Researchers at Brown have came to the conclusion that often talked about “Freshman 15” is a myth, and can actually lead to eating disorders among those in college. An article on psychologytoday.com discussed recent research findings on this urban legend.
What about the so-called “Freshman 15’? This is the season when students return to school and many thousands are leaving home to begin their freshman year at college. Do these newly matriculating students really gain fifteen pounds when they go off to college? The answer, despite articles in the popular media to the contrary, is no. Studies to date have shown that freshman college students do tend to gain weight but far less than the reported fifteen pounds for most freshmen—and over time, may even tend to lose much of any weight they gain.
Freshman weight gain was apparently first noted in the literature in the mid-1980s in an article by Hovell and colleagues. These researchers compared women living on campus with a comparable sample of freshman women living in the community. They found those freshman living on campus were almost three times as likely as the community sample to gain weight but by their junior year they were almost back at baseline levels.
The article, however, says that the actual weight gain experienced by freshman in college is, on average, less than 5 pounds.