The Dreaded "Freshmen 15"
Do you ever look through those old high school photos of yourself and wonder, "What on Earth happened? How and when did I gain so much weight?"
If so, you aren't alone. It's considered quite common, even normal, for people to start putting away the pounds after graduation.
Indeed, it all starts in your freshman year of college. One study has shown that college freshmen gain an average of 15 pounds, a phenomenon that researchers have dubbed the "Freshman 15." Although it doesn't reliably happen to everyone, it's apparently too common enough to garner medical and scientific interest.
Unfortunately, it doesn't end there. As you get further away from your high school days, the pounds just seem to keep coming. However, you should know that it's often not entirely your fault. There are a variety of events that can trigger weight gain as you progress through adulthood. Here are seven of the big ones.
Reason 1: Hormonal and Metabolic Changes
During adolescence, your body is pumping out testosterone and other fat-blasting hormones at an alarming rate. This makes you more active, keeps your metabolism high and promotes the muscle mass that consumes excess calories. Once you hit adulthood, however, those hormones begin a downward spiral.
Testosterone levels start to drop, taking your energy and metabolism with them. This makes it a lot harder to stay lean and shed extra weight. This pattern becomes especially pronounced in your late 20s and continues well into your late 40s, which is why many people find it more difficult to manage their weight as they age.
Reason 2: Alcohol Consumption
It's an accepted fact that college usually involves large quantities of beer, and this is another thing that will make you fat.
Alcohol, particularly beer, results in elevated estrogen levels when consumed regularly. This is responsible for the so-called "beer belly" that often develops in male drinkers. Estrogen makes you gain weight and also lowers fat-burning testosterone.
Besides the obvious detrimental effects that alcohol has on your body, psychological dependence is the worst.
Reason 3: Reduced Physical Activity
When you're in high school, you have the benefit of daily physical education classes. They require you to be physically active for at least half an hour, which just happens to be the standard recommended workout length.
Then there are high school sports, most of which involve rigorous physical activity on a regular basis. Naturally, you're going to be in better shape under these circumstances. After high school is over, a lot of people stop doing these things, either because they would rather not do them or because life gets in the way.
Reason 4: Stress
Stress is one of the best-recognized factors in weight gain. It causes a massive release of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Cortisol makes your body think you're under extreme environmental duress, so it starts storing more fat to see you through leaner times. Unfortunately, unless there's famine, this doesn't do you any favors. Fat-causing stress comes from a number of common sources that can include:
- Health problems
- Social pressures
- College pressures
- Interpersonal relationships
Reason 5: Marriage and Parenthood
Of course, many people start noticing the most weight gain once they get married and have kids, but the reasons for each are quite different. Studies have shown that once someone ties the knot, they gain an average of 20 pounds. What's more, it's also been found that people in happy marriages are far more likely to gain weight than people who are unhappy in their relationship. This can be attributed to feeling secure and comfortable in your marriage.
Once you start a family, you're also more likely to gain weight, especially if you're a woman. The pregnancy process triggers a deluge of biological changes that slow metabolism and promote fat storage, and the effect never quite goes away. Although this is natural and normal, it can be a vexing problem.
Reason 6: A Poor Diet
Life after high school has a way of encouraging unhealthy dietary habits. When you're in college, late nights of studying make you reach for whatever is convenient, like takeout, pre-packaged snacks and sugary, caffeinated drinks.
After that, your job makes your life so hectic that you don't have the time or energy to cook something nutritious, so your turn to frozen dinners and fast food.
Reason 7: Sleep Habits
Last, but certainly not least, is the disruption in sleeping habits that tend to develop during college and can continue during parenthood. When you don't get enough sleep or your sleep quality is poor, it will make you fat. It raises levels of cortisol, takes away your energy and makes you crave sugary, fattening foods.
It Doesn't Have to Stay That Way
Getting fat after high school may be common, but it doesn't have to be inevitable or permanent. A simple overhaul of your lifestyle habits, like eating healthier foods, avoiding excessive drinking and going to bed at a reasonable hour, can help cut down on some of the damage.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Lucy on February 11, 2018:
This is not true for everyone. If your one of those messed up people who like drinking beer 24/7 your probably not gonna be underweight or average meaning you will be overweight. People in America love eating bacon which is unhealthy.
Athena lazz on November 21, 2017:
why is this all true? lmfao
Rick Grimes (author) on June 11, 2014:
definitely :) !
FlourishAnyway from USA on May 14, 2014:
Oh yes, it happens to the best of us.