Late night pizza meals and over drinking at the start of college may lead to weight gain in freshman students. It is a concept that has been dubbed the “freshman 15.” This phrase is no joke when it comes to weight gain issues in college-level freshmen students. “I did not gain weight my freshmen year. I actually lost 10 pounds, but it was because I was terrified of gaining weight” said a junior at Boston College. However, for some people, just being aware of the “freshman 15” might not be enough to keep the extra pounds off.
Change of lifestyle is often the reason for weight gain at the start of college. Whether it is the party scene, the constant access to the cafeteria, or the stress level, all have been a reason for weight gain in college freshmen. Some have argued that the change of routine and more free time were factors that contributed to weight gain and overeating. “I gained weight freshman year. It was probably due to unhealthy eating and getting less exercise than I did in high school. Once I got to college, I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Also, I didn’t do nearly as much walking around as I did in high school” a junior at West Chester University said.
At a lot of colleges and universities, it is common for the majority of freshmen to live on campus in a dorm with no stovetop. Also common, are meal plans that give access to some extremely unhealthy food. “Freshman year was the fattest I’ve ever been and I blame it on the meal plan I had. The food was disgusting and anything like fresh fruit or vegetables either didn’t exist or were too expensive to get with a meal plan” a junior at Temple University said. “I had no money, so basically, I bought bread and eggs and made French toast for every meal, every single day” said another student also from Temple University. College students are often busy, so convenience is the key to eating a meal between classes. Sometimes the easiest and fastest meal to get is from the cafeteria or a curbside truck that serves mostly deep fried nonsense.
Often, freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus. Without easy access to a grocery store, the meal choices are slim. Students often find themselves choosing between two equally unhealthy options. “Sometimes I walk into the cafeteria and see it as an open, all-you-can-eat buffet. Not only can we have whatever we want, but it is hard to pick up a salad when you see fries not too far away” one student at West Chester University said.
Stress in college is common. The workload becomes larger, and the nights become longer. “Eating helped my level of stress. Somehow, eating fast food or pizza while writing a paper makes everything better” a junior at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee said. Often students will be up until two in the morning scrounging around for menus of pizza places that deliver that late. In fact, Pizza University of West Chester, Pennsylvania is open until 2:30 a.m. on select nights.
Drinking also takes its toll on college freshmen. In a 12 oz. can of beer, there can be anywhere from 55 to over 300 calories. The calories in beer can add up on any given weekend night because everyone knows that no one drinks just one can of beer. It does not just stop at beer. A shot of 80-proof liquor is roughly 100 calories. Food aside, alcohol alone can increase your calorie intake. “Six to eight shots on a weekend night is typical for my friends and me” a sophomore at West Chester University said. Some students have even made comments about their friends’ changes in weight. One said, “I have friends that noticeably looked larger when I saw them the summer after freshman year of college. I know for a fact it was because of their constant drinking habits. I doubt she even realized how much she had put on” one said.
“It really is interesting to look back on your old classmates from high school. More than half of them look like they gained at least 15 pounds” said another student at West Chester University. Weight gain is common throughout a college career. The onset of college life comes with new choices, lifestyles, and options. The only way to avoid the freshman 15 is to recognize the causes, and keep them under control. Making time for exercise in a college schedule can be inconvenient and hard to accommodate. However, exercise is key to creating a healthy lifestyle before and during college. Unhealthy food, stress, and drinking are almost inevitable when starting college. However, the choice to deal with weight gain is possible as long as its causes are recognized first.
Elizabeth Coppa is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at EC744351@wcupa.edu.