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Freshman 15: More fiction than fact

By Audrey Davis, The Miami Student

Among college first-years, the concept of the "freshman 15" is infamous, yet some research indicates that number is far lower, and that students need not worry about gaining weight.

According to an Ohio State University study, the average college student only gains between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds during his or her freshman year.

The study showed no more than 10 percent of college freshmen gained more than 15 pounds, and some even reported losing weight. The study also determined that college has little to do with the weight gain; the average first-year student only gains about a half-pound more than someone the same age who did not attend college.

However, Gretchen Matuszak, director of the didactic program in dietetics at Miami, thinks students do have reason to worry.

"There is a huge transition period from being a high school student to a freshman in college," Matuszak said. "Students are used to being busy every day with sports and extracurriculars, but when they come here they're on a less strict schedule."

First-year Joe Callan also believes the "freshman 15" theory holds some truth.

"I think there is some fact behind it," Callan said. "I think when you come to college, you're eating a lot of unhealthy food. Sure, there are healthy options, but most of what [college students] eat is typically not healthy."

Students at college tend to go for the cheaper options. Many stock up on items like ramen noodles and microwavable macaroni and cheese. Also, with many places delivering to the residence halls such as Insomnia Cookies and various pizza places, unhealthy food is readily available at almost any hour.

The food served in most college dining halls - though not necessarily at Miami - are mostly buffet style, so there is no portion control or limit to how much a student will take. When students live at home, oftentimes their parents or school designated what they would eat and how much, but now they have to make those choices completely on their own.

"Miami has a lot of food options such as fried chicken and hamburgers every night for meal choices," said sophomore Ashlynn Galligher. "No one is there to tell [students] no."

First-year Abigail Wenger said there are healthy alternatives.

"I think if you maintain a healthy lifestyle and eat well enough, you're going to gain very little weight or none at all," Wenger said. "I also think that it's okay to indulge every once in a while."

The same study found that heavy alcohol consumption, or consuming six or more drinks on at least four days per month, has a large impact on weight gain

Matuszak said that students who take part in underage drinking are usually experimenting and do not know how to manage living on their own and what or how much they drink.

Between testing the waters of drinking and taking in a lot more food, weight gain becomes a major possibility, she said. Most students do not realize how many calories they are consuming when they drink. Matuszak said, in order to maintain their weight, females should have only one drink per day and males should have no more than two.

Matuszak also said that to prevent gaining weight, students - no matter what age - should stay on a regular schedule. Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at regular times every day is extremely important.

"If students don't eat breakfast, they tend to try and make up for it during lunch," she said. "They should stick to one serving per meal."

Drinking milk and water is also very important. Matuszak suggests substituting milk or water in the place of energy drinks and lattes to reduce the extra calorie intake.

"I allowed myself to eat unhealthy food, but I also supplemented in healthier options," Galligher said. "I also made sure that I went to the gym or hiked on the weekends and just tried to stay active instead of sitting and watching Netflix."