Attack of the fat: ‘Freshman 15’ stalks students

A “Fat Roscoe” from Fat Shack, a sub from Ray’s, a burrito from Eick: all these fatty foods contribute to the inevitable “freshman 15.”

This all-too-familiar term is known to most people as the 15-pound weight gain many first-year students experience while living on a college campus.

Greasy late-night burgers pack on the love handles. (AP Photo)

According to Freshman15.com, contributing factors to this weight gain include lack of exercise, eating late at night, keeping unhealthy snacks in dorm rooms, eating and drinking unhealthy cafeteria food, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

But is this unwanted college trend starting to decline as both colleges and students become more aware of their health and eating habits?

Nick Alaino, a freshman exercise science major, believes that even though the school provides healthier dining options, the “freshman 15” is still an issue college students face.

“Kids are still tempted to go to bad foods because it’s still always there and tastes good,” Alaino said. “There are more healthy choices but kids are still going for what they want to eat.”

Although he admits to eating more than usual since becoming a college student, Alaino is still balancing his food intake with routine exercise, like going to the gym as much as possible, doing cardio three to four times a week, and playing basketball.

Aside from some unhealthy meals he eats around campus, he tries to eat a balanced diet and keeps healthy snacks, such as fruit and protein bars and shakes, in his dorm room.

Freshman exercise science major Ira Vought said that freshman weight gain is going to be an issue for people who don’t think about weight management. Although he does not see fat weight gain as an issue for himself, Vought, too, has seen an increase in what he has been eating since living on campus.

“I’m having more pizza, ice cream and cookies than normal,” Vought said. “It’s just at your hands and so easily available.”

He also said he tries to eat less and goes to the gym or works out every other day, and he acknowledges that there are both healthy and unhealthy options available.

Both Alaino and Vought agree that having unlimited swipes into Eickhoff isn’t an issue for students when it comes to overeating. They have the option to eat whenever they want and don’t feel the need to overeat.

On the other hand, freshman nursing major Marissa Pohle and freshman math major Lisa Palacio have actually lost weight since moving onto campus. Both said they are running and exercising more often and don’t eat the school’s food very frequently.

“It’s all a balance,” Palacio said. “You have to know your body before you put something into it. That’s how I think of it.”

Christopher Ott, the College’s executive chef, said that both the College and Sodexo work diligently to give the school better and healthier meal options. Nutritional information is posted at food stations, and chefs work to cook lighter options with lower sodium.

Sodexo’s “Mindful” program promotes lighter eating, less sodium and freshly-prepared meals instead of meals straight from the can.

In the past, the dining hall had standard buffet-style options. Now, each station has changed in order to meet the program’s criteria of healthier eating and supports the “fresh-to-table” concept.

In order to eat healthy and avoid the “freshman 15,” Ott encourages students to eat in moderation, use available resources, such as nutritional guides, and most importantly, ask questions.

“It takes the students themselves to be conscious of their own decisions,” Ott said. “They need to use common sense.”

He also encourages students to be mindful of the different varieties the dining hall has to offer, such as the vegetarian station and salad bar.

According to local Subway owner David Scotty, who is considering a partnership with the College to have a store in Campus Town, students seem to be watching what they are eating and are trying to eat healthier.

“People are in tune with what they are eating now-a-days,” Scotty said.

In a survey of 100 freshmen, 38 say they believe the “freshman 15” still exists, whereas 62 claim it does not.

Some students find themselves going to the gym and exercising more than ever, whereas others find themselves stuck in the inevitably long burrito line each day. So, are students losing weight, or losing track of their weight? The real question is: Does the “freshman 15” still exist or does it cease to exist?

“You have to be the one to make the decision,” Vought said.