twelve years old. I do remember my mom visiting me and I said that I was happy that I lost weight (she promptly criticized my food choices). I think it was because I was walking a LOT, and no one was telling me I would get fat every time I ate something other than diet food. Report
I did gain some weight my freshman year - 1st time away from home with a checkbook! Pizza! Report
I didn't gain weight but I also played volleyball through college. Report
I gained the freshman 40. Report
I'm currently a freshman and am having a hard time losing the weight I gained. I gained about 15lbs since I've gotten to college. I didn't think that I would have gained weight since I've always watched my diet and was pretty active. However, the stress in college gets to you and I couldn't find time to exercise or eat right. Now I'm trying to lose the weight that I've gained and teach myself how to eat at college since it is completly different from that at home. Report
I gained 30lbs throughout college, most of it during my Junior and Senior years. I gained weight because I ate out all of the time, partied a lot, had horrible sleeping and study habits, and did not always keep healthy food in my apartment.

I gained another 10-15lbs at the end of grad school from stress and not having enough time to work out regularly.

For me, it was hard to balance everything I wanted to do. I worked full-time and went to school full time, but as an undergrad, I wanted to party too. Because I obviously did not have enough time to do everything, workout time ad sleep time are what suffered. The "freshman 15" may be a myth, but avoiding weight gain in college is pretty difficult. Report
I gained 100lbs my first three years in College, as a result of unresolved issues, but got my behind in gear my last semester and lost 80lbs. I have gained back those 80 pounds plus more (due to illness) but I'm back on track. Report
i actually gained weight my senior year of high school. then again in my sophmore year of college. i think it had less to do with college and more to do with having a boyfriend. i started to eat out a lot more when we began dating and exercised a lot less. i am now a post ungergrad and ive lost most of the weight i have put on in college Report
I gained weight - but I was practically a stick going into college because my mother was a terrible cook. When I got to college, I was stunned by the good-tasting, healthy choices there (beats the heck out of overcooked, oversalted, over-fatty YUCK that my mom cooked), and so I not only became healthy but developed really good habits of choosing a wide variety of quality foods. Report
I didn't gain any my first or 2nd year because I worked 30 hours a week and was living at home. However, as soon as I turned 21...I gained almost 30 lbs from drinking. Now I can't stand the stuff! Report
I actually lost weight my freshman year of college. I think it was because I was no longer living at home where I would have my mom's baked goodies around to snack on all the time. Also, I worked my way through college so I wanted to be sure I spent my money on good things and not junk food. I have gained weight since have my 3 kids. It has been hard to get it off after each one and has accumulated to nearly 50 pounds heavier than I was in college. Report
I was gaining a pretty steady 5-10 lbs every year for the past 5 years, and this is now my Freshman year in college. But thanks to SP, I've actually managed to LOSE weight! :) Report
I gained some weight during my first year of college. I think it was because I was living on my own and I didn't have any kind of schedule for eating meals, I just ate whenever I was hungry. I would always lose weight when I would go back home because my mom basically planned all of my meals for me. It wasn't until after college I learned how to plan my meals. Report
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