Don’t Succumb to the “Freshman 15”

“Freshman 15” is a term that refers to the weight college students tend to gain during their freshman year.

“Freshman 15” is a term that refers to the weight college students tend to gain during their freshman year. Between the comfort of the dining halls, the varied meal plans, unbalanced diets, poor eating habits, and popularity of low-quality foods, it’s estimated that up to 50% of freshmen gain weight. However, one new study has a simple trick to keep off the pounds: keep a scale in your dorm room.

Researchers from Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania gathered 294 women for the study. They measured the subjects’ body fat at the onset of the study, and again six and 24 months later. They also recorded BMI, body fat percentage, and weighing habits of the women.

The study found that women who weighed themselves at least once per day were less likely to gain weight. In fact, they actually experienced some weight loss—unquantified by the study. Changes to their BMI were small but significant compared to the women that didn’t weigh themselves every day.

What’s interesting is that the study didn’t encourage any changes in eating habits, exercise, or lifestyle. As one researcher said, “The losses in BMI and body fat percentage were modest, but still significant, especially keeping in mind that these women were not part of a weight loss program. We did not expect that, in the absence of a weight loss intervention, folks would be losing weight.”

Interestingly enough, the women who weighed themselves every day tended to have a heavier BMI and higher body fat percentage at the onset of the test. While daily self-weighing frequency led to weight and body fat loss over the course of the two years of college, higher self-weighing frequency was actually correlated to higher initial weight and body fat.

So why does weighing yourself help you to lose weight? According to one of the researchers,

“Regularly weighing yourself can motivate you to engage in healthy eating and exercise behaviors, because it provides you with evidence that these behaviors are effective in helping you lose weight or prevent weight gain. Similarly, if you see weight gain on the scale, that information can motivate you to make a change.”

Want to keep off those pounds—not just at college, but in your everyday life? Step on the scale at least once a day. At the very least, it will keep you cognizant of your current weight, making it clear whether your efforts to eat a balanced, healthy diet, exercise, and live well are working or not.