As our senior year of high school unfolded, questions of our futures constantly ran through our heads. Will I make a lot of friends? Will it be really hard? Will I succumb to the Freshman 15?
College presents its first-year students with newfound autonomy from their parents—students can now decide what they want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Moreover, freshman Fordham students move to a city with 24,000 restaurants, and the Community Dining Hall presents a buffet of food with a single swipe. To investigate the pervasiveness of the Freshman 15 at Fordham, three Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) freshmen gave their perspectives on the matter.
Emma Federer, FCLC ’21, describes the Freshman 15 as an outcome of the pressures the college experience presents to its first-year students.“I think there’s an expectation to be a healthy version of yourself at all times. Especially in this time of transition where we’re away from home, when we are in control of what we’re eating, not our parents.” Federer then added, “We’re also trying to get good grades and have a social life, which social life is usually tied to food and not the healthiest of foods—especially since we’re college kids. So, it’s the weird expectations of trying to be healthy and also trying to enjoy [life] while we’re still young and not gain weight.” Life for a freshman college student can be chaotic, and freshmen no longer have the ability to delegate their decision making to their parents. Therefore, some freshmen may sacrifice maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine for the demands of school and friends.
Justin Cheesman, FCLC ’21, believes the dining hall contributed to the beginnings of his Freshman 15. “When I’m at the dining hall or when I’m at the Ram Cafe, I tend to eat the fried things or a lot of protein, so the first month I noticed I felt heavier,” Cheesman said. In the first month of his college career, Cheesman was often drawn to the burgers, curly fries and pizza the Community Dining Hall has to offer. As time went on, he explained that he “did not feel nice,” so he started to exercise and limit the amount of unhealthy food he was eating. Cheesman believes that the key to fighting off the Freshman 15 is eating in moderation. “A lot of people do not know how much is enough.”
Patrick Hannaford, FCLC ’21, is determined lose weight his freshman year. Currently, Hannaford is experiencing the opposite of the Freshman 15. “I’ve actually lost five pounds since I got here,” he shared. Consistency helps Hannaford keep the Freshman 15 at bay, for he tends to eat the same healthy options every breakfast, lunch and dinner. On top of maintaining an excellent diet, Hannaford said he “works out five or six days a week—minimum.” For the past four years, Hannaford has been determined to lose weight and has continued his streak of healthy eating and exercising habits into college.
Nonetheless, Hannaford does not think people should avoid comfort food altogether, but warns, “If you had free pizza every time there was free pizza on campus, you would do the Freshman 30.” In terms of the meal plan, Patrick believes there is a good balance between healthy and comfort food. With the autonomy of college life, choosing healthy food over tasty unhealthy options becomes a harder decision to make.
All three of the freshmen interviewees saw the Freshman 15 as an imminent danger they and their peers were facing, but what does scholarly literature have to say about the prevalence of the Freshman 15? Charles L. Baum II of Middle Tennessee State University analyzed the weight changes in nearly 9,000 college aged individuals across the United States to determine if the Freshman 15 is a reality. Baum found that college students tend to gain the most weight during their freshman year, and both males and females gain more weight during this time period than young adults not attending college.
Although these students gained weight, on average they gained less than 15 pounds. After graduating, however, these former students weighed 12 pounds less than those that did not attain a college degree. Thus, those holding a college degree were less likely to be obese. Even though the Freshman 15 plagues some first year Fordham students, it is likely that the little weight a freshman gains this year will not matter in the long run. College will likely present freshmen with healthier avenues that will foster long lasting healthy lifestyles. However, in college, it is important to stay healthy and that can come in all shapes and sizes.