Freshman 15 not completely accurate, NIU studies say


Preventing the freshmen 15 is not as difficult as it may seem.

Research studies done by NIU’s Health Enhancement Center have shown that freshmen only gain six to eight pounds their first year of college.

“[Gaining weight] depends on the person and whether or not they want to be careless with their eating habits,” said Mario Ramirez, a sophomore secondary education major.

Although the freshman 15 is perhaps an exaggeration, it does not mean the facts should remain unknown.

Weight gain happens for a variety of reasons. Freshmen are thrown into a different lifestyle and are given more freedom as to what they eat. College life is usually more sedentary; students end up studying more and exercising less regularly, said Donna Schoenfeld, Director of Health Enhancement.

The dining halls also offer buffet-style food options, giving students the opportunity to eat as much as they want for one fixed rate. Late night snacking, pop and juice intake and alcohol consumption may also attribute to extra weight gain, Schoenfeld said.

There are just as many ways to prevent weight gain as there are ways to gain weight.

Exercising is essential in maintaining weight, and it is suggested that one should exercise for 60 minutes a day, four to five times a week, Schoenfeld said.

Graduate student Jeremy Wackerlin works out not just to keep in shape.

“I’m a very busy person and in order to meet the high-stress demands of my life, I need my body to be in good health,” Wackerlin said.

The goal is to get one’s heart rate up in order to break a sweat and burn calories. Rigorous activity isn’t necessarily the key.

“Something is better than nothing,” Schoenfeld said.

Sam Montgomery, freshman nursing major, has already taken a step in the right direction. Although she is afraid of gaining weight, she has been keeping up on daily exercise.

“I walk to class everyday instead of hopping on the bus,” Montgomery said.

Eating right is just as important as exercise. The simplest way to reduce the risk of weight gain is to focus on good eating choices and portion control, Schoenfeld said.

Schoenfeld suggests eating either three regular-sized or five to six smaller-sized meals a day.

She also suggests choosing water or diet sodas over regular pop or alcohol, as it lessens the intake of “empty calories” and recommends having breakfast within an hour of waking up.

The Recreation Center offers free fitness and diet assessments as well as brochures located in the Chic Evan’s Field house for students who are looking to keep a healthy lifestyle in college.