Sara Siskind and Keren Gilbert explain why the phrase “freshman fifteen” is so harmful, and how their organization helps college students build healthy habits without the body shaming.
Why is the phrase “freshman 15” harmful?
“Freshman 15” is a negative term thrown around as an inevitable part of the college experience. There are 10-year-old girls that are already anticipating this phenomenon as an unavoidable part of the college experience. That’s absurd! It absolutely creates anxiety and fear for students who should be focusing on this exciting new venture. So, when we are saying “F*** the Freshman 15,” we are voicing that we want that phrase to be eliminated from our college vernacular! We demonstrate that on our account by having ambassadors from schools across the nation share with us how they maintain a healthy attitude on college campuses, without focusing on weight! We never speak of calories or diet on our page. There is no food shaming to be found. There is nothing wrong with having a slice of pizza or an ice cream. Our approach is always holistic focusing on balancing, adequate sleep, movement, fun, stress management, mental health care, and fueling your body properly.
What are the main ways that you and your ambassadors are able to motivate and inspire college students struggling with fear of “the freshman 15”?
First and foremost, we have a personal relationship with all of our ambassadors and make sure that they have an understanding of our mission to focus on healthy lifestyle habits. We have an open door policy with each and every one of them. This model leads to our ambassadors being able to share their experiences related to health on campus without judgment. The content on our page is authentic, which is a rarity on social media today.
As moms, professional nutritionists, and entrepreneurs, what are the most common concerns you have noticed among college students who reach out to you for guidance?
College represents a new beginning as students transition from a regimented high school schedule to a much more independent lifestyle. Students are often navigating how to live away from home, make new friends, take classes that are in their interest, do well in those classes, and manage their physical and mental health. This is a lot of responsibility all at once for a young adult. We take great pride in understanding the obstacles young adults face when it comes to taking care of themselves and what they are concerned with. Of course, each individual is different, but we have learned that there are common threads amongst them around health and diet.
For example: Fear of weight gain and losing control of their daily habits; not having access to their usual foods; struggling to find enough time for their physical activity; being influenced by diet culture from their peers; and not being surrounded by their support system.
How do you demonstrate healthy living on a college campus?
Our student ambassadors are the leaders in self-care in F* The Freshman 15 community. We are the facilitators of our platform and allow them to showcase how they maintain their health on college campuses. On a daily basis they demonstrate their shopping lists for their dorms and apartments, easy recipes, dining hall hacks, healthy portable snacks that you can take to class, and Campus restaurants and eateries that they frequent. They also show how to prioritize being physically active, manage stress, and emphasize the importance of mental health.
What is a major piece of advice you would give to college students to help them enjoy their college experience without fearing the freshman 15?
We emphasize focusing on habits rather than weight gain. These habits include adequate sleep, proper hydration, preparation, physical movement, time for yourself, no skipping meals, and time management.