First-years come to Williams with a long list of expectations about new and exciting social and educational opportunities. It is unlikely, however, that for most students large scale weight gain ranks very highly.
According to a study done by researchers at Tufts University, the concept of the “freshman 15” is an exaggeration that is indicative of a smaller trend among first-year college students towards weight gain. According to the study, male students gain about six pounds on average, while female students gain an average of four and a half pounds.
According to Ginny Skorupski, college nutritionist, the “freshman 15” is probably a real phenomenon that can be attributed to placing students in a new “eating environment” where they have fewer limitations on what they’re allowed to eat. However, she said it is impossible to generalize about students as many students will maintain the same weight throughout college or even lose weight.
She said students should be more concerned with their overall health than with their weight when it comes to eating decisions. “Students should eat to be optimally healthily,” she said. “What we weigh is only one tiny part of the puzzle.” As an example, she said a student could maintain his or her weight by consuming only toast, but such a diet would be extremely unhealthy.
According to Skorupski, students have nobody to blame but themselves when it comes to weight gain. “Students have the opportunity to eat a very healthy diet here, and there is no better place to stay physically active,” she said. Weight gain is not necessarily bad for male students who are still growing, she added.
First-year students are of varied opinion when it comes to the topic of the freshman 15. As with most problems, there are those who are concerned, those who are not and those who are simply oblivious.
“’Freshman 15’?” Nikhar Gaikwad ’06 said. “At my pace I’m facing the freshman 45. I’ve only been here three weeks, and I already know everyone at the Snack Bar by name.”
Ian Goldstein ’06 also points to the Snack Bar as the one of the most likely culprits in causing massive weight gain. “I eat at the Snack Bar at least twice a day in addition to my regular meals, so I’m a little worried,” he said. “But I don’t really care that much because the onion rings are so good.”
Others are less stressed about potential weight gain. “I’m not really worried about it,” Jen Huang ’06 said. “The food isn’t wonderfully great to the point where I’ll overeat.”
As with any issue of importance on the Williams campus, students can be split up into a third group of those who simply do not care. “No, I don’t think about stuff, shut up,” one anonymous student said when asked if she was worried about gaining weight in college.
In addition to the increased access to food afforded by eating in a dining hall, Skorupski and students interviewed for this article theorize there are various other dynamics that contribute to students gaining weight. While weight gain is hardly the first health related problem most people would ascribe to alcohol consumption, many students neglect to reflect on the fact that alcoholic beverages also contain a significant number of calories. For instance, if a student were to drink six regular beers over the course of the night, he or she would be consuming about 1,000 calories.
Regular marijuana use poses another stealth threat to fighting the freshman 15. While marijuana itself has negligible calories, the massive amount of food that stoned students have been known to eat does.
More generally, the college student habit of eating large amounts of food late at night is particularly bad for weight-conscious students in that the body does not get a chance to metabolize food eaten at night and use it for energy as it would for food eaten during the day. Instead, many of the calories are simply turned into fat as students sleep.