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Six months ago, she stood in front of her mirror, examining her body closely. Her stomach was flat and smooth, her waistline was to die for, and her friends and even complete strangers wished they had her shape in her size five jeans. She never had to work out, never played any sports, and she did not know what a squat was. She was happy and confident as her scale read 120 pounds. She smiled at the reflection of herself. She proudly wore her Seton Hall tank top and loved the feel of it. Six months later, she examines herself again. Her stomach has a little bulge and her hips spread slightly. Her skin hangs over her jeans, enticing her friends and family to laugh and pinch at it. The button on those size five jeans always comes undone when she sits down, consequently causing an open fly to embarrass her whenever she leaves class. She had to buy six new pairs of jeans, all of which were size sevens and nines. The Seton Hall tank top that she proudly wore before now has a tear on one of the straps and a hole in the back stitching. Her scale reads an unthinkable 130 pounds; she walks around shell shocked, for the rest of the day.
The girl who you have just read about is not fictitious; she is the very real victim of the dreaded “Freshmen Fifteen” epidemic. Why do so many freshmen gain this excessive amount of weight? The odds of staying the same weight are strongly against us.
The first and most obvious reason for weight gain is food. College cafeterias are smorgasbords of hot, greasy, fatty, empty calorie foods. At Seton Hall University, all freshmen are required to purchase a meal plan that comes with various amounts of Pirate dollars that can only be used on food. These Pirate Dollars are equal to one dollar and students are given an overage each semester. In order to avoid losing money, many students use these dollars to buy snacks in between all three meals. At the end of the year, the money is not refundable, so students must splurge once again in order to avoid throwing away their money. Whether students’ classes are far apart or back to back, they are likely to stuff themselves because they need to prepare to sit through about 3 or more hours of lecture, or their next class isn’t for another two or three hours and they plan to eat and “take a quick catnap.
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Another reason for weight gain is the typical freshmen’s lack of restraint. Since Moms are not at school to baby anyone and cook her healthy, nutritious meals, she sends money for students to indulge on take out, chips, fruit snacks, and sodas. When a student diligently studies in his or her dorm, the temptation to devour pizza and Doritos with a Coke is irresistible, especially when the temperature is 30 degrees and they know crackers will not fill them up. It is even harder to say no in this situation when a roommate wants to order food but wants someone to order also to avoid a delivery fee, or when they cannot finish their portion and beg him or her to finish because they do not want to waste any food. Weight-loss-information.com agrees, “Food is also used to socialize. Pizza parties, midnight raids on vending machines, and other food-oriented activities are easy ways to develop a sense of community among students. Unfortunately, this type of social eating is usually done in addition to meals, which can add up to additional poundage rather quickly” (1). Between socializing, studying, and partying, most students find time to go to the gym or even to take a brisk walk difficult and even impossible.
While weight gain is common among freshmen, it is important to note that every student does not experience this weight gain. In fact, some students lose weight during their first year. Athletes must train vigorously to be in the ultimate shape. Some intentionally try to gain 10 to 25 pounds and have difficulty in achieving their goal. Stress and the responsibility of maintaining good study habits force some students to stay away from the dorm and the cafeteria and live at the library. During a conversation with peer advisor Mary Callaghan during Freshmen Orientation in June at Seton Hall, she suggested that “you should only keep healthy foods in your room because you are not going to want to walk to the cafeteria every time you are hungry” (Callaghan). There is always the rare case of the student who loses weight because he or she cannot eat the food. Freshmen Kristen Tomlinson reveals, “The cafeteria food is nasty, I can’t keep it down. I always throw it up even when I’m really hungry and I try really hard to eat it” (Tomlinson).
Freshmen Fifteen is clearly a problem for the majority of freshmen across the country. At some point, everyone will gain some noticeable weight as I and most of my peers have. Weight gain is inescapable. It is only natural for us to gain. When we stop growing upwards, we only grow outwards if we are not very cautious. To avoid this problem, one needs to make an effort to be more physically active and to be more conscious about the foods they decide to eat. The presence of food has and always will be a major weight gain factor in every college for every student, but ultimately every student does not have to keep the weight if they have unshakable determination to avoid the Freshmen Fifteen.
Callaghan, Mary. Personal Interview. 24 June 2004.
Constantinou, Andrea. “River Talk.” University of Massachusetts. 10 Nov. 2004
Tomlinson, Kristen. Personal Interview. 10 November 2004.
“Weight Gain at College.” Weight Loss Information. 08 Nov. 2004