A few days into her freshman year, her room is properly set up; her workout clothes are ready to be used and her planner is marked with a 12 p.m. cardio workout session.
She’s got it all planned out. Except, a week goes by and her workout clothes are now lying under her books and the leftovers from dinner.
“#Reality,” said Alexis Dulko, a junior at Saint Peter’s University. “It actually happens.”
Freshman year in college means a new school, new people, new friends and a new life. That’s right, say goodbye to mom's home-cooked veggies and hello to the all-you-can-eat buffet.
“Freshman year I made a whole schedule,” Dulko said. “On days that I was going to work out and what workouts I’d do, but then it all fell through.”
Dulko, who played high school softball, realized that it’d be much harder to keep the same routine going in college.
“Coming into college people are suddenly like, ‘Oh my gosh free food,’” she said.
The idea of whether freshman 15 is a myth or reality lingers around many -- if not every -- college campus. It’s the sarcastic joke that tour guides make to incoming freshman students, and it’s often used as a meme on social media at the beginning of every fall semester.
“Freshman 15? it’s been studied to death,” said Dr. Jay Garrels, chair and professor of health and physical education.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the transition from secondary school to university is often accompanied by unhealthy behavior changes such as decreasing physical activity and increasing sedentary behavior. It shows that 40 to 50 percent of college students are physically inactive.
“I think our college student population is an important one because you’re right in the transition of high school, where you have a more structured schedule,” Dr. Garrels said. “Whereas in college you’re kind of on your own and you pick and choose what you get involved with and not get involved with.”
This less structured lifestyle can sometimes lead to what we know as freshman 15, according to Edward Daniel, SPU’s recreational program coordinator.
“No one comes out the womb looking like a supermodel,” Daniel said. “But you do have to run the race against yourself in college.”
Daniel believes there is no one set way of figuring out what will be effective or not. It delves into more of a trial-and-error process.
“If you have a body you’re an athlete. The famous quote by Nike,” Daniel said, “Everyone has different body types and everyone responds differently to certain methods of personal care.”
“It’s more about finding your fit, finding something that you like to do that doesn’t feel like work,” Daniel added. “The hardest part is trying to keep on track and adapt it to your lifestyle.”
All the quick diets and instant gratification that students seek now is nothing but a defense mechanism to push away the reality of adopting the so-called healthy lifestyle, according to Psychology Professor Joshua Feinberg.
“A lot of it is about habit,” Feinberg said. “Society, in general, is more health conscious then a generation ago.”
Recent research done by Oregon State University found that when physical activity classes are required as part of the core curriculum it forces sedentary students to become more active.
Over 20 percent of colleges across the U.S have implemented mandatory core classes that involve either a nutrition and exercise course or classes like yoga and pilates.
“It’s important for the university to try and impress upon the students that having this kind of active and physical lifestyle for their general life also translates into a better academic career,” Feinberg said.
Typically, students steer away from commitment. A lot of it stems from the bigger decisions that are being made while in the four years during the undergraduate career.
“People hear the word mandatory and run,” Dulko said. “So it’s just about offering the right classes.”
Erin Coyne, the director of recreation and wellness at Saint Peter’s University, works to find programs that align exercise, eating and healthy habits for students to have better results.
“We don’t have the magic answer yet,” she said. “We’re really trying to think of what we can do that really makes students just want to embrace it and do it for their personal well being.”
Coyne believes it’s better to let people choose what they want to learn more about -- whether it be a meditation class or yoga class. Implementing classes as part of the core would give students the opportunity to choose and there is something for everybody, she said.
“Gymtimidation,” according to Urban Dictionary, is someone who is insecure about themselves and they feel threatened by others in the gym who are in good physical condition.
“People shouldn’t waste their time by giving into their insecurities,” said Daniel. “You just have to build yourself up.”
College campuses are one of the largest social and interactive platforms for students throughout their undergrad, and it’s possible that general health isn’t what motivates students to get fit and worry about their own health.
“There are alot of factors -- real and imaginary -- that contribute to this mindset of who cares about general health,” Feinberg said. “People still want to look good, to be liked, accepted and have people be attracted to them which of course will lead people to exercise for those social purposes.”