College Media Story Ideas: The Freshman 15 Myth

The Freshman 15 is actually the Freshman 3.  According to a new report appearing soon in Social Science Quarterly, first-year students at colleges and universities only gain a bit more than three pounds during their first two semesters in school.

The “myth-debunking” finding stems from a long-term study that followed the weight fluctuations of more than 7,000 teens and early twenysomethings.  It is the first major blowback against the Freshman 15 phenomenon since its introduction into the media and public lexicon more than 20 years ago.

According to The Los Angeles Times, “The first mention of ‘Freshman 15’ came . . . in 1989 inSeventeen magazine.  By the late 1990s, use of the ‘Freshman 15′ term in articles had risen significantly and (shockingly!) about half . . . did not refute or question the reality of ‘Freshman 15.’”

Campus newspapers regularly run articles obsessing about how students can avoid the dramatic weight gain.  As an opinion piece published last month in The Index at Michigan’s Kalamazoo College shares, “Education typically isn’t the only thing you gain in college.  Looked in the mirror lately?  Many college kids have a case of the Freshman 15.  And many students don’t even realize it until their pants are too tight.”

Less than a month before the Index op-ed, a write-up in The Quad at Pennsylvania’s West Chester University laid out the many temptations apparently making the Freshman 15 unavoidable.  “Even before that deliciously greasy pizza from [a local pizzeria], there were the fresh, hot fries from Chick-fil-A,” it begins.  “There was that blueberry muffin with a latte from Starbucks before an 8 a.m. class in Main Hall.  There was the free-for-all in [another campus building] because they were serving both chocolate chip cookies and tacos on the same night.  Is it any wonder why those favorite jeans don’t fit?  With so many unhealthy choices of food on campus, is there really anything one can do to avoid gaining the freshman 15?”

According to the study, the main thing students and educators can do is stop worrying so much about it.  As its co-author states, “There are a lot of things to worry about when you go to college.  However, gaining 15 pounds your freshman year is not one of them.”

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