The Freshman 15

Going off to college is stressful. For the first time, most students are totally independent. They decide when to get up, when to go to sleep, when to go to class, and when (and what) to eat. Typical expectations for that first year at school include new friends, a new appreciation for sleep, a broadened vocabulary, and an additional 15 pounds around the waist. Now it seems that the dreaded "Freshman 15" is a myth, just like those "best friends forever" proclamations in your high school yearbook.

Certainly, those dining halls with "all you can eat" meal plans can make you worry about putting on weight. There is the occasional alcoholic beverage consumed, too, although never by anyone I know. Late night runs to the 24-hour taco shack or cramming for finals with a cheeseburger in one hand can make you believe what you've heard about the average freshman gaining 15 pounds. To validate this widely held belief, researchers from Ohio State University studied over 7,400 freshmen from across the country.

The results of the research are surprising. Going to college does make you gain more weight than not attending. But it turns out to be a difference of about half a pound. Wow. About the weight of my slide rule. So much for conventional wisdom.

Only about 10% of college freshmen gained 15 pounds in their first year and 25% actually lost weight. The study did find that men gain a bit more weight than women on average, 3.4 pounds versus 2.4 pounds respectively. This could be because of the tendency for men to drink more alcohol than women. Over their entire college career, men gain about 13.4 pounds while women gain about 9 pounds.

For students who do gain weight, the primary correlation was found to be beer consumption. Those students who gained the most weight also reported drinking an average of 6 beers a week. Students hoping to avoid the freshman 15 can follow a simple strategy: just say no to those keggers and everything will be fine.

Now, go back to your dorm and study!

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