We have all heard of the feared “freshman 15,” an expression commonly used in the United States to refer to the amount of weight a first-year college student can expect to gain while away from home. The problem with the term freshman 15 is that it comes with added pressures to ensure the weight gain doesn’t happen. Students may worry about how gaining weight will impact their lives socially. However, one question that never gets asked is, “Is the freshman 15 real?”

According to research, the “freshman 15” is really a fabricated number that over time became a common term. The average weight gain for a college freshman is only between 2 to 3 pounds and 15 percent of college freshman actually lose weight. Despite the research debunking the pressure of the freshman 15, we still hear those dreaded comments from family and friends who seem to be more concerned with what is on our plate than we are. “Did you really need that extra piece of cake?” “You had pizza for dinner again?” “Did you really need those fries?” The list goes on.

All of this negative talk and pressure is likely more unhealthy than that extra slice of pizza. Starting college brings a whole new set of pressures and the beginning of independence from family, a student’s hometown, and even old friends. Students are trying to balance a heavy course load, work, keeping up an active social life, and the pressures of making it on their own for the first time. This is why talking about the freshman 15 needs to end. It’s safe to say we all have enough other things to worry about without the extra guilt of having Easy Mac for the third time this week.

If you’re interested in learning more information about how to challenge the pressure of the freshman 15 and other “fat talk” statements, consider participating in The Body Project, a positive body image and leadership program designed for college women. The Body Project teachers women how to recognize negative self-statements and develop ways to counter fat talk with friends and family. Women who participate in The Body Project learn how to embrace a healthy body ideal, decrease “fat talk,” and learn to value the nonappearance based aspects of themselves. So go ahead, allow yourself to have a dessert and take a few minutes to sign up to participate in Illinois State’s Body Project today!