Almost every incoming college freshman is aware of “The Freshman 15.” If you haven’t heard of it by the time you arrive on campus, you most likely will have heard about it on your very first day of class. Many college freshmen girls, are deeply concerned with gaining “The Freshman 15.” I remember moving into my dorm, meeting some girls that lived in the neighboring rooms and hitting it off with them. As we got to know each other, discussed likes and dislikes, we started making dinner plans and immediately one of the girls said, “Well I don’t eat carbs or fat. I’m trying to avoid the Freshman 15 at all costs. So if we could go somewhere with lighter options that’d be great.” As a lover of all things made up of carbohydrates, I remember just staring at her thinking, “you don’t eat carbs?! No bread? No pasta? Nothing???”
After this encounter early on in my first week of college, I quickly realized that gaining those 15 pounds was something that seemed to be very important to the girls I was surrounded by. When indulging in late-night snacks or fast food, it was not without a comment or two such as, “so much for not gaining the Freshman 15!” usually followed by “ugh I’ll need to go to the gym tomorrow if I eat this.” Many college students, specifically females, go into their freshman year with fear and/or hyper-awareness of their weight and body image due to fear of gaining the Freshman 15. Studies show that incoming freshmen on college campuses tend to make more unhealthy choices when choosing foods to eat due to their newfound freedom and independence. This contributes to their negative choices of food (fast food, high fat/high sugar, etc.) This leads to unwanted weight gain and body dissatisfaction (Brewis, 2016). Even though these individuals are experiencing a stigma surrounding their weight, and being extremely self-conscious, studies show that “experiencing this stigma does not seem to encourage successful weight loss. Rather, a range of studies show that feeling stigmatized (i.e., feeling judged, mistreated, or excluded) because of body weight tends to exert negative effects on successful weight loss behaviors, discouraging exercise, and encouraging disordered eating (Vartanian and Smyth, 2013, Wott and Carels, 2010).” (Brewis, 2016).
Brewis, Alexandra et al. “Weight stigma and eating behaviors on a college campus: Are students immune to stigma’s effects?.” Preventive medicine reports vol. 4 578-584. 29 Oct. 2016, doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.10.005 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5099270/