How to Lose the Freshman 15

The Freshman 15 --It's something that can happen to any student. And it has nothing to do with timed essay questions or complex mathematical equations.

Ben Greenfield
3-minute read

It's something that can happen to any student. And it has nothing to do with timed essay questions or complex mathematical equations.

It's called the Freshman 15, a significant amount of weight gained by many students just entering college, although 15 pounds is only true to about 5% of students. Majority would gain only about 3 to 10 pounds.

What Causes The Freshman 15?


1. Poor Food Options

Poor and inexpensive food choices of hot dogs, peanut butter, cheap steak, energy drinks, frozen stir fry vegetables are a common occurrence. For many students, the diet becomes irregular, meals get skipped, and food preparation becomes hectic. More meals get eaten either A) from unhealthy cafeteria foods or B) from highly processed foods in packages and containers, since these are perceived as cheaper and more convenient. The result is lots of nutrient-void calories, and subsequent weight gain.

2. Stress

Stressful situations trigger the body's "fight or flight" reaction, which can cause surges of hormones such as insulin and cortisol. This can lead to weight gain and resistance to fat loss. When a student is thrown into a new learning environment with unfamiliar surroundings, different friends, and a high workload, the body responds by churning out stress hormones and gaining weight.

3. Alcohol

Alcohol, like cafeteria food and fast food, is high in calories and low in nutrients. Not only can a single night of partying easily lead to several thousand excess calories, but the hormonal response to alcohol can be a decrease in fat burning hormones like testosterone and increase in fat storage hormones like cortisol.

4. Sleep Loss

In a sleep deprived body, appetite stimulating hormones like ghrelin can run rampant, while appetite stabilizing hormones like leptin are far less active. In addition, dopamine and serotonin levels drop, and the body has a lower reward response to food. This means you feel less full after eating, and have a higher propensity to snack, especially on the wrong foods.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.