The Freshman Fifteen

Pizza for breakfast, ice cream for lunch, a bag of Doritos for dinner and a pack of Oreos a day for a snack? We’ve all heard the infamous tales of the first year of college weight gain, aptly nicknamed “the freshman fifteen.”

According to this curse, incoming freshmen can be expected to put on a significant amount of weight (anywhere from 15-18 pounds) when granted the freedom to create their own dietary habits.

To be clear, the weight gain is not necessarily the problem, as gaining weight most definitely can be a healthy choice for some individuals—the trouble lies in the manner in which this weight is put on, by an imbalance of nutrients that can wreak havoc on systems in the body.

The downfall of such eating habits that are often associated with the freshman fifteen is that they contain a number of empty calories, or calories that don’t help fuel the body as they are supposed to. In other words, taking in 400 calories by consuming a doughnut is much different than getting 400 calories by consuming a turkey sandwich. The latter is able to contain far less fat and sugar and significantly more protein, a nutrient that is essential to the body for muscle building.

Everyone’s body processes nutrients differently, which is why some can follow on this diet and never gain a pound while others continue to gain weight even after choosing healthy foods. This has a variety of different variables including height, weight, age, gender and genetics. But eating imbalanced nutrients and empty calories for a long period of time is unwise and may cause later health concerns.

However, for those who are concerned about unnecessary weight gain, remember freshman fifteen is avoidable, and comes only from personal dietary choices and exercise habits. Luckily, Millikin campus is a strong foundation for continuing or beginning to make good choices. Follow these DOs and DON’Ts  to continue to keep your body well.

-DO think about the foods that you are putting in your body, and make sure you’re getting a balanced array of nutrients from a variety of sources. Remember that no food is off limits in small quantities and that it is only by over eating them that you cause harm to the body. Don’t give up cookies completely, limit your intake to one or two a week. There are several free nutrition trackers available online to aid with this kind of observation (, MyFitnessPal, etc.) as well as a variety of other helpful apps.

-DON’T treat every meal in the Caf as an all-you-can-eat buffet every day. Millikin has provided students with a number of healthy food choices but also acknowledges that students require something sweet every now and then. Take advantage of the pastries and unlimited ice cream, but four trips to the sweet bar is probably too many. In a setting like this, it can be difficult not to just grab another brownie, but being mindful of what you’re putting in your body is important.

-DO take advantage of the several fitness opportunities. Every Millikin student is equipped with a free membership to the Decatur Indoor Sports Center, DISC, which includes a weight room, rock climbing wall, track, basketball and volleyball courts and cardio machines. In addition, Fairview Park includes miles of bike trails for cyclists, runners, skateboarders and skaters. Use them well and wisely.

-DON’T over exert yourself to make up for the eight slices of pizza you ate for lunch. When exercising, it’s more important than ever that you keep your body well and your nutrients balanced so that muscles may build without damage.

-DO have an amazing freshman year and remember that there are hundreds of people here to help you with any questions you have. Reach out.