Fighting the Frosh 15 – Should You Care?


It’s that time of year again. The kids are off to school…whew! But, for those of you sending your sons and daughters off to college for the very first time, that’s a whole new level of stress!

You may be familiar with the term ‘the freshman 15’ but, hopefully, your kids are not. There’s enough for them to stress about isn’t there?

Recently, I heard someone close to me discussing this potential problem with her daughter and I cringed. Why set her up for one more thing to worry about? Don’t our young women struggle enough trying to meet the unrealistic standards of beauty that our society forces upon them? And could college be any more of a breeding ground for body image distortion as it is?

It may be inevitable that some freshman men and women will gain weight their first year in college. But should we stress them out about it? 

The fact is, the infamous ‘frosh 15’ may not be a reality at all. But, like many colloquialisms, it has found its way into our vernacular. It is a fact that many young men and women will initially experience some weight gain along with all the lifestyle changes they face at college. Dorm food, late night snacking, stress, lack of sleep, time management and the lack of structure all contribute to changes in eating and physical activity.

In an article at, they share that researchers at Cornell University actually discovered that students gained an average of 4 pounds during the first 12 weeks of their freshman year – a rate of gain that is 11 times higher than the typical weight gain for 17- and 18-year-olds. Importantly, though, not everyone is destined to gain a full 15 pounds. A multi-year study by researchers at Tufts University found that, on average, men gain 6 pounds and women gain 4.5 during their first year of college. I can live with that and hopefully they can too.

If your child is one of those who is really struggling with their weight, what can you do?

For more information on young women and disordered eating, check out our Young Women’s Program  for advice and additional resources.


3 responses to “Fighting the Frosh 15 – Should You Care?”

  1. anonymous says:

    A great post – I totally agree. Except for a couple of things:
    (1) I wish you wouldn’t qualify the part about the mother talking to the daughter with “(who was of normal body weight)”. And if she wasn’t, should her mother be harping on her weight? The parenthetical phrase just isn’t necessary.

    (2) The statement “Calories In = Calories Out” is, at best, wrong and, at worst, harmful. If “cutting out 174 calories a day” is going to remove these extra four pounds … then a lot of other things don’t make much sense. Like the fact that soda consumption in kids isn’t connected to their BMI’s even though “common sense” tells you that it would be. Same thing with cutting out 174 calories a day. There’s no proof that this works, and you shouldn’t be promoting it within a HAES framework! (imho)

  2. Cindy says:

    Great points you make anonymous. When you’re right you’re right! Although, their advice around non-diet was admirable, the article unfortunately makes an erroneous statement around specific caloric intake. As we know, it just doesn’t work that way b/c every body uses calories differently. Ultimately, it’s not about the soda or whatever, it’s about the changes they’re experiencing and how to deal with them healthfully. Going on a crash diet, or dieting at all isn’t going to solve the problem.

    Regarding your comment around ‘normal’ weight, one must ask what is normal? I would certainly have cringed if the object of the discussion was already struggling with her weight. It wouldn’t have mattered what her situation was. I would have deemed it inappropriate for the reason’s I mention in the post. Body size was and is irrelevant to the argument. I appreciate your feedback.

    PS: The paragraph you referenced was deleted as not to cause further confusion or misinterpretation.

  3. anonymous says:

    Thank you for modifying the article! 🙂

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