Several fears may be swimming through the head of a WOWie as he or she walks Cal Poly’s campus for the first time — whether that’s struggling to meet people or failing to get top grades. Yet one concern has not subsided since the media phrase was coined in the 1990s: the freshman 15.
But, according to Cal Poly director of health education Rojean York Dominguez, the notorious expression is actually a myth.
In fact, she said, freshmen weight gain happens on a case-by-case basis and, if any weight is put on, it’s much less than 15 pounds.
“Three to five I would say is pretty typical if there’s any weight gain,” Dominguez said.
Yet the case-by-case weight gain can be nailed down to a few key causes. Dominguez said fast food, skipping meals, not eating breakfast and alcohol consumption are the main culprits. She said adapting to a new lifestyle can have it’s side effects on weight as well.
“Sometimes people do gain weight but it has to do with learning to make choices,” she said.
The choices are tested regularly by the college lifestyle. Dominguez said parties, a busy schedule, late-night cravings and even campus dining could confront the will power of students trying to stay healthy.
Students agree, saying healthy living really comes down to choice. Nutrition junior Stephanie Moller said the freshman weight gain is different for everyone.
“I think with the dorm food, when it’s all you can eat, for some people, if they see all the food, they eat it all,” she said.
Dominguez said the buffet-style “All You Care To Eat” program at 19 Metro Station (one of the main eateries geared toward meal plans) is a double-edged sword, meaning it can be detrimental to those dealing with mental health problems or beneficial to an active person.
Overeating is a common side effect of depression and anxiety, she said.
“’All You Care To Eat’ kind of contributes to that if you’re going in that direction anyway,” she said.
19 Metro Station’s buffet, however, is great for athletes and students who burn a lot of calories, Dominguez said.
Dominguez also said skipping breakfast contributes heavily to weight gain.
“If you eat breakfast, it helps get your metabolism started and you’ll have more energy and you’ll be less likely to make that trip to Starbucks or Julian’s to fill up on the caffeine,” she said. “(Students) skip meals and then when they do eat, they’re starving so they eat more than they would normally.”
Dominguez said eating is not like a savings account; you have to use it as you go.
“Even if it’s healthy food, if it’s not used, it converts to excess energy which converts to excess weight,” she said.
Although some students have trouble adjusting to a stressful lifestyle and might go out to Taco Bell more often than they should, Dominguez said Cal Poly doesn’t really have an issue with overeating. The more prevalent issue, she said, is over-exercising.
“Cal Poly’s a stress machine, there’s no denying it,” she said. “We have a prevalence of disordered eating and excessive exercise, and that goes hand in hand with being an overachiever. Most Cal Poly students come with a really high GPA and have been high achievers their entire life.”
But Dominguez said students should really just maintain a healthy lifestyle, make good eating choices and embrace the close-to-perfect weather of San Luis Obispo. She also said you don’t have to be a gym rat to regularly use the newly-renovated Recreation Center.
“You can just take a class or hop on a bike for a short period of time,” she said.
Agricultural business senior Justin Alioto said the gym is a great resource to add to your lifestyle.
“We have this brand new rec center. If you’re gaining weight and you don’t want to, go to the rec center. It’s not that hard,” he said.
Alioto said, however, that campus dining could improve their healthy choice offerings.
“VG’s is terrible,” he said.
Dominguez said the easiest way to stay on track with a healthy diet is to eat regularly and keep healthy snacks on hand throughout the day like nuts, veggies or dry cereal. She also said a good, quick breakfast could be a nutritious shake, half a banana, apple or Cliff Bar.
When it comes to managing your portions during meals, Dominguez said eating more fruits and vegetables and the appropriate amount of carbohydrates and protein will keep you on a healthy track.
“A good rule of thumb is to fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables and only a third or fourth with protein and carbs,” she said.
And, above all, she said to avoid adding late-night takeout to your diet.
“If you’re eating a Big Mac at 2 a.m. in the morning, you’re probably not going to go exercise after that,” she said.