The ‘Freshman 15’ phenomenon refers to the weight gain that occurs in undergraduate students during their first year at university. Researchers regard this change as a useful context within which to understand factors that promote weight gain. Here, we sought to understand (i) the contribution of lifestyle changes (e.g., alcohol intake) and (ii) the moderating effect of specific psychological characteristics, impulsivity in particular. Participants (N = 141) were recruited at the beginning of their first semester (early October, T1) and were tested again in mid-March (T2). BMI and waist circumference were measured at both time points. Trait impulsiveness (Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, version 11) was assessed, together with dietary restraint, dietary disinhibition, and several lifestyle variables. Our preliminary analysis reveals that, contrary to previous reports, impulsivity and disinhibited eating are poorly correlated. By contrast, impulsivity appears to predict alcohol intake. No significant correlation exists between impulsivity and change in waist circumference or BMI after controlling for gender. In summary, we do not find any evidence to suggest a relationship between self-reported impulsivity and weight change over time. These results suggest that we should be cautious in assuming that self-reported impulsivity represents a ‘risk factor’ for weight gain.
- Brain and Behaviour
- Nutrition and Behaviour