Can we normalize the “Freshman 15”?

by Liz Setti

Weight gain happens to everyone; why does it scare us?

Diet culture, the societal belief that a thin body is the ideal human appearance, has become so invasive in an array of aspects. For example, the countless amounts of diets to try, products sold to “burn fat” such as skinny teas and diet pills, and workout programs that promise unrealistic results. All of which fall into the diet and health industry that profits off people’s desire to be skinny. Another way diet culture is able to thrive is the negative connotation associated with weight gain, which can lead to a majority of the population feeling concerned about their weight. A great example of this is the “Freshman 15,” which generates fear by suggesting that people will gain a noticeable amount of weight during their transition into college. As an incoming freshman for the fall semester, I have fallen victim to fearing the freshman 15 despite how normal it is to gain weight during stressful times in life. Based off the conversations I have heard during my first week of college I can confidently testify that the freshman 15 is a consistent fear for many college students. 

In order to productively discuss normalizing the freshman 15, it is important for me to admit that I too am afraid of gaining weight at this time, which seems hypocritical for the argument being made—though it actually demonstrates how pervasive diet culture can be. However, being able to reason with my fear and actively work on normalizing the changes to my body contributes to dismantling diet culture and the negative connotation with gaining weight. Although my inner dialogue villainizes the freshman 15, there are many ways I have been anticipating and reframing my mindset around the possible changes that might happen to my body. I have been continually reminding myself that college is such a unique time in my life that I will never be able to relive again, therefore I want to lean into the experience as much as possible. For example, there may never be another opportunity for me to get pizza with my friends at 2AM after a party or indulge in the dessert section at the dining hall. Instances like these are so unique to the college experience and play a pivotal role in creating lifelong memories. I think it is helpful for college students to keep this in mind when talking about the freshman 15 not to justify the weight gain but understand why it is completely okay. It will take a lot of resistance to diet culture in order to make a world in which weight gain is deemed desirable, and a great effort needs to be made to normalize it, especially among a vulnerable group of people such as college students. 

About Elizabeth Setti

Liz Setti is a Peoria area native and graduated in the class of 22 from Richwoods High School. She is going to be a freshman at Loyola University Chicago this fall where she will study nursing. Liz is passionate about writing and has her own blog, “A Hidden Addiction” and was former co-editor in chief of the newspaper at Richwoods. Some of Liz’s favorite hobbies are running, cooking, and hanging with her friends. 

About Faith Marie

Faith Marie is a homeschooled 18 year old freshman at Ashworth College. She enjoys nature, rainy days, and her pet dog and snails. She has an abundance of love for Jesus and people of all kinds. The idea of creating art that has never existed before inspires her. You can find her on Instagram at @faithmariedraws or on tiktok at @_faitha.