Body Image and Body Satisfaction for College Freshmen: Investigation into the Fabled “Freshman 15”

By Karla Simmons, Lenda Jo Connell, Pamela Ulrich, Holly Skinner, Mahendran Balasubramanian and Sareen Gropper.

Published by The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society

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College students are perceived to be an at-risk population for becoming overweight or obese. Actual research into the fabled “freshman 15” concept has been limited. While weight gain has been somewhat documented during the freshmen year in women, studies have not examined weight gain in men. Weight has been shown to be a component of body image and body satisfaction/dissatisfaction. The current research investigated the possible changes in level of body satisfaction as it related to weight gain and weight loss. Two hundred and ten entering freshmen (71 male and 139 female) volunteered as a part of a larger study on freshmen weight gain. Results showed a decrease in the total body satisfaction in both genders. With respect to the Body Areas Satisfaction Scale (BASS), which assessed the degree of satisfaction/dissatisfaction with specific body parts (e.g., face, hair, etc.), male subjects were in favor of hair and most dissatisfied with muscle tone. For females, they were most satisfied with their hair and most dissatisfied with their mid-torso. Fifty-three males and 91 females increased in weight while 18 males and 43 females decreased in weight. The overall average weight gain for the first semester freshmen was 2.1 lbs. While there was a decrease in body satisfaction for the female subjects who gained weight in the first semester, male subjects showed no significant change in their body satisfaction level. From the statistical results, it can be conveniently concluded that there was a significant increase in the body weight in both the genders, for their first semester freshmen year in college. Also, the satisfaction level of male and female subjects pertaining to their body image statistically decreased. The study showed that women like their bodies less when they gain weight thus confirming that weight is a significant factor in body satisfaction.

Keywords: Body Image, Body Satisfaction, Body Dissatisfaction, Freshman 15

The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.117-126. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 730.036KB).

Dr. Karla Simmons

Assistant Professor, Department of Consumer Affairs, College of Human Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA

Dr. Simmons’ research interests include the application of 3D body scanning, fit and sizing issues related to scanning and the product development process. She has also conducted studies on product development, mass customization, and computer-aided design. Her body scanning research has been presented internationally in England, Korea, Egypt, Australia, and Hong Kong. Dr. Simmons is considered an expert in the field of 3D body scanning technology.

Dr. Lenda Jo Connell

Professor, Department of Consumer Affairs, College of Human Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA

My areas of interest include the application of body scanning and computerized design in apparel product development. The focus of my research is in consumer and fit preference testing as a component of mass customization. Current research projects include understanding body shape and sizing for American women.

Dr. Pamela Ulrich

Professor, Department of Consumer Affairs, College of Human Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA

Interests in the historical development of the textile industrial complex, dynamics of fashion change, and realities of product creation and consumer reaction have driven my scholarly pursuits. Experiences in teaching varied apparel and textiles courses have expanded my research focus. Work in course assessment has contributed to regular involvement with curriculum development.

Holly Skinner

Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA

Mahendran Balasubramanian

Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA

Dr. Sareen Gropper

Professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, College of Human Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA

Medical/clinical nutrition therapy and assessment in humans with the most recent focus on changes in body weight and composition among college students (freshman 15 studies). Additional research efforts are directed in the areas of effects of diet and body weight on energy expenditure, and interactions among trace minerals and vitamins following supplementation.