Freshman 15 has been an epidemic across university campuses for years, proving to have harsh consequences on the lives, and weights, of many first-year students.

The term Freshman 15 describes first-year university students who gain an excessive amount of weight due to new factors the university life brings, including stress, excessive partying, and what is available to them at an affordable cost.

foodLovepreet Sharma, Mount Royal University student, enjoying a pizza right before an exam. Photo by Kemi Omorogbe and Mackenzie Gellner

According to WebMD, one in four freshmen gain at least 5 per cent of their body weight, which is an average of 10 pounds, during their first year of university.

Mount Royal University student, Lovepreet Sharma, has suffered from this epidemic.

“When it was my first year, I used to count my calories and everything,” says Sharma. “But as I progressed, I became lazy and started eating more.”

Sharma thinks student stress is a likely cause of overeating, especially when it comes to junk food.

“I think it’s just a craving. Like if you’re stressed, there’s a very rare chance you’re going to crave a salad.” -Lovepreet Sharma

Researchers found that sugary foods can have a comforting or stress-relieving effect on the brain, which results in overeating during stressful situations.

Students may try to resist these savoury, sweet and sultry foods, but at Mount Royal University, Dominos is right around the corner.

Govind Grover, a delivery man, makes multiple deliveries to Mount Royal University throughout the day.

“In the morning, I’d probably go like eight or nine times,” says Grover. “We get a lot of orders, around like 40 to 44 pizzas a day.”

According to a study by Auburn University in Alabama, 70 per cent of students gain an average of 12 to 37 pounds during their four years in college.

food2A lonely Tim Hortons cup sitting in the empty halls of Mount Royal University. Photo by Kemi Omorogbe and Mackenzie Gellner

Freshman 15 can go beyond the first year, causing the epidemic to have long-lasting effects.

There are some ways to counteract these effects before it becomes a bigger problem.

Lindsey Hatcher, peer health educator at Mount Royal University, points out there are alternatives for students to avoid gaining an exceptional amount of weight, such as adding less sauce to a Subway sandwich, or not using heavily caloric salad dressings.

Along with stress, Hatcher believes student budgets also contribute to the growth of the epidemic.

“Sometimes when people are grocery shopping for themselves for the first time, they realize how expensive food actually is,” says Hatcher.“Sometimes it is cheaper to buy that instant ramen than it is to buy fruits and vegetables.”

Option – Mac and Kemi from MRU Journalism on Vimeo.

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