Freshman 15’ weight gain is an urban myth
For years, college freshmen, particularly women, have feared the “Freshman 15,” that mythical average weight gain during their first year.
Although nothing more than legend, putting on an additional 15 pounds has been the cause of a great deal of misery, preoccupation with food and exercise, said Dr. Rick Kilmer, clinical director of the Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders. At its worst, it can cause severe food restrictions, including binging, purging, and, in many cases, anorexia.
“I can’t tell you how many women have gotten into a destructive cycle at college because they are so afraid of gaining weight,” Dr. Kilmer said. “What is tragic is that there is no Freshman 15. It is an urban legend, a college boogeyman that has been repeated year after year for decades.”
Truth is, Dr. Kilmer said, some women gain and some lose.
He said a recent study of 137 freshman women at the University of Oklahoma showed an average weight gain of only 2.4 pounds.
Even that can be 2 pounds too many for many freshmen, so we asked Dr. Kilmer how one might avoid the Freshman 2 and how do you know when a student is in trouble?
Tips to avoid gaining weight:
. Take a food plan to college, not a diet. Have a plan that enables a healthy, enjoyable relationship with food.
. Eat consciously. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are mildly full.
. Move your body. Enjoyably. Keep up an activity level similar to high school.
. Stop comparing your body to others. Do not create a daily mandatory beauty contest in your head. Your college awards diplomas, not tiaras.
. If you are already at school with eating or body image issues ... put up a safety net fast. Meet regularly with a registered dietician who has eating disorder experience. Do not isolate and try to go it alone.
Warning signs there may be a problem:
. Makes excuses to skip meals and eat alone.
. Preoccupation with food-related subjects in conversations.
. Makes very critical statements about body.
. Begins to isolate, cancel social contacts.
. Begins to put exercise ahead of social events, studying and even classes.