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With some questionable health advice being posted by your friends on Facebook, politicians arguing about the state of the American healthcare system and a new medical study being summarized in just a sentence or two on TV---that seems to contradict the study you heard summarized yesterday---it can be overwhelming to navigate the ever-changing landscape of health news.

To Your Health: "The Freshman 15"

College students are gaining weight. The phenomenon is so prevalent that it is known as the “Freshman Fifteen”. While, according to a study in the College Student Journal, freshmen do not gain fifteen pounds, they do gain between three and five pounds in one year.

A study published in the Journal of American College Health found that college freshmen are gaining weight because many college dining halls are set up in self-serve “all-you-can-eat” format, and students tend to consume more high fat foods and fewer fruits and vegetables. Dr. Kaitlyn Miller and Dr. Jeffrey Hartman reported weight gain can also be attributed to behavioral changes such as drinking alcohol, becoming more sedentary, and hormonal changes due to decreased sleep.

To address this issue, food service administrators have tried using marketing tactics to influence students’ food choices. Tactics such as “nudging” or behavior-based economics, benefits-based messaging, and pricing strategies have been studied with positive results. Ultimately, students are responsible for their health, but colleges have an ethical duty to care for the physical wellbeing of their students. One way this can be done is by promoting healthy food choices in the dining halls, and marketing tactics could be one of the methods that food service administrators use to influence students to make these healthy food choices.

Content for this segment was created by Amanda Petty. Amanda works in the Office of the Registrar at Southeast and will complete her Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration in December 2023. She intends to continue to work within the realm of the College Registrar.


Evans, R. R., & Burnett, D. O. (2020). Perceptions of college weight gain: An exploratory study. College Student Journal, 54(2), 228-240.

Miller, K. G., & Hartman, J. M. (2018). Influence of physical activity on weight status during the first year of college. Journal of American College Health, 68(3), 258-262.

Dr. Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs is an assistant professor in the Department of Leadership, Middle & Secondary Education. She writes for special publications of The Southeast Missourian and is a certified Community Health Worker.