Myth Busting: The Freshman Fifteen

We’ve all heard about the “Freshman Fifteen.” Maybe your aunts and strangers at the grocery store alike have warned you about the body changes that come with heading off to school—but is any of it true?

Here’s the thing: most people in college do gain weight, but it’s not because they’re doing something “wrong,” it’s because they’re growing.

Our society is steeped in diet culture—which has led to a mindset that our bodies should stay the same as we age, especially when it comes to weight.

But just like our bodies show signs of aging, they show signs of growing, too.

A lot of people go to college around the age of 18—a time in which bodies are changing from that of a teenager and into one of a full-grown human. When you look at it that way, it becomes a little easier to realize that of course your body won’t look the same as it did in high school.

There are so many articles out there (especially the infamous 1989 Seventeen Magazine cover) that incite fear of weight gain in college. In fact, most of them are filled with statistics and numbers about how much weight people gain, the differences between men and women, and all the various factors that might cause this.

But very few of them address the fact that…hello! People are GROWING. So I wanted to address that right here for you.

Dr. Lawrence Friedman of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine explains in this article that teens aren’t done growing when they head off to college—and the weight gain that occurs during those years is actually not related to college at all.myth busting_ the freshman fifteen (1).png

In fact, Jay Zagorsky, co-author of a study from Ohio State University’s Center for Human Resource Research shares that the “Freshman 15” is just a media myth. He states that “most students don’t gain large amounts of weight. And it is not college that leads to weight gain — it is becoming a young adult.”

It’s pretty easy to understand that you won’t look the same at 45 as you did at 18, right? We understand that our skin might be different, our hair might be different—so why is it so hard to imagine that we might not weigh more than we did in our childhood?

Nelson et al. (2008) support this by sharing that the ages of 18-25 are a transitional period (emerging adulthood) that often leads to weight-gain regardless of college attendance. In fact, the CDC keeps weight-for-age growth charts that show that median weight of people aged 17-20 typically rises, according to Jay Zagorsky.

Bodies are not static creatures. We grow and shift and change over time, and because of the incessant messages about controlling our bodies, this can be a hard reality to accept.

We all understand that kids go through puberty and different changes start to occur in their bodies—but we don’t offer the same compassion to folks who are growing into adults.

I always inform clients and friends alike about the fact that our bodies are always changing, but I wanted to share a more thought-out piece on here about just how understandable it is in college. Do you know someone who should read this? How do you accept body changes during different seasons of life? Let me know in the comments sections!

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