Freshman 15: 8 Tips for Avoiding Weight Gain at College

Avoid adopting these unhealthy habits while you're away at school

So, the freshman 15 is really more a cliché than anything. Just because you’re going away to college for the first time, doesn’t mean you’re certain to gain an extra 15 pounds.

In fact, according to The Journal of American College of Health, only half of college freshman gain weight over the course of the school year. Plus, in 2011 Ohio State research scientist Jay Zagorsky found that for the population of freshman who do gain weight, the average amount is between 2.4 and 3.5 pounds; hardly enough to really make a noticeable difference.

In other words, as you get ready to leave home and experience college for the first time, there’s no need for you to freak out about the prospect of adding on some extra pounds.

However, that doesn’t mean you should throw all caution to the wind and order Insomnia Cookies at 3 a.m. every day just because you can.

“With the leap into college life it’s easy for young adults to feel a sense of freedom," says Rebecca Kordecki, a certified personal trainer and owner of RK Fit. “This freedom can sometimes lead them to abandon discernment for healthy choices, a side effect of which might be weight gain.”

Kordeki noted that the most common habits that are likely to lead to weight gain include the fact that students are more likely to skip meals and binge on junk food as a result of trying to keep up with the fast pace of college life.

“Then factor in the ‘party life’ aspect associated with being on campus, the peer pressure to drink and do drugs and you’ve got a recipe for setting students up for weight gain,” she said.

The bottom line: college can create an environment that will make it easier for you to develop unhealthy habits, but if you pay attention and keep yourself in the know, you can avoid gaining weight and stay fit through your freshman year and beyond.

For advice about how to stay fit during your first year away at school, I consulted both Kordecki and Amanda Russell, a personal trainer and the founder of

Russell’s number one tip? “Try to keep on a good schedule,” she said.  “Be consistent with both meals and daily exercise.”

I know, that’s much easier said than done, right? Well read on to check out both trainer’s tips for keeping yourself in check in your dorm, at parties and everywhere else on campus, too.

Don't skip meals.

“Many college students try to save calories by skipping breakfast,” says Russell. “This plan will backfire since it slows down your metabolism, which can actually cause weight gain.” Breakfast is especially of the most importance. If you really can’t make it to the dining hall before class, Russell recommends keeping Greek yogurt and instant oatmeal in your dorm room fridge so you can easily grab something on the go.

Kordecki also warned against skipping meals and suggested using your phone’s alarm feature to help you stay on track with meal times. “Or just follow a traditional mealtime pattern such as breakfast upon waking, lunch around noon, a snack around 3 p.m. and dinner around 6 p.m.,” she said. “Proper mealtimes with healthy whole foods will keep your blood sugar regulated and will boost brainpower so you can stay on top of your studies.”

Pay attention to the little things.

Russell gave the example of making a habit of grabbing a Frappuccino between classes. “These things add up,” she said. “If you need coffee stick to plain, iced or black unsweetened, it's better for your pocketbook too. Make the fancy drinks or indulgences 'treats' and not the regular routine.”

Click here for more tips for avoiding weight gain at college.

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