Freshman fifteen

Freshman fifteen

The "freshman fifteen" is a term used in the United States and Canada to describe the weight gained by students during their freshman (first) year of study in college or university. The term refers to the often-reported, yet unsubstantiated claim that freshman typically gain fifteen pounds during their first year. The purported causes of this weight gain are increased alcohol intake and the consumption of fat and carbohydrate-rich cafeteria-style food and fast food in university dormitories. Many dining halls in United States universities are all-you-can-eat style and have copious dessert options. As well, lack of sleep may cause overeating and weight gain, because it lowers the level of leptin. Staff dieticians in US universities and colleges often put up posters urging healthy eating and hold nutrition seminars, with tips on how to avoid weight gain.


New students may also skip meals and experience increased levels of stress, which may in turn result in weight loss. The lifestyle change of entering a university coupled with a sudden fluctuation in weight are also contributing factors in malnutrition and eating disorders, which are more commonly reported among female students.

University of Guelph professors Alison Duncan and Janis Randall Simpson conducted a study of first-year female students that suggested that female students may gain only five pounds, and not fifteen. Duncan and Simpson have subsequently began a study of first-year male students to see if the same weight-gain pattern holds true for them; the results came back that men gain more poundage than women (6.6 lbs compared to 5), but less than the oft-cited Freshman fifteen.

However, despite some disagreement that the number is that high, there is some evidence that this term used to be "Freshman 10", and the increase in the number reflects the increase in the weight gained in the first year, Also Freshman 15 has alliteration and thus it sounds nicer, though it's conceivable that the change has not been brought about by extra weight but rather by a growing preoccupation with weight and the desire (especially in women) to attribute what is perceived as excess weight to some unavoidable cause.


Brown C. The information trail of the 'Freshman 15'--a systematic review of a health myth within the research and popular literature. Health Info Libr J. 2008 Mar;25(1):1-12.

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