Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan


What is your favorite building to study in?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

The Freshman 15 – Factual or Fatphobia?

Karleigh Johnson
The “Freshman 15” is often used as a scare tactic for incoming college freshmen because of the normal bodily shifts and changes that occur during this time. How much is this affecting students?

Many people are aware of something scary that happens during the first year of college. Something horrible and completely unimaginable. During the first year of college, you might gain 15 pounds. World-ending stuff.

The Freshman 15 is a phenomenon that is seen as something scary and as a warning. What some people don’t know is that it was a made-up term in a 1989 Seventeen magazine article called “Fighting The Freshman 15.”

“I would define it as the weight someone might gain as they enter college,” a first-year comments.

While it was first in a teen magazine it is a piece of documentation of this phenomenon that typically happens to first and second-year college students. This trend has been inherited by the next generations and is almost used as a warning to seniors in high school.

Story continues below advertisement

Is this phenomenon something in the back of students’ minds? Does it make them hesitate to do certain things?

College students figure that they may gain weight from a change in diet, exercise, and a change in drinking habits. What is one of the more prominent reasons is that 18-year-olds are typically still growing.

In an academic journal studying this phenomenon in 2023, Eva VanWyck commented that 18-year-olds are “still growing physically” and that this growth is “completely normal adolescent growth.” They also point out that in earlier studies done in the 90’s and 2000’s, heights were never measured and didn’t take into account that weight gain and height affect each other.

“Freshman 15 is a natural thing that can happen when we really start to live independently, especially with the cafeteria food. I don’t think it applies to everyone, but I think it is just a normal trend as we get older.” a third-year commented.

This phenomenon has practically haunted people for generations which creates an unhealthy relationship with food and body image. During this transition period, students typically face heightened stress, worse sleep, and gradually making independent decisions on what they eat.

“[First-year students] are moving to a new unfamiliar environment, their support network of friends and family may be farther away and they establish new relationships, they have access to different food and transportation, and so on and so on,” VanWyck commented in her academic journal. “This makes this period of time a particularly difficult one.”

These changes contribute to the overall physical and mental wellness of a student in the beginning of their college career. It can be hard to let go, but other college students like Grace Visco, the Opinion Editor in Verement say that “Freshman 15 should be left in the 90s” and advises that “college kids are so much more interesting than their weight.”

In other studies, most notably a popular study done in 2008 called “Freshman 15: Is it Real?”, done over the past 20 years many reports that students typically don’t gain an average of three to eight pounds. Myths and phenomena are spread through word of mouth which can be dangerous to continue this verbiage to others. The Freshman 15 is commonly used as a joke or a light conversation but can feed into a darker cycle of insecurity.

“My advice to freshmen is to not worry too much about it. So many people get to have these heavy perceptions of women that makes it unfair to live comfortably,” a fourth-year commented. “Nourish your body with what is good and take in all the experiences college has to offer in your own comfort zone. It’s difficult in an environment like this to not wonder why you don’t look like everyone else, but it’s our differences that make us so unique.”


Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Elly Herrick
Elly Herrick, Online Editor
Elly Herrick (She/They) is currently the online/social media editor, business manager, features writer, and photographer. Try saying that five times fast. Herrick also works as the Communications Director on Student Senate, a 2023 Orientation Leader, and was newly added on a Tuesday 7-10p.m timeslot on KQAL. They are also the Social media manager for the WSU Pre-Athletic Training Club. Herrick is from Kenosha, Wisconsin, and is a second-year student at Winona State University studying Mass Communications: Public Relations with a minor in Advertising, Photography, and Creative Digital Media. They love following challenging and fulfilling stories. They also have a strong passion for writing and giving others a voice. Herrick loves to travel and over the summer, they traveled to Greece, Italy, and Barcelona. They are now saving up and planning on going to New Zealand this winter with their Aunt. Outside of school, they love taking the train and seeing live concerts with friends. They also love sharks and a good book!    
Karleigh Johnson
Karleigh Johnson, News Reporter
Karleigh Johnson (she/her/hers) is a reporter for the Winonan as of fall 2023. She started off at North Hennepin Community College and transferred to Winona State University in her third year to Major in Creative Digital Media and Minor in both Film Studies and Spanish. 
After attending Nuevas Fronteras Spanish Immersion, Karleigh continues to have a passion for the Spanish language and culture. She studied in Spain through Winona State University in May of 2023. Karleigh enjoys travel, art, writing, photography and videomaking. 
Karleigh participated in the Disney College Program in Spring 2022 and became a Disney Trainer. After graduation, she hopes to return to Disney by working for one of the many media and entertainment companies Disney owns. Her dream is to write her own television show inspired by comedic styles of The Office, Parks and Recreation, Arrested Development, and many others.

Comments (0)

All The Winonan Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *