Does the 'Freshman 15' Exist?

freshman, freshmen, college, university, student, students, freshman 15, weight gain, weight, obesity, alcohol, fast food, exercise, eating, nutrition
College freshman can develop many bad habits that contribute to the 'Freshman 15.' (Image credit: Supri Suharjoto/

Unfortunately, yes.

While the extra pounds tacked on by new college students may not be exactly 15, freshmen are definitely at risk for adding unwanted girth.

One reason: the newfound freedom freshmen find away from Mom's watchful eye, experts say. College students tend to go for the quickest and easiest foods, so wings and French fries get subbed for carrots and apples.

Those pizza and soda-fueled late-nighters don't help either. By staying up late, students eat more food than they did at home.

Binge-drinking may also play a role, nutritionists say, as alcohol has more calories per gram than any other nutrient besides fat.

So, for all you soon-to-be freshmen, here's a few things you can do to keep off the extra pounds:

  • Back away from the burger and try to keep away from other fast foods.
  • Take a study break and get some exercise — join an intramural team, or just take a walk around campus with a friend.
  • Stop throwing back sodas to stay awake — all that sugar just packs on the pounds.
  • Like Mom always told you, eat your veggies. (Eat a salad at the dining hall, then perhaps move on to the fried chicken if you're still hungry.)

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Andrea Thompson
Live Science Contributor

Andrea Thompson is an associate editor at Scientific American, where she covers sustainability, energy and the environment. Prior to that, she was a senior writer covering climate science at Climate Central and a reporter and editor at Live Science, where she primarily covered Earth science and the environment. She holds a graduate degree in science health and environmental reporting from New York University, as well as a bachelor of science and and masters of science in atmospheric chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology.