There are a few things most new students expect to experience when transitioning from high school to college: new friends, late nights and, more frighteningly, excessive weight gain. However, the latter, more aptly referred to as "The Freshman 15" when the pounds are packed on during college, may not be such a concern after all.
"I like to call it the myth of the Freshman 15," said Patrice Barber, registered dietician at USC's University Park Health Center.
Barber explained that, at USC, only about a third of students gain weight, half of whom only gain about five pounds at most.
Barber attributes much of the weight gain to young people's still-maturing bodies as opposed to the effects of overeating and binge drinking. It's natural for a young boy's body to gain weight to turn into a young man's body, she explained.
She said that the lack of excessive weight gain likely has a lot to do with USC's location, where the warmer weather makes it easier to get outside year-round.
"What's true at USC may not be true elsewhere," she said.
However, experiences at USC do seem to be true elsewhere based on a 2011 nationwide study from Ohio State University. The study found that women gained an average of only 2.4 pounds during their freshman year and men gained an average of 3.4 pounds.
The study also found that about one in four students actually lost weight at college.
Although the Freshman 15 is hardly a condition affecting most college undergrads, Barber explained that the myth is based in fact. She said that some students do gain upwards of 15 pounds due to a variety of factors such as poor eating decisions and binge drinking and less involvement in physical activity in college than in high school.
Barber has several recommendations for students who do not wish to reinforce the myth:
1. Don't do a weight loss diet but, instead, eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, low-fat meat and whole grains
2. Be physically active
3. It's not just the calories in party beverages that you should watch out for, snacks available at parties often have high calorie-counts
4. Be careful about the types of snacks you stock in your room
5. Since being away from home can be difficult , get your emotional support from friends, not food