- Freshman 15
- What behaviors can contribute to weight gain?
- How can I maintain a healthy weight when I am in college?
- How to avoid the ‘freshman 15’
- Stick to structure
- Be careful in the cafeteria
- Get fit with friends
- Don't drink your calories
- Stock up on healthy snacks
- Diet Myth or Truth: The Freshman 15
- Nine Tips for Avoiding the Freshman 15 | BU Today | Boston University
- Do get enough sleep
- Don’t skip breakfast
- Do walk off your stress
- Don’t study with the microfridge
- Do include fruits and veggies in all meals
- Don’t drink your calories
- Do keep healthy snacks and beverages in your dorm room
- Don’t look to the internet for nutritional guidance
- Do educate yourself about BU’s Sargent Choice Healthy Dining Program with its tons of menu options.
- 8 Ways to Beat the Freshman 15
- Weight Gain Is Not a Prerequisite
- Be Prepared
- Stock Smart Snacks
- Don't Skip Breakfast
- Cafeteria 101
- Don't Drink Calories
- Get a Move On
- Talk to an RDN
- The Freshman 15: Is it Real?
- 5 Totally Normal Reasons People Gain the Freshman 15
- The Facts:
- 1. Food
- 2. Dranks
- 3. Exercise
- 4. Sleep
- 5. Stress
- What Can You Do?
- The “Freshman 15” is an expression that refers to potential for weight gain during the first year at college.
- During freshman year, students may or may not gain weight.
- Optimum health in college involves making healthy food choices, exercising regularly, and limiting late night eating, junk food, and alcohol.
The “Freshman 15” is the myth that college students will gain fifteen pounds during their first year at school.
Truthfully, some students will gain weight (on average, between 3 and 10 pounds during freshman and sophomore year), and others may lose weight or stay the same weight.
There are many changes that happen during the first year of college that can affect your eating and exercise habits. For example, eating your meals in an all-you-care-to-eat dining hall with friends is very different from eating meals at home with your family.
You might experience significant amounts of stress due to being away from home or having a heavy workload of classes, and both may cause people to turn to food for comfort or lack necessary amounts of sleep.
Also, sometimes people who played sports in high school will not go on to play sports at the college level, so they no longer have exercise naturally built into their day. Although these changes may take some getting used to, it doesn’t mean that they have to result in weight gain.
What behaviors can contribute to weight gain?
The following 6 behaviors may lead to unhealthy weight gain during college:
- Eating too much “junk” food
- Choosing unhealthy or unbalanced options in the dining hall
- Eating large portions or having second or third helpings
- Eating late at night
- Not doing physical activity
- Drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking
- Not sleeping as much as the body needs
In addition to the above reasons, a person’s weight is also affected by genetics, medications, mental health status, disease state, and environmental factors such as availability of fresh foods.
How can I maintain a healthy weight when I am in college?
Weight status is not necessarily a good indicator of health. Achieving optimum health status involves making healthy, nutritious food choices, eating proper portions, and getting enough exercise. Follow these tips to help you stay healthy during college:
- Eat nutritious snacks. Stock your room refrigerator with healthy snacks such as string cheese, baby carrots, hummus, and yogurt. Popcorn, granola bars, and nuts are also healthy snacks but don’t need to be stored in the fridge. It’s okay to eat chips, soda, or sweets once in a while, but limit the amount and how often. Try bringing fruit or other healthy snacks back from the dining hall to eat later.
- Choose healthy options. Since you will probably be eating most of your meals in the dining hall, get in the habit of choosing healthy options and eating balanced meals. Look for plant-based or lean proteins and choose whole grains such as whole grain bread, brown rice, and whole grain pasta. Be sure to eat fruits and vegetables at every meal and try to make them half of your plate. Limit foods that are fried and/or made with lots of added fats, sugar, and salts. If you’re not sure how a dish is prepared, you can always ask the chef or food service manager. Some schools may have signs in the dining hall with symbols that indicate whether a food or dish is a healthy option. If you’d even more guidance you can check to see if your school has a Registered Dietitian (RD) on staff to meet with and go over healthy dining options.
- Plan ahead. Think about when you have time to visit the dining halls and when you will need to pack meals or snacks to take with you to class or your other activities. By planning ahead, you can make sure that you will have food when you are hungry and you can make healthier decisions instead of impulse purchases. Your school may also have a dining website, where you can check to see what is being served that day or week.
- Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. All-you-care-to-eat dining halls can contribute to overeating. Be conscious of how much you are eating (not just what you are eating) and eat until you are comfortably full, but not stuffed. Even if the cafeteria is serving lots of your favorite foods, try to stick with one entrée. You can always choose something different next time. Dining halls tend to rotate food options on weekly or monthly schedules, so your favorite foods will ly be available very often.
- Make mindful decisionswhen eating late at night. It’s okay to eat a small snack at night if you are hungry, but eating late night meals when you aren’t really hungry can be an unhealthy choice.
- Be active. Even though you might not have gym class or after school practice anymore, you can still be physically active! Find ways to fit physical activity such as walking, biking, dancing, or playing sports, into your schedule. Consider making a gym date or sign up for an intramural sport. Find a friend who shares your goal of wanting to stay in shape and make plans to work out or go for a walk/run together. Not only will it keep you fit, but you’ll also build new friendships. Being active will give you more energy and can also help you deal with stress. If you are going to school in a new city or state, exercise can be a great way to explore the area!
- Think before you drink. Alcoholic beverages contain lots of calories. Drinking alcohol can also lead to loss of judgment, which may also cause some people to over-eat late at night. Also make sure to eat a meal before you go out, as this may help prevent eating late at night.
- Be aware of your stress level. If you find yourself frequently eating when you’re not hungry you might want to check in with your level of stress. Are you feeling sad about being away from home? Is the workload of your classes overwhelming? In these cases you might want to talk to someone in the school counseling center. They can help you identify ways to decrease your stress level.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep can affect the levels of hormones ghrelin and leptin which help to control your hunger and fullness feelings. If you’re lacking sleep you may feel more hungry or have a harder time feeling full even if your body doesn’t necessarily need the extra energy from food.
Remember to eat balanced meals that include lean protein, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Watch your portion sizes and eat until you are comfortably full, but not stuffed. If you are still concerned about your weight, you can always contact a registered dietitian to help design a healthy weight management program that’s right for you. Staying physically active will help you maintain your weight, increase your energy level, and help reduce stress.
alcohol, college, healthy eating
How to avoid the ‘freshman 15’
Chances are that your friends are also trying to avoid extra pounds, so scheduling workouts around study sessions can provide incentives.
With college in full swing, health-conscious freshmen may have an extra worry on their minds: the dreaded “freshman 15.
” Amid the unlimited food at the dining hall, no parents telling you to eat your veggies and late-night study sessions with plenty of snacks, the freshman 15 seems inevitable. But is it just a myth? Here's what you need to know, plus my tips for eating healthfully at college.
Do most freshmen really gain 15 pounds during their first year as undergrads? Research tells us no. Several studies have looked at the freshman 15 phenomenon and found that while weight gain is common during freshman year, 15 pounds is more than the average.
The actual weight gain of freshmen varies greatly among different studies, with an overall average of 7½ pounds.
A meta-analysis of studies examining the freshman 15 phenomenon found that although nearly two-thirds of students gain weight as freshmen, fewer than 10 percent gain 15 pounds or more.
So should you worry about gaining those 15 pounds? Probably not. But that's not to say that you should be hitting the dessert bar in the cafeteria and having pizza and beer every night, either.
Even though the freshman 15 is really more the freshman seven, the problem is that habits that cause significant weight gain during freshman year aren't ly to stop when the year ends.
Creating beneficial habits during your college years can set you up for success not only in beating weight gain while you're in college, but also in establishing habits you need to stay healthy afterward.
Here's where to start:
Stick to structure
Fit breakfast, lunch and dinner into your schedule every day, with a healthy snack between meals if needed. Getting into a routine and creating structure for your meals will help you feel more in control of what you're eating. Knowing that you'll eat three meals every day means you can plan in advance for healthy options.
Be careful in the cafeteria
When your dining plan has you going to all-you-can-eat buffets every night, it can be tough to rein in your eating habits.
Take on the cafeteria in a few steps:
First, do a lap through the line to see what your options are so you can make smart decisions, rather than impulsive ones.
Grab a salad plate rather than a dinner plate — you're ly to eat less while still feeling satisfied when you eat from a smaller plate.
Next, fill half your plate with veggies — whether from the salad bar, hot bar or both. Fill a quarter of your plate with lean protein grilled chicken or baked fish, and the last quarter of your plate with whole grains, brown rice or whole wheat bread.
Once you've made your plate, don't go back for seconds (unless you're grabbing veggies carrots to munch on), and skip the dessert bar in lieu of hot tea and a piece of fruit to take back to your dorm.
Get fit with friends
Chances are your friends are also trying to avoid weight gain, so create a workout group to hold one another accountable.
Print out a schedule of workout classes that your school gym offers and highlight classes that you'll try together. That way you'll know in advance when you'll work out, and you can plan study sessions accordingly.
Having friends to work out with always makes exercise more fun, and it's not nearly as easy to call off a workout when you know there will be people expecting to see you at the gym.
If the gym isn't your thing, take advantage of intramural sports or join a club that will get you active regularly. These are great ways to meet -minded people, too.
Don't drink your calories
Whether you're downing energy drinks and mochas to wake up for class or having one too many beers on the weekend, those calories add up fast.
For a caffeine boost, stick to black coffee or tea — or add just one packet of sugar, rather than ordering a pre-sweetened drink that's loaded with sugar.
Freshmen shouldn't be drinking alcohol in the first place, but it ends up happening whether it's legal or not. Remember that alcohol is empty calories, and most cocktails add more empty calories from sugar, too.
You're also more ly to indulge in not-so-healthy late-night snacks with alcohol in your system, so limit your intake or avoid it all together.
Stock up on healthy snacks
It's easier to avoid snacking on junk food if you don't keep it within arm's reach. Rather than having bags of chips and candy on hand for late-night studying, stock your dorm room with healthy snacks individually portioned packs of nuts, whole grain granola bars with fewer than 5 grams of sugar, and fresh fruit, yogurt, veggies, and hummus in your mini fridge.
This is also a great strategy for healthier eats after a party. Knowing you have healthy snacks in your dorm room saves you from the temptation to grab takeout or pizza on the way home.
Christy Brissette is a dietitian, foodie and president of 80TwentyNutrition.com. Follow her on @80twentyrule.
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Diet Myth or Truth: The Freshman 15
From the WebMD Archives
For years, incoming college students have been warned about the dreaded “Freshman 15” – the extra 15 pounds that so often accompany the first year at college. But is this a myth or reality?
Truth be told, it's a bit of both. The bad news is that many college freshmen can expect to gain weight. The good news? The gain is generally less than 15 pounds.
Typical weight gain, studies show, is 4-10 pounds during the first year of college. Here are the results of several studies that looked at weight gain among college freshmen:
- A study at Auburn University found that only 5% of freshmen gained 15 pounds their first year.
- A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggested that the average female freshman gains 5 pounds in her first year.
- A study from Utah State University found that 25% of freshmen (both men and women) gained an average of 10 pounds during the first semester.
- A Rutgers University study found that 75% of study subjects gained weight — an average of 7 pounds, from eating approximately 112 extra calories per day.
- Freshmen gained an average of 4.2 pounds during the first 12 weeks of school, according to a Cornell University study.
But even 4 extra pounds can add up. Weight gained during the freshman year can stick around for a student's entire college career – and beyond.
Transitioning to college life is a huge change. Freedom from parental supervision can lead to poor choices in everything from food to sleep, study, and partying habits.
Researchers found the following behaviors, along with the ready availability of unhealthy food, are most ly to contribute to weight gain among college students:
- Skipping breakfast
- Decreased physical activity
- Overdoing all-you-can-eat dining
- Stress-triggered eating
- Late-night pizza and other unhealthy snacks
- Social drinking
- Lack of control over food preparation and choices
- Too many high-calorie liquids
- Too little sleep
- Eating larger portions
So how can you avoid college weight gain, whether it's the Freshman 15 or the Freshman 4? Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy weight:
- Don't go to class without eating breakfast (Mom was right!). Skipping meals tends to lead to overeating later the in the day.
- The variety of food choices on all-you-can-eat buffets can lead to overeating. So make a plan for how you'll navigate the unlimited bounty in the dining hall. Try to make the same kind of healthy choices at school that you ate at home.
- Learn more about healthy eating. Some universities have registered dietitians on staff that can assist students with healthier meal plans. Or take a nutrition course.
- Keep track of calories. Some university dining halls post the calorie value of foods, which can help you make wiser food decisions.
- To keep your appetite in check, start lunch and dinner with a large salad or a bowl of broth-based vegetable soup.
- Follow the healthy MyPlateequation: Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter with simply prepared lean meat or fish or plant protein (such as beans and legumes), and the last quarter with a whole grain. Next to the plate, include a source of low-fat or fat-free dairy, or a milk alternative.
- Skip dessert at lunch, and indulge only at dinner with a small portion of a sweet treat.
- Drink lots of water and other no-calorie beverages.
- Stock your room with healthy snacks to avoid those late-night pizza runs and vending machine attacks.
- Watch out for weekends. Try to stick to a schedule of regular eating and physical activity rather than indulging in excess eating and drinking all weekend.
- Join the university gym, sign up for a fitness class, and walk all around campus.
- Weigh yourself regularly to keep track of your weight status.
The bottom line is that only you can prevent college weight gain. Start your college career on the right foot with a healthy diet and physical activity every day.
Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, is director of nutrition for WebMD. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.
Auburn University web site: “The Freshman 15: Weight Gain in Relation to Body Image and Body Measurements.”
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, June 2008.
Nutrition Journal, July 22, 2009, v8:1295-1303.
© 2009 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Nine Tips for Avoiding the Freshman 15 | BU Today | Boston University
The fabled Freshman 15—the number of pounds a typical first-year student allegedly gains—may be a myth, some research suggests. But getting heavier over the course of your four years at college is a probability. A 2011 study found the average woman student gained about 9 pounds during that time, and the average man 13 pounds.
“While this amount of weight isn’t earth-shattering, obese adolescents are unfortunately more ly to become obese adults,” says Joan Salge Blake (Sargent’84, Wheelock’16), a Sargent College clinical associate professor of nutrition and health sciences.
She offers nine dos and don’ts for making sure weight gain isn’t “part of your college curriculum.”
Do get enough sleep
“It’s not surprising that studies show that college students often fall short in the sleep department. Insufficient sleep can cause an increase in the hunger-promoting hormone ghrelin and a decrease in the hunger-suppressing hormone leptin. Naps are an excellent way to catch up on lost sleep.”
Don’t skip breakfast
“Research suggests that adolescents who don’t eat breakfast have an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese.
If you skip this important meal, odds are you will be hungry later on in the morning and more ly to find yourself impulsively snacking on high-calorie food from a vending machine or college convenience store.
Rise and dine on a bowl of high-fiber, whole-grain cereal with skim milk. Add some protein, such as string cheese or a handful of nuts, to help you through the morning.”
Do walk off your stress
“A major lifestyle change, such as going off to college, can be stressful initially.
When you feel wound up, lace up your sneakers and release some of the emotional stresses of college life on the walking path around campus or on the treadmill rather than in the dining hall. Even better, join one of BU’s intramural sports programs.
You’ll not only be physically moving, but will also be connecting with your peers who are in the same boat as you. Take comfort in knowing that you are not the only one feeling stressed.”
Don’t study with the microfridge
“If studying at night causes you to munch, don’t study in your room surrounded by your roommate’s chips and other snacks piled high in the dorm refrigerator. Study at the campus library, where eating is prohibited.”
Do include fruits and veggies in all meals
“Eating a salad or vegetable soup before your lunch or dinner has been shown to help cut back on the calories consumed at the meal. How? Fruits and vegetables will fill you up before they fill you out, so they are kind to your waist.”
Don’t drink your calories
“A 20-ounce bottle of soda, sports drink, energy drink, or sweetened coffee and teas can pack over 250 calories. Drink low-fat or skim milk with your meals and water (zero calories) in between.”
Do keep healthy snacks and beverages in your dorm room
Rather than going out for late-night fast food, “stockpile pouches of 100-calorie microwave popcorn on top of your microfridge, which is a perfect whole grain snack. Keep yogurt and string cheese inside the fridge for a healthy, protein-pack, calcium-rich snack. However, if you are stress-eating while studying, see the above tip.”
Don’t look to the internet for nutritional guidance
“Rather, set up an appointment with one of our registered dietitian nutritionists at the Sargent College Nutrition Center to help you manage your diet and dining plan at BU.”
Do educate yourself about BU’s Sargent Choice Healthy Dining Program with its tons of menu options.
“These food choices are ridiculously delicious, and healthy to boot.”
8 Ways to Beat the Freshman 15
DragonImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Students often worry about the typical college stressors — getting along with roommates, finding classes, making friends and avoiding the dreaded “freshman 15” weight gain. While you can't handpick your roommate, you can take steps to eat healthy and keep your weight in check. College is an adjustment, but it doesn't have to mean an adjustment in your pant size.
Weight Gain Is Not a Prerequisite
Good news! The freshman 15 is a myth.
There is conflicting research with the exact amount of weight gained during the first year of college, but students seem to gain a moderate amount of weight during and after college.
Although there are many compelling reasons to be vigilant about diet and physical activity in college, you aren't destined to gain weight — you're in the driver's seat.
Many freshmen are living away from home for the first time, and this can stir up unpredictable emotions. “Emotions play a huge role in weight gain,” says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Kristi King, MPH, RDN, CNSC, LD. “Stress, anxiety and homesickness can all lead to overeating.”
Before you snack, ask yourself if you're eating boredom or soothing yourself with food. If you're stressed, anxious or feeling blue, take a study break to chat with a friend, or go on a brisk walk. If stress and anxiety feel unmanageable, look into on-campus student counseling services for assistance.
Stock Smart Snacks
If you have a weakness for chips, don't keep a giant bag in your room. Late nights and stress can lead to binge eating. Instead, stock snacks that combine protein and carbohydrates to fuel you. Good snack options include apples with peanut butter, carrots and hummus, and Greek yogurt or fruit and whole-grain cereal.
Don't Skip Breakfast
“[Breakfast] wakes up the metabolism and provides energy to the brain and muscles for the day's activities,” says King. “People who eat breakfast tend to eat less throughout the day than those who skip breakfast.”
There are many quick breakfast options for busy college students. “Breakfast should have carbohydrates and some protein to help keep [students] full,” says King. Breakfast options for on-the-go students include hard-boiled eggs and fruit, whole-grain toast with peanut butter, a low-fat granola bar and fruit, or a tortilla with hummus and an apple.
The dining hall can be a friend or foe. There may be high-calorie foods and oversized portions, but most universities also provide nutritious options.
“Great options include foods that are baked, broiled, steamed, grilled or roasted,” says King. She recommends steering clear of foods that are buttered, fried, swimming in cream sauce and anything prepared “au gratin.”
Here are some more ways to make your cafeteria work for you:
- Salad bars are a great option, but don't go overboard on cheese, bacon, croutons and other high-calorie add-ons. An oil-and-vinegar mix is a great dressing option.
- Enjoy fruit for dessert, or save an apple or banana for a snack.
- Follow the MyPlate guidelines when filling your plate at the cafeteria.
- When indulging in a treat, practice portion control. Have one slice of pizza and hit the salad bar for a vegetable side.
Don't Drink Calories
One of many reasons to limit alcohol consumption in college is to avoid unwanted weight gain. “Alcohol is readily available and can pack the pounds on pretty quickly if not careful,” warns King. For students over 21, King recommends light beer or alcohol in moderate amounts, while avoiding drinks mixed with regular soft drinks.
When drinking, alternate a glass of water with alcoholic beverages. You'll consume less alcohol and fewer calories. Eat a balanced meal before heading out for the night. Food slows the absorption of alcohol, and a good meal may curb late-night food cravings.
Get a Move On
Time is a valuable commodity for busy college students, but making time for regular activity pays dividends. Physical activity helps control weight, improves your mood and controls stress.
Many universities have excellent fitness centers available for students, but you don't have to become a gym rat. Instead of taking the bus or driving to class, walk or ride your bike.
Try bonding with friends through activity. “Encourage friends to partake in activities that don't necessarily revolve around food, such as intramural sports,” suggests King.
Talk to an RDN
If you'd help creating a healthy meal plan, or tips for controlling weight, check to see if your university offers nutrition counseling services. Registered dietitian nutritionists King are food and nutrition experts, and they can help you ace your health goals.
The Freshman 15: Is it Real?
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5 Totally Normal Reasons People Gain the Freshman 15
Ah yes, the infamous freshman 15. While the number 15 is rather arbitrary and exaggerated (perhaps a product of alliteration), it has been scientifically observed that roughly 2/3 college students gain weight during their freshman year.
But why? What causes young healthy adults to suddenly and rapidly gain the freshman 15 when they go off to college? And exactly how much weight do people gain?
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com
First, let's get a few things straight. Not everyone gains weight upon starting college. Most studies estimate about 66% of students gain weight, averaging 2-3 pounds over the first year.
More often than not, a majority of the weight is gained in the fall semester, and gaining tappers off in the spring.
Females are more ly to gain than males, and being involved in student activities and having a higher levels of scholastic aptitude are seen as protective factors against the Freshman 15.
There isn't one clear reason why students gain the freshman 15 in college, it's usually a combination of many factors.
First, obviously most students have a diet change. All-you-can-eat dining halls often replace home-cooked meals, and access to unlimited junk food and soda can lead many to start eating a less-than-ideal diet.
Even outside the dining hall, a lot of college-students eat way more junk food than they formerly did or should. Hello, stretchy pants.
And it's important to note that you can still be malnourished even if you're over-consuming calories. If your body doesn't get the nutrients it needs, it's going to still be desperate for food, which can lead to overeating.
Blame it on the alcohol, but seriously. Alcohol yields more calories per gram than carbs and protein, but with none of the nutrients.
It's super easy to drink the calories away, without providing your body any nourishment, meaning your body still needs food and even more calories, which can contribute to the Freshman 15.
Then there's the whole drunkie element: most people don't reach for kale salads when they're drunk (but if you do, hey, more power to ya). More often than not, drunk eating means binging on high-calorie foods fries and pizza.
A lot of students also suddenly drink more soda and sweetened coffee beverages, adding hundreds of calories to their daily intake without even noticing. Yikes.
Aside from dining halls and partying, a lot of students suddenly stop exercising. Sure, the walk to class is probably a bit further than in high school, but the sudden cessation of daily sports practices takes working out your daily routine.
Going to the gym requires motivation, time, and may not always be convenient.
Then, there's sleep: between partying and all-nighters at the library, many students develop poor sleep hygiene habits.
A lack of sleep can mess with hunger and fullness hormones, and lead people to start gaining the freshman 15.
And of course, there's stress. Between classes, work schedules, adjusting to a whole new routine, and suddenly having to function as a semi-adult, stress builds.
Stress can also flux with hormones, and once again, leave you reaching for comfort in the form of cookies. #StressEating
What Can You Do?
Just because you're going to college doesn't mean you're destined to gain the freshman 15. There are many habits you can bring with you to stay healthy.
When you hit the dining hall, fill your plate with fresh fruits, vegetables and beans for your first round, all of which are inherently filling and nutrient-dense.
Then go back for your pizza, cookies, and fries, and enjoy them in smaller portions.
Pump the breaks on the soda, sweetened coffee drinks (major key), and even juices, and stick to water and regular coffee or tea instead. Moderating your alcohol intake (sorry) can also help.
Oh, and get moving. You don't have to go to the gym every day, but try incorporating activity into your life on a regular basis. Try a yoga class at your student center, or watch your favorite show on the elliptical at the gym instead of in your bed.
When you're stressed, talk a walk instead of bingeing on The Mindy Project and Cheetos, and if your body needs sleep, take a nap and don't feel guilty about it (trust me, you won't regret it).
And cook! The more meals you DIY, in general, the better. Buying pre-chopped veggies and pre-cooked frozen brown rice/quinoa are great shortcuts to healthy, yummy meals.
Plus, Spoon has a whole archive of easy and good-for-you recipes for your delight. We gotchu. The freshman 15 doesn't stand a chance.