The “freshman 15” is a trope describing the amount of weight an incoming freshman could gain during their first year of college.
A study by the University of Michigan found students only gain about 2.5 to 6 pounds their freshman year. While the freshman 15 has been debunked by studies like this, some students still feel the freshman 15 is real.
“I was pretty active in high school with a bunch of different sports — I swam and played water polo,” Western senior Katie Bliden said, “My freshman year, I didn’t really do anything, so I definitely put on the freshman 15. It’s definitely real.”
The freshman 15 first appeared on the cover of a Seventeen magazine in August 1989 in a headline reading, “Fighting the Freshman 15” next to supermodel Niki Taylor posing in an orange blazer, according to The Atlantic. It then became a trend to say “freshman 15” instead of “freshman weight gain.”
Western junior Hannah Reichstein said she also believes in the freshman 15.
“I didn’t like [the dining hall’s] healthy options, so I would eat the same unhealthy options,” Reichstein said. “I ate a lot of pizza freshman year.”
Meal plans are bundled with dorm room rates and are mandatory if you live on campus. Bliden ate almost every meal at the dining hall.
“I would try to be healthy. Sometimes I would get salads,” Bliden said. “But if there’s
something good, I’m usually going to get it because [dining halls] have such limited options.”
Some students do gain weight during their years in college. This can be from unhealthy eating habits or from “plain old-fashioned growth,” according to the Huffington Post.
Western junior Sean Nhem-lim believes the freshman 15 is real as well. Looking back, Nhem-lim would tell his freshman self to not eat out late at night so often, work out three times a week and eat more vegetables.
“When I went to college, I had to study all the time and when I studied, I would want to eat snacks,” Reichstein said. “When I’m bored I would eat, and when you get the ‘drunchies’ you have to eat a ton, so that was probably a problem.”
Bliden said she knew she wasn’t alone in her search for healthier foods and found her peers shared the same concerns about weight gain.
“It’s really difficult, but sometimes you can indulge in the things that you like and other times just have a salad,” Bliden said.
But according to The Atlantic and the findings of multiple studies, the weight gain throughout all four years of college is nowhere near 15 pounds and it is time to retire the term.