Is that late night pizza pie really a death sentence, or is an extra trip to the dining hall all part of the college experience? We’ve all been warned about the notorious “Freshman 15,” but it turns out this drastic weight gain might be a cultural myth. The term was first introduced on the August 1989 cover of Seventeen Magazine, and has since found its way into all facets of pop culture. The truth is that most college students, boys and girls alike, do gain some weight during their first year at college or university. After all, it’s hard to balance school, work, a social life, new people, and a new living situation, let alone finding time to eat balanced meals (especially when living in a dorm room, without amenities like a stove or oven). A recent study from The Ohio State University found that the “Freshman 15” should probably be called the “Freshman Five.” The study included data from 7,418 young people over four years at university, and found that, on average, men and women gained around three pounds during freshman year. Less than ten percent of freshman students gained fifteen pounds or more. Most surprising was the fact that over a quarter of the students lost weight during their freshman year.
The study did find that most students slowly gained weight while at college. On average, women gained between seven and nine pounds by graduation; for men, it was between twelve and thirteen pounds. The most common culprit behind weight gain was almost always booze: students who “drank heavily” during their four years were about a pound heavier than their friends who drank less than four days each month. The Ohio State study ultimately concluded that weight gain doesn’t happen overnight, or even in one year, and that if often has no correlation with attending a university in the first place.