Doody: Freshman fifteen can be avoided


Photo Illustration: Miranda Cantrell/Iowa State Daily

Weight gain by college freshman is 5.5 times higher than that of the general population. (National Institute of Health)

Michael Doody

Almost everyone has been told about the “freshman 15” before entering college, but does anyone heed the warning it presents? When I first heard of the freshman 15 I was certain that I would never become overweight. Even after seeing the huge amount of weight my older brother put on while in college, I was still certain that I would be untouched by the clutches of college chubbiness.

Unfortunately, this was not the case. I came to college weighing a slim 150 pounds. After my first year I had reached a weight of 170 pounds. I was still comfortable at this weight as I had previously been thinner than is healthy for my height, but after my first summer working on campus I weighed in at 190 pounds. I gained a total of 40 pounds while at school for a whole year, an incredible amount and obviously a much larger number than 15. However, through exercise, I was able to drop back down to a healthy 170 pounds.

I am not the only one that was affected by this “freshman 15”, or in my case “freshman 40.” Many of my friends and family have been affected by this unhealthy weight gain while attending college. They developed many bad and unhealthy eating habits that most of them carried with them through adulthood. Many of us get in the habit of snacking when studying or doing homework. Additionally, many social activities center around food or drinking. No wonder we put on weight in our first year of college.

The truth is that many students transitioning from high school to college need a reinforcement course in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

In elementary school and high school, everyone was required to participate in gym. This made most of the students healthy, or at least educated students on healthy lifestyles, but once they entered college physical fitness was no longer an important subject. For this reason, many college students fall victim to the freshman 15.

Colleges should require courses in physical fitness. These courses should teach students the importance of healthy eating habits along with healthy life choices. When entering a new type of freedom, such as college, many young people face life-changing decisions. Too many students fall victim to drug and alcohol abuse, along with poor diet and exercise.

According to the American College Health Association, the percentage of overweight and obese college students increased from 24.7 percent in fall 2006 to 29.2 percent in fall 2011. This increase leads me to believe that more and more college students are falling victim to unhealthy choices. If colleges create a course that makes students aware of these possibilities, then the percentage of overweight and obese college students would decrease.

A study done by Harvard shows that 56 percent of students who enroll in America’s colleges and universities graduate within six years but only 29 percent of people who enter two year programs graduate in three years. Some of this could be due to the rising cost of tuition, but it could also be due to new college students embracing poor eating habits and life choices.

Poor health results in a lack of energy and determination. With this lack of energy, students will find themselves oversleeping or not paying attention in class. A lack of energy can also cause students to do poorly on homework and not properly study for tests. It is very important for students to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order for them to succeed in school and their chosen field.

Colleges that require their students to take a course showing them the importance in healthy habits will also show parents that they care about their children and their success and well-being. Iowa State provides students with a wonderful gymnasium which is paid for through student fees. If students aren’t taking the opportunity to use what they pay for, their money is completely wasted.

If more schools provided students with an easily accessible gym and the knowledge of healthy eating, it may result in fewer dropouts and will definitely result in a healthier lifestyle.