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Jun 01 2015
by Maryellen Stohlman-Vanderveen

The Freshman 15 is Just a Myth

By Maryellen Stohlman-Vanderveen - Jun 01 2015
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Afraid of the “Freshman 15”? You don’t have to be.

A study written by Jay Zagorsky and published in Social Science Quarterly says worry not, the average college student only gains between two and a half to three and a half pounds during their first year in college.

“Furthermore, compared to non-college attendees of the same age, the typical college freshman only gains an additional half-pound of weight,” according to the study.

Since first year college students are not gaining much more weight than young adults who do not attend college, the “Freshman 15” seems to be able to be decisively labeled as a myth.

The study, which was published in 2011 following the analysis of 7,418 students and their respective weight gain, concluded that the “Freshman 15” was indeed “a media myth.” The phrase was coined in 1989 by Seventeen Magazine, the study explained. It was used frequently by the magazine through the 90s as a concept to lead articles on avoiding weight gain.

The original thinking was that the lack of parental guidance in college meant students would throw nutrition out the window and that all-you-can-eat late night cafeterias would lead students to unhealthy snacking. Rather, it was found that approximately a quarter of college students actually lost weight during their freshman year.

Perhaps most importantly, the authors noted the dangerous effect that a constant fear of weight gain has.

“Repeated use of the phrase ‘the Freshman 15,’ even if it is being used just as a catchy alliterative figure of speech, may contribute to the misperception of being overweight, especially among young women,” Zagorsky said in an interview with Jeff Grabmeier for The Ohio State University.

In his study, Zagorsky explained that several other studies have found that exposure to media “conveying thinness as an idea” leads to “greater body dissatisfaction, increased negative emotions and self-objectification and more eating disorder symptoms.”

“Weight gain should not be a primary concern for students going off to college,” Zagorsky said in the interview.

So relax, enjoy a piece of pizza and don’t worry about going out for a late-night ice cream cone with your best friends afterward.

Lead Image Credit: istock.com

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Maryellen Stohlman-Vanderveen - Smith College

Maryellen Stohlman-Vanderveen is a freshman at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She plans on pursuing journalism and has a passion for psychology and politics. Maryellen enjoys ice cream, long walks in the woods, and reading. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter @maryellenvdv.

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