199205 What freshman women have to say about the "Freshman 15”: Perspectives on prevalence, causes and solutions

Monday, November 9, 2009

TeriSue Smith Jackson, PhD, MPH , Community Health, Utah Valley University, Orem, UT
Justine J. Reel, PhD, NCC, CPCI , Department of Health Promotion and Education, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Background: The Freshman year of college is touted for female weight gain (ie., “Freshman 15”).

Significance and Purpose: Freshman weight gain has been assessed using quantitative inquiry, but this qualitative study allowed for an in-depth exploration of freshman women experiences surrounding body image, nutrition and exercise. The purpose of this study was to better understand the impact and explanations for the “Freshman 15.”

Methodology: Participants (N=235) were initially surveyed about body image dissatisfaction. Thirty participants were selected for semi-structured interviews using a criterion-based, multi-level stratified random sampling.

Results: Freshmen women reported intense fears about gaining weight. Women most commonly attributed freshman weight gain to newly found food independence, social comparison with peers, and the influence of friends and family. Eating habit changes (e.g., increased “junk food”) was the most frequently reported explanation for weight gain.

Conclusions: Social comparison among college females was framed using Festinger's social comparison theory. As one participant stated “Everyone who is skinnier is prettier.” Despite being cautious about food choices, females described weight gain during the freshman year as inevitable. This presentation will provide applied solutions for reaching college women who describe feeling powerless over their food or weight.

Learning Objectives:
Explain freshmen perspectives of weight gain and applied solutions for reaching those women who feel powerless over their food or weight.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Ph.D. in Health Promotion and Education, Master of Public Health, Assistant Professor at Utah Valley University, teaching courses in Health, Nutrition, and Body Image, Numerous research projects, publications, and presentations on the issues of weight management, body image, and obesity.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.