The Freshman Fifteen: Myth or Fact?

Posted by Mohannad Aljawamis

"The Freshman Fifteen" has quickly become one of the most popular and most commonly used expressions for teasing and unintentionally warning first-year college students in the United States and Canada of the number of pounds that they often put on as a result of the new lifestyle of college.

While the phrase seems to mock the naivety and inexperience of newcomers, the idea actually remains true and very prominent amongst college students. Studies show that most first-year students experience a weight gain at some point during their first semester.

Although this may seem frightening, it is important to recognize that you have control over "The Freshman Fifteen." The frequency and assertiveness of this term may imply that it is a definite occurrence, but if you know the causes of this phenomenon you can easily avoid it not only in your freshman year, but also throughout your entire college experience.

Step One: Know the Causes

When dealing with an unfamiliar issue, learning and understanding are critical to coming up with a solution. You must be able to discern fact from fiction. While you may believe that "The Freshman Fifteen" is out of your control, what you eat is an essential factor in working to lose or gain weight.

Skidmore College offers its students an all-you-can-eat dining hall, in which the food is delicious and there are plenty of options to satisfy a wide variety of tastes. The range of foods and the attractive display often makes it very tempting for students to go for seconds and unintentionally over-eat. Further, because the dining hall works with such a massive quantity of food and patrons each day, the nutritional value of the food does not always seem to be a priority. It is much easier to prepare french fries than baked potatoes and the accompanying condiments.

However, food is only one part of the story. There are several factors that one must consider when it comes to weight control in college life. Alcohol can be a large part of the social scene, and many students drink large quantities without realizing its effect on their weight. A standard size Margarita has around 550 calories. A Long Island Iced Tea has 543 calories, more than are found in a Big Mac from McDonald's. Most shots and beers contain around 100 calories per serving. Without addressing the quantity of sugar in most common mixers, a college drinker can consume somewhere between 400 and 1000 calories in a night of drinking.

Additionally, sleep deprivation can also cause weight gain. While sleep seems to be a time where we shut down, unbeknownst to some, our bodies are still functioning and processing our food intake from the day prior. Lack of sleep causes low levels of leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite and metabolism.

Step Two: Take Action

As we depart from the halfway point of the semester, it may become clear to some students that "The Freshman Fifteen" is not a joke. Therefore, it is important to understand the causes and keep them in mind every day.

It is important to work out regularly, make dietary choices with nutrition in mind when eating in the dining hall, organize your schedule, and get enough sleep. Additionally, students should feel free to contact one of the College's Peer Health Educators, who have been educated on this phenomenon, and are well outfitted to help students in need. Health Promotions is located on the first floor of Jonsson Tower in Health Services. You can also contact Mohannad Aljawamis, a current Peer Health Educator, at maljawam@skidmore.edu.

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