A Youthful Voice
The Freshman Fifteen
These three, terrible words can be haunting. By applying last month’s theme of change in the transition to college, to the feared weight gain it becomes clear why kids go to school and gain weight. The dramatic lifestyle changes experienced exclusively by freshman explain why we aren’t talking about the Sophomore 15.
You might not think this subject is a big deal, but the fact that there is an actual website (www.freshman15.com) devoted to the explanation, prevention, and education of college weight gain, might change your opinion. The website explains why we see this trend, “This change of lifestyle removes the parental guidance teens have lived with their entire life. In this new environment, a college freshman is able to go as they please, do what they please, drink and eat what they want, when they want.” This situation probably sounds like a disaster waiting to happen to every mom on planet; however, I think it could be viewed as a great opportunity for the beef industry.
Lets break this down. According the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data (September 18, 2009), there are 17.1 million undergraduate students enrolled in college, which is up 17% since 2000. That means we have a really big number of people that keeps getting bigger. Assuming ¼ of that 17.1 million are freshman, we still have a large number at 4.2 million. After what we just discussed about gaining the freshman fifteen we also know these people are eating—a lot! I think its safe to say these students have room for improvement when it comes to making choices about lifestyle, diet, and exercise. The second thing we know about this group, is that for the first time in their lives these students are making choices about food independent of mom and dad.
We have a very narrow, targeted group of people. We know they eat and where to find them. We also know that they are fairly easy to influence; meaning the negative (or positive) images of beef that parents once controlled can be shed (or furthered) at this point in life. For example, if mom didn’t like beef…this is the first time in their life they will have the chance to regularly have cheeseburgers for dinner. If I was in the beef industry, looking to increase demand for my product, these are the people I would target.
This thinking can all be taken a few steps further. The main source of beef promotion and advertising today is the Beef Check-off program. After attending the National Cattlemen’s Association summer meeting a few months ago in Denver, I learned so much about this program. One of the first things I learned was that they are bringing in dramatically less money than in the past; however, it makes sense when they explained it. We are dealing with liquidation of the cowherd (some estimates at well over 10% since 2007). Since $1/head is added to the fund it makes sense that less cattle equals less dollars. However, it must also be taken into consideration that one calf can easily go through the ring 2-3 times in its lifetime. Meaning the check-off revenue is a victim of the multiplier effect.
Due to this reality, of check-off revenue and current equity levels in the beef industry as a whole, I think it would be unfair and unrealistic to expect someone to start a national advertising campaign about beef directed towards college freshman—although that would be really cool.
Enough about opportunity in the beef industry and the college demographic though, let’s go back to this oh-so-scary weight issue. According to freshman15.com, girls are more susceptible to this particular weight gain than their male counterparts. It doesn’t say why we are “more susceptible” it just said we are, which was not so great news to me. In one of my first trips back home, I stopped by Material Girl Quilt shop to see my friend Meredith. She asked if Lucy or I had “shipping fever”, a quote she took from her father. If I did have shipping fever…it’s defiantly wearing off. I think its safe to say that the cafeteria food has a great feed conversion ratio.
So, in hopes of preventing the freshman 15, I have started a little preventative research of my own. I learned that this whole weight thing should be fairly simple, if my math works out right. A person of my height and build (a convenient substitute for weight), and activity level burns 2,285 calories each day. Meaning, all I have to do to “maintain” my current weight is consume less than 2,285 calories in one day. Which could be lot harder than it sounds, because there are delicious, fresh baked cookies available after every meal in the cafeteria. Lucky for me, the Rec Center is right next door to my dorm. I did the math on those yummy cookies too, 20 minutes exercise on an elliptical equals one cookie!