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The Freshman Fifteen

Are students doomed to gain weight when they go off to college?

Generations of freshmen women have been warned about the dreaded “Freshman 15,” the 15 pounds first-year college students tend to put on when they leave home and live in the dormitory. Now researchers say the Freshman 15 is a myth.

Researchers in Iowa tracked a group of freshmen women, monitoring their weight, body fat and attitudes about gaining weight at the beginning and end of their freshman year.

More than half of the students put on weight, but the weight gain was generally less than five pounds. More than a third of the students actually lost weight. The students who were most worried about the dreaded Freshman 15 were most likely to think they’d put on weight, even if they hadn’t. The researchers say that the Freshman 15 myth is a potentially dangerous one because students may feel that weight gain is inevitable, turning the myth into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say college life does contain a lot of pitfalls for those concerned about their weight. Late-night pizza orders, junk food while studying and a variety of not necessarily nutritious foods available in dorm cafeterias can all add up to weight gain. Students need to be aware of their nutritional needs and not overeat. Make the same kind of food choices at school that you would have at home.

SOURCE: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

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