Don’t Let the Freshman 15 Hype Harm You

Roommate disputes, all night study sessions, and the Freshman 15: one of these does not belong! (Pic is my Freshman year dorm at Ohio U.)

Which of these are to be expected the first year of college:

  1. roommate battles
  2. all night study sessions
  3. an extra 15 pounds+ around the middle
  4. All of the above
  5. 1 and 2 yet not 3
  6. I plead the fifth since it’s the first week of class

Roommate battles and all nighters are a part of the college experience yet weight gain is not a sure thing. I want to spend a few moments clarifying the Freshman 15 myth.

Yes, it is a myth. Started somewhere around 1985 during our nonfat hysteria. And, just like the kidney heist and other urban legends, it now has a feel of fact when it is not.

Adolescent development includes increases in height and weight with corresponding increased energy needs. For many, there are periods of rapid weight gain prior to the height increases and vice versa. For example, most girls gain 30 to 50 pounds during the 2 years before and after starting menarche. This is to be expected and it is very important. Without it, the girl will have impaired estrogen thus impaired bone health, impacted height, and possibly impacted fertility. Lower estrogen can even affect her mood making her susceptible to feelings of depression. Literally, not gaining enough weight affects her mind and body.

Move in day at my Graduate School, UNCG

Surprising factoid: adolescence is through the age of 23. And, during the last part of puberty (18 to 23 years of age), the average adolescent is supposed to gain 7 to 10 pounds. Let’s put this together: typical adolescent graduates high school and transitions to college somewhere between 17 and 19. Adolescent spends 4ish years there. Is college to blame for a weight change if any? Or even more importantly, why are we punishing the college student’s own biology just trying to do her requirements for adequate development?

This is why I make a stink about this: high school students start worrying about the Freshman 15 somewhere between 10th and 11th grade. Worried and panicked because they think their body will spiral out of their control like it or not and there is nothing to do about it. That is what they hear when they read the media’s Freshman 15 articles. Many start to monitor and restrict their foods in preparation YEARS in advance.

I see more new eating disorder clients during July, August, and September than any of other time of year. This transition to college is a huge change and that alone can place someone at risk for developing a mental health concern. Changes are tough! So, combine this tough change with all the food talk and worry POOF! an eating disorder is born.

Let’s put the Freshman 15 panic aside where it belongs. Panic promotes impulsive choices that can often do more harm than good. Instead, let’s talk about how to maintain mental and physical health while you transition to college:

  • Trust your body. Your body has the knowledge to keep your body promoting health.When you experience physical hunger, eat. When you feel fullness and satisfaction, end the meal. For more on how to do this, look into this.
  • You will experience more symbolic hunger with this transition to college. Symbolic hungers (a term I learned from Dr. Barbara Birsinger RD) are your unmet needs. Notice what you need and explore different ways to meet them.
  • Notice how your body wants to move. College offers more choices in movement and what a great time to try yoga, meditation, rock climbing, or zumba. Check in with what your body enjoys and what helps it feel better (more relaxed or more energized). Cool bonus: great way to meet friends!
  • If you feel yourself craving food outside of hunger, consider it a gentle sign of unmet needs. Cravings need not be ignored or shamed away.

A Woman and her Mandolin’s Simple Empowerment

I am singing her tune! The woman’s plea for the media (and the world): stop minimizing my feelings, my experiences, my being because I am a woman. And, allow me to see size diversity instead of “dolls.”

You gotta check this out. You’ll be tapping your foot to her empowering mandolin tune too. I loved it so much, I just made her an honorary member of my anti-diet militia.

Trick or Treat this Halloween?

Decisions, decisions: should we hand out raisins, pennies, or pencils this Halloween? Answer: choose any of these and my 12-year-old self will be standing in line, adrenaline pumping, at Walmart with dozens of toilet paper rolls destined for your home.


Of course, eating candy all day everyday will lead to rotten teeth, insulin abnormalities, and a mean tummy ache. I trust your body will not want you to eat candy with this much frequency…unless you come from a home that handed out raisins and you weren’t allowed to enjoy Halloween candy. (Even then, there’s a way to work through this.)


Fellow dietitian Maryann Jacobson wisely describes this rationale here. Even more, she explains how to help your kids have a healthy relationship with Halloween candy. With her described strategy, they can enjoy it and be healthy.

Pumpkin Seeds

Dillon Family pumpkins. Guess which is mine!

My family carved out big appetites yesterday which had me experimenting with the leftover pumpkin seeds. 

I drizzled olive oil then added kosher salt, creole seasoning, and garlic powder. Popped them in the oven for about an hour at 300 degrees (I was sure to rustle them around a few times while roasting).

My roasted pumpkin seeds. Left a little of the orange goo since it gives them more flavor!

Fresh out of the oven, a nourishing way to get iron, Vitamin E, protein and many other nutrients. 

Num, num, num!


Have a favorite pumpkin seed concoction? Please share in comments!

My Second Food YOUtopia Experience

I am driving through Arizona’s desert during a business trip. While my colleagues chatter about the day’s excitement, I find myself finally able to retreat with the new Shins album. I have been saving this music for a good moment for this first listen. I place the buds in my ears. It drowns out their chatter so I feel as I am totally alone at last.

I look out the window and my eyes notice the different landscape. The cacti and tumbleweeds appear to have an inverse relationship with the Tumbleweed smoothie I am drinking.

It bursts with raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, sugar, soy milk, and cream. With each sip, I feel the seeds from the berries; it lets me know this drink is fresh and was prepared just for me.

The Shins fill my head with the nourishment it needs while the smoothie does the same for the rest of me. This fuel allows my eyes to take in the landscape.

The landscape changes as I notice 3 colorful hot air balloons lifting into the sky. I watch them float and wonder what they are able to see from their direction. The birds fly by through my personal movie. The birds seem to be mocking two larger flying creatures: two hang gliders float among them.

I wonder how I can be so lucky to be able to enjoy this moment. I feel so small among all of this creation and movement.

I am saturated by the sounds in my ears, the sun’s warmth on my face, the taste of the cool berries, and my eyes bounce hoping to absorb all of this. I realize I will never be on this road again. I will never be in this city again. I will never be in this moment again. I say to myself: enjoy it and be grateful.

The sun starts to set as I see a dune buggie drive by. Will I experience any other joys today?

Through the music, I hear my smoothie’s straw slurp noise. It lets me know this food utopia is about to end. The sun sets just as we arrive to our destination.

I will never be back and that is okay. I will remember it and that makes me smile. I am grateful my food fuel allowed me to experience and connect with my soul and the earth.