The Freshman 15: Weight Change in Relation to Body Image and Body Measurements
Type of DegreeThesis
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Freshmen students entering their first year of college are faced with stress and change, and possible changes in body weight and body image. A common and highly publicized notion among college students is the high risk of gaining the dreaded --Y΄Freshman 15‘ which refers to the potential for excessive weight gain during freshman year. The objective of this study was to longitudinally examine changes of body weight in relation to changes in body circumference measurements, body satisfaction, and appearance investment. The three-dimensional body scans provided non-contact, accurate body measurements of participants. Subjects included 26 females and 10 males. Each subject was measured for height, weight, and percent body fat using standard techniques at the beginning of fall and end of fall semester 2006, and at the end of spring semester 2007. Body Mass Index (BMI) was calculated from measurements. Subjects completed a questionnaire probing body image, which included body satisfaction/dissatisfaction (BASS) and cognitive investment in appearance (ASI-R) for each data collection period. Additionally, body measurements were taken each time using a 3D body scanner. Specific body measurements studied were the bicep, neck, bust/chest, waist, hips, and thigh circumferences. Mean weight gain for all subjects for the academic year was 3.8 pounds. Female and male subjects were divided into (1) weight gain and (2) weight loss/no change groups. For the female subjects in the weight gain group for the academic year, the mean weight gain was 5.6 pounds, with measurement increases in the hips and waist, a mean BASS score of 3.4, and a mean composite ASI-R score of 3.56. For the female subjects in the weight loss/no change group for the academic year, the mean weight loss was 2.67 pounds, with measurement decreases in the bust, hips, thighs, and neck, a mean BASS score of 3.81, and a mean composite ASI-R score of 2.98. For the male subjects in the weight gain group for the academic year, the mean weight gain was 6.23 pounds, with measurement increases in the thighs, hips, bicep, waist, and chest, a mean BASS score of 3.48, and a mean composite ASI-R score of 3.03. Findings of average weight gain less than 15 pounds aligned with the limited literature on the topic. Some subjects gained weight during each semester, while others gained and lost. The most noticeable change in body image measures was an overall decline in cognitive investment in appearance during the academic year.