Proximity to cafeteria, gym affects freshman weight gain, study says

Freshmen hear rumors about it, worry about it, and try to avoid it, with some succeeding more than others. The dreaded “Freshman 15” is defined as the weight gain students typically experience during their first year at college, and it can be a problem for new students adjusting to college eating habits.

This year’s freshman class, however, doesn’t seem very concerned.

“It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” freshman Ashley Mason said. “But I’m not really too worried with all the walking there is.”

Freshman Thomas Kinmounth said he was “not at all” worried about the “Freshman 15.”

“I’m on the seventh floor,” he said.

Freshman Hannah Schaefer said she didn’t think she’d be affected by the Freshman 15, “because I walk up and down [Dowling Hall’s] stairs and walk to math on south campus every day.”

Study links proximity to caf, weight gain

But even if students start off the year with good intentions, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to the Freshman 15. In a recent Marquette University study, researchers observed the weight gain of 388 freshmen on the Marquette campus with regard to their dorm’s distance away from on-campus dining halls and workout facilities.

The study found that females living in dorms connected to dining halls gained nearly 2 pounds more and exercised 1.43 times less than those who did not live in connected dorms. Males living in dorms connected to dining halls ate 3.26 meals per day compared to the average 3.04 meals per day, and males in dorms connected to dining halls also ate 2.79 snacks per day compared to the average 2.41 snacks per day.

Davidson, a resident of Murray Hall, the only dorm connected to a dining hall at St. Thomas, said, “I don’t think we go down [to the caf] quite as often, so it’s not that much of a concern.”

But if more dorms were connected to dining halls, that answer might be different.

“I probably would [go to the caf], because in the mornings I just wake up and go to class, and don’t really eat. I don’t want to walk over,” said Trevor Rolando, who lives in Brady Hall. “But if [the dining hall] was attached, I’d probably definitely go down there.”

Freshman Keaton Wendroth agreed.

“It’s just the convenience of not having the rain and the weather, not having to deal with the elements,” he said. He also said that he would be a regular dining hall visitor if it was connected to his residence hall.

Health Services tips

Student eating habits also contribute to weight gain, said Beth Cotton, a registered nurse for St. Thomas’ student health services.

“There are late night sessions where [freshmen] might be studying and getting together, and often times it’s surrounded by food,” Cotton said. “Especially with females, because it’s such a social thing.”

She said efforts have been started at St. Thomas to encourage both freshmen and upperclassmen to make healthier decisions.

“With the Wellness Center, we do kind of like a cooking type show and just do little demos that [students] video tape and then other people can check them out [online],” Cotton said.

The videos are a great resource, especially for those living in halls such as Morrison or Flynn with easy access to kitchens, and the videos help students make healthy snack choices that don’t involve a lot of work, Cotton said.

Cotton said she also provides health information for students who rely heavily on on-campus dining.

“I also do programs in the residence halls that are based on healthy eating on campus,” she said. “I’ll go into the caf and get a couple of healthy choices and just talk about ways of eating healthier. I really stress trying to watch portion sizes and portion control.”

And most people rarely take into consideration the biggest culprit of weight gain, Cotton said.

“Watch what you drink,” she said. “It can really add up and we don’t think of those calories as part of our meal.”

Colleen Schreier can be reached at

2 Replies to “Proximity to cafeteria, gym affects freshman weight gain, study says”

  1. I actually lost a little weight during my freshmen year, which was mainly due to being on the track team, running six days a week. With the new athletic center being so awesome, students, especially freshmen, have more incentive than ever to work out.

  2. It’s really strange. When I was freshman, I actually ended the year 16 lbs. lighter than when I began at St. Thomas. It definitely had to do with my ability to choose whatever I wanted to eat, when I wanted to eat (not like home, where we always ate as a family – without much say of what we would be consuming). Also, it always helps that we’ve got the gyms on both campuses!

    But I definitely see how this year’s Freshman aren’t taking this seriously! I work in the caf, and this first month was absolutely bombarded with freshman! If they’re going to eat that crazy, they definitely need to take advantage of Anderson!

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