The Freshers’ 15 – Gaining pounds and losing pennies

For some bizarre reason, when the words ‘student’ and ‘food’ are mentioned in one sentence, a certain judgement tends to prevail: students can’t cook for toffee. If we do, it’s bound to be some sort of unholy creation composed of ketchup sachets and toast with the mould enthusiastically scraped off.

Yet somehow the myth of the ‘Fresher’s Fifteen’ is growing, with origins ranging from the US with the ‘Freshman 15’ to Australia’s ‘Fresher Spread’. Is the latter term derived from a delicious butter substitute? If only.

So what is the ‘Freshers’ Fifteen’? Well, according to the myth, by the time first year has ended, it is almost compulsory for a fresher to have gained an extra 15 pounds (6kg) due to the high alcohol and calorie intake that most students encounter during the academic year. And I can see why some believe this; I know a student who survived freshers’ week on Guinness and brown bread – and regretted it. Most of us have just left home for the first time, and realised that the daunting prospect of both attending 9 am lectures on a Friday and making Bolognese exactly the way you enjoyed it throughout childhood are too overwhelming to master simultaneously. For those of us who drink, alcohol is also a calorific minefield. According to Drinkaware, a pint of lager can contain 197 calories, and a Jagerbomb would be roughly 183. Could this explain why we apparently gain weight, but still seem to be poorly nourished? Statistics from Medical Daily USA show that up to 59% of college students may suffer from malnutrition – can it really be so different across the pond?

You might wonder how we are supposed to eat a balanced, nutritious diet on an extremely restrictive budget? Is it even possible to buy sustainable, fresh food when we’re trying to keep things cheap? The good news is that UEA is in a great location for viable choices. The

campus’ sustainable food policy, which you can find in the ‘About Us’ section of the University website, ensures, among other practices, that all meat and fish served and sold is sourced in the UK. The city of Norwich also plays its part. There’s a thriving market that opens seven days a week, selling multitudes of fruit and veg at affordable prices – there’s a few butchers and fishmongers in there too, who’ll definitely be a lot friendlier than a self-checkout at the supermarket. This can also work out cheaper, as you’re freer to buy exactly what you need.

An alternative way to save and stay healthy? Cook like you’re going to be serving a hungry rugby team. Make a few portions at one time, and freeze in portions for a later date.

I understand that sometimes that can be hard to afford – why not bulk it out? Add cheaper ingredients such as lentils or other pulses, or perhaps mix in some extra veg.

Of course, everyone has their dark days when concerning food. Takeaways are faster and hugely tempting when there’s nothing but a leftover jacket potato in the fridge and all the supermarkets have closed. But buying healthy isn’t as difficult, or even expensive, or as expensive as it might seem. Together we can all return home at the end of term with a healthy glow resulting from our faultless diet choices. Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration. But spread the word – eating healthily is dead easy, and cheap too – you just need to know where to look. Freshers’ Fifteen? What Freshers’ Fifteen?


About Author


Hattie Griffiths

April 2021
Latest Comments
About Us

The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

If you would like to get in touch, email the Editor on Concrete.Editor@uea.ac.uk. Follow us at @ConcreteUEA.