The Dreaded Freshman 15

On a heavier note --- it’s time to talk about the dreaded Freshman 15 – you know that extra poundage that so many kids come home with after their first year on campus. Sure – you think it will never happen to you – but without a little planning from your first day on campus --- it can!

There are ominous warnings, along with a wealth of information, about this subject out there. It’s everywhere – in guides to college life, on websites; there is even a YouTube music video about it. So, why does it happen to so many college freshmen? Why do so many of you return home at the end of your first year with your luggage, souvenirs and memories of a wonderful year, and an extra layer of fat? Here’s the story!

Despite your best intentions, you’re entering alien territory – the college campus! Not only that, you’re going without that health monitor you’ve counted on all your life – MOM! Before now, she has planned your meals, kept you on track nutritionally, tried to make sure you got enough sleep, stayed fit, and, of course, stayed away from alcoholic beverages. No more! From this day forward -- those days are gone.

From now on – or at least for the next year – you’ll eat the majority of your meals in an all-you-can-eat dormitory cafeteria, and the rest of your meals will probably be classified as fast food. There are no limits to what you can consume, and there is no one there telling you to choose the yogurt and fresh fruit instead of sausage and biscuits with gravy for breakfast. There is no one reminding you that ordering a pizza during a late night study session is going to go straight to your thighs, no matter how great it tastes.

Let’s cut to the chase! You are the only one who can take charge of your lifestyle, but here are a few tips that might help keep you fit, despite your situation.

  • Look hard at that dorm food. There is a reason there are so many fried and carb-laden foods available – they fill you up fast, and they are generally less expensive to prepare than protein rich foods. Always remember – the college cafeteria is a business and is there to make a profit. The more carbs you eat, the higher the profit. Do your part to foil the plot – eat protein! Be choosey! Try out the salad bar and use lite salad dressings. Eat baked potatoes instead of fries. Remember the food pyramid you studied in high school? Try to eat things from the five food groups every day, and that includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Don’t go off to school without a small fridge for your dorm room. Keep healthy snacks on hand so that when your stomach starts growling at 2:00 AM, you’ll have something healthy to fall back on.
  • Learn to say NO to pizza! Those snacks in your fridge are there for just such an emergency! Will power! Be strong!
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals. You’re going to be burning off a lot of energy, and keeping your blood sugars on an even keel helps you to avoid binging out.
  • Work out to stay fit! You will most likely have a fitness center available to you at no charge – use it!
  • Get involved! If you’re busy, you’re not going to have time to sit around and snack.
  • Don’t forget to drink at least 64 ounces of water per day. It was good for you before, and it’s good for you now.
  • Avoid or use moderation when it comes to alcoholic beverages. The most common of these is beer – and one beer is 150 empty calories! That can add up fast.

This year is going to be a great adventure for you! Go out there and embrace college life to the fullest. Make your grades, have a great time, but avoid those extra pounds by taking responsibility for your health. You might as well get started now – you’re going to be in charge for a long time to come!

Related Links and Resources

If you want graphic evidence of what the freshman 15 really looks like, Google ‘freshman 15’ and go to Images—Freshman15 to check out these photos. Some are funny – but some are not so funny! After that, go to some of the links listed below and find out more about the phenomenon – and how to combat it!

The Wikipedia Lowdown on the Freshman 15

If you would like the whole story – in detail – about the Freshman 15, and how to avoid the pitfalls, this is for you. It covers everything from normal dormitory cafeteria fare, and how to navigate your way through the choices, to stress and how it effects weight gain. Go to

How to Avoid the Freshman 15

This website offers great suggestions to keep you slim despite dorm food and lifestyle changes. Go to and search for the article named above.

Challenge: Avoid College Weight Gain

One of the best websites on this subject we’ve found, it goes into where that 15 pounds come from and why, what to do to avoid it, and even has some amazing stories from real students about their experiences. Check out

Suggestions from Philly

There is an article that offers concrete ideas and suggestions of how to combat the Freshman 15. It can be found at

- Healthy Eating for Learning

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