[Never Say Diet] The Freshman Fifteen and Other Lies Fed to Our Generation

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Freshman FifteenToday on Never Say Diet, I’m talking about a new study which explodes the myth of the Freshman Fifteen by figuring out that college freshman… don’t really gain fifteen pounds.

I know. Your mind is blown.

We’ve created a lot of hype and expectation around the idea that leaving home equals piling on pounds — just like we assume everyone gets fat over the holidays or right after they get married or when they have a baby. Which is not to say people don’t gain a little weight during these times. As it happens, I gained the Freshman Twenty (ohhh triple-decker PB&J every day in NYU’s Hayden Dining Hall, you were delicious…), so I know what of I speak.

But why do we demonize these expected weight gains as epic failures of willpower that need to be held at bay at any cost?  Perhaps there are just stages in your life when weight creeps up a bit — and that’s not necessarily a sign of anything more apocalyptic or sinful than a newfound preference for triple-decker PB&J, or a busy work schedule, or whatever.

Because — not to get all conspiracy theorist on you — who really benefits from Freshman Fifteen Phobia, whether it results in an actual weight gain or unnecessarily restrictive behavior to stave it off? Our good friends in the $60 billion diet industry, of course.

Read more over on Never Say Diet. 




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8 responses to “[Never Say Diet] The Freshman Fifteen and Other Lies Fed to Our Generation

  1. Mightn’t it be that the “Freshman 15” are the result of a NORMAL growth spurt in young people? My son did not gain the “Freshman 15” when he went to college the first time at age 18, but during his 21st year while living in his own apartment, he gained about 30 pounds. Far from meaning that he was fat, at six feet tall he went from approximately 125 pounds to about 155. He had not increased his caloric intake. Isn’t it possible that this growth is simply par for the course but we females are taught that we shouldn’t gain an ounce? I remember that my bulimia became worse than ever when I went to college because I was gaining weight. It sure as hell wasn’t from eating dorm food, which is awful.

    • Faycin A Croud: Agree x 1000. I think it’s an age when a lot of people go through a final growth spurt/filling out/call it what you will. I did gain 20 pounds largely from junk food — but I also grew an inch and a half that year, so clearly, there was a good reason I was so darn hungry all the time — it’s called finishing puberty, and it happens at different ages/in different ways for every body. But since we have this idealized notion of women’s bodies as perpetually 16, we’re not okay with them finishing the transition from girl to adult. Thank you for pointing that out!

      • Yep, yep. I put on some weight during my college years (15 pounds is actually not a bad estimate for my weight gain during my freshman and sophomore years). However, during that time, I also gained:
        a) 1.5 inches of height
        b) about as much distance between my hip bones, apart from any muscle, fat, or skin on those bones
        c) BOOBS.
        The combination makes me think it was pretty clearly my pituitary’s way of going, “Hey! Not done yet! BOOBS!”

  2. Kate Carpenter

    I gained what I refer to as the “college 15,” graduating about 15 pounds heavier than I started. But I’ve stayed there ever since, so it seems to be the weight where my body is most comfortable. (And it’s the weight I’ve returned to after each of two babies.) There’s no way — no way — that I was ever meant to be permanently the size I was when I was 18. That wasn’t college. That was growing into my adult body.

    • “That was growing into my adult body.”

      Ah! Yes. So well put! I truly think that’s what it is for a lot of us (triple PB&Js not-withstanding) — so why do we beat ourselves up so much for doing something that’s fully natural and normal? Oh, because so many women have a hard time matching their adult bodies up with the bodies we’re told we’re supposed to have…

  3. Edonil

    As I was preparing to go off to university, my mom kept alternating between warning me to eat salads and reminiscing about gaining her own freshman 15 in her university days. When I went home for Christmas break in my first year, I weighed myself. I was five pounds lighter than when I left. Strangely, Mom still insisted that I looked a bit chubby. (And then I gained more weight over the holiday than I’d lost at school. Clearly it’s Mom’s cooking I need to watch out for!)

  4. Pingback: [Fun With Press Releases] This Would Be the Diet Industry, Hoping to Profit Off Your Freshman 15 Phobia. | Beauty Schooled

  5. I’ve always thought that 15 pounds seemed like a rather extreme average number. Sure, I gained some weight, but I really don’t think it was 15 pounds. And yes, I grew too. And I put on muscle. And I exercised my brain. In other words, I changed my lifestyle, and my body changed with it.

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