Everyone who’s currently in or has been to college has heard of the “Freshman 15,” the supposed 15 pounds students will gain during their freshman year of college. Well, good and bad news. The good news is, the Freshman 15 is a myth. Studies have looked at weight gain during the first year of college, and found that most students had no significant weight change by the end of their freshman year. Those students who had gained weight only gained about 5 pounds on average.
So now for the bad news: Sure, you’re unlikely to gain 15 pounds during freshman year of college, but a new study has found that weight gain may continue throughout your four years as a college student.
Previous studies have only looked at student weight gain during the first year of college. A study conducted at Auburn University decided to look at changes in weight and body composition (meaning where fat accumulates, such as the waist, hips, etc) at the beginning of Freshman year vs the end of Senior year. 240 freshmen were recruited at the start of their Fall semester. Researchers recorded their weight, height, BMI, and the circumferences of the neck, waist, hips, and chest. Four years later, these students were again recruited (only 131 of them returned due to various reasons), and these measurements were taken again.
At the end of Senior year, 70% of these participants had gained weight, averaging about 6.7 lbs. At the start of this study, only about 18% of participants had a BMIs that were considered overweight or obese, where as 31% were considered overweight by the end of Senior year. Researchers also found significant increases in the circumferences of the neck, waist, and hips. All of these increases were much greater among males than among females.
From the results of this study, weight gain is not only a problem for freshmen, it remains a concern throughout the four years of college. In other words, we need to get away from the idea of “Freshmen 15” and look at it more like a “College 11” (if you can come up with a catchy alliteration for this, let me know).
As for why this weight gain happens and what can be done to fix it, you’ll just have to wait for another blog post.