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New Study Officially Debunks The Freshman 15

Imagine What You'll Know Tomorrow

You’ve heard of the Freshman 15 before, right? It’s where freshman are supposedly doomed to gain around that much weight during their first year in college. Well a new study from Ohio State University says that’s far from the truth. 

“The ‘Freshman 15’ is a myth,” says Jay Zagorsky, co-author of the study. “There are lots of things to worry about in college, but if you’re the average person, gaining weight is not one of them.”

His findings will be published in Social Science Quarterly and despite how long this myth has been around, are thought to be the first nationwide look at the idea. Zagorsky found the average college student gains between 2.4 and 3.5 pounds freshman year. The average for women was 3.1 pounds and for men, 3.5 pounds. Students don’t even gain 15 pounds over four years of their college career. The study found that in four years women gained an average 8.9 pounds, while men gained an average 13.4 pounds.

Often thought reasons for students gaining weight? “They may have access to all-you-can-eat cafeterias and high-calorie alcoholic drinks. They might not be exercising because gym class isn’t required and they may be drinking sugary caffeinated drinks if they’re tired. They may stress-eat or turn to cheap fast food if they’re on a tight budget.”

One of the other most important findings was Zagorsky discovered that college students only gain about one pound more than youth of the same age who aren’t attending college so it’s more becoming a young adult than entering college that would cause any sort of weight gain at all. He also found that 25% of freshman actually lose weight rather than gain it.

The study used data from 7,418 young people surveyed as part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 1997 who reported in with their height and weight every year.

The first reference Zagorsky found of the term Freshman 15 was in a magazine article from 1989. “I went in assuming it was true because it had been repeated so often,” he said. Now, the study recommends that the media and colleges stop using the term because of how prevalent body issues are in today’s youth.

“College is a wonderful time to learn how to eat healthy on your own, without mom and dad looking over your shoulder,” Zagorsky said. “The idea is to try to set up healthy living habits early in life.”

(via Today Health)

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Jill Pantozzi is a pop-culture journalist and host who writes about all things nerdy and beyond! She’s Editor in Chief of the geek girl culture site The Mary Sue (Abrams Media Network), and hosts her own blog “Has Boobs, Reads Comics” ( She co-hosts the Crazy Sexy Geeks podcast along with superhero historian Alan Kistler, contributed to a book of essays titled “Chicks Read Comics,” (Mad Norwegian Press) and had her first comic book story in the IDW anthology, “Womanthology.” In 2012, she was featured on National Geographic’s "Comic Store Heroes," a documentary on the lives of comic book fans and the following year she was one of many Batman fans profiled in the documentary, "Legends of the Knight."