Ah yes, the infamous freshman 15. While the number 15 is rather arbitrary and exaggerated (perhaps a product of alliteration), it has been scientifically observed that roughly 2/3 college students gain weight during their freshman year.
More often than not, a majority of the weight is gained in the fall semester, and gaining tappers off in the spring.
Females are more likely to gain than males, and being involved in student activities and having a higher levels of scholastic aptitude are seen as protective factors against the Freshman 15.
There isn't one clear reason why students gain the freshman 15 in college, it's usually a combination of many factors.
First, obviously most students have a diet change. All-you-can-eat dining halls often replace home-cooked meals, and access to unlimited junk food and soda can lead many to start eating a less-than-ideal diet.
Even outside the dining hall, a lot of college-students eat way more junk food than they formerly did or should. Hello, stretchy pants.
And it's important to note that you can still be malnourished even if you're over-consuming calories. If your body doesn't get the nutrients it needs, it's going to still be desperate for food, which can lead to overeating.
It's super easy to drink the calories away, without providing your body any nourishment, meaning your body still needs food and even more calories, which can contribute to the Freshman 15.
Then there's the whole drunkie element: most people don't reach for kale salads when they're drunk (but if you do, hey, more power to ya). More often than not, drunk eating means binging on high-calorie foods like fries and pizza.
Aside from dining halls and partying, a lot of students suddenly stop exercising. Sure, the walk to class is probably a bit further than in high school, but the sudden cessation of daily sports practices takes working out out of your daily routine.
Going to the gym requires motivation, time, and may not always be convenient.
A lack of sleep can mess with hunger and fullness hormones, and lead people to start gaining the freshman 15.
What Can You Do?
Just because you're going to college doesn't mean you're destined to gain the freshman 15. There are many habits you can bring with you to stay healthy.
Then go back for your pizza, cookies, and fries, and enjoy them in smaller portions.
Oh, and get moving. You don't have to go to the gym every day, but try incorporating activity into your life on a regular basis. Try a yoga class at your student center, or watch your favorite show on the elliptical at the gym instead of in your bed.
When you're stressed, talk a walk instead of bingeing on The Mindy Project and Cheetos, and if your body needs sleep, take a nap and don't feel guilty about it (trust me, you won't regret it).
Plus, Spoon has a whole archive of easy and good-for-you recipes for your delight. We gotchu. The freshman 15 doesn't stand a chance.