Gender Differences in Weight Gain – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Gender Differences in Weight Gain

Associate Professor of Psychology Jamie Bodenlos and recent William Smith graduates Kara Gengarelly ’14 and Rachael Smith ’15 published an article, “Gender differences in freshmen weight gain,” in the most recent issue of the international peer-reviewed journal Eating Behaviors.

In the article, Bodenlos, Gengarelly and Smith examined predictors of weight change among college students in their first semester and year, specifically how those predictors differ between genders. Conducted on the HWS campus from September 2010 through the spring of 2013, the study assessed the psychosocial and lifestyle variables and weight of 304 first-year students.

Gengarelly, a psychology major and child advocacy minor, was a participant in the study before she decided to major in psychology and began working with Bodenlos.

“I realized that psychosocial work resonated with me,” she says of her early research experiences, recalling much of her HWS education through the lenses of interdisciplinary learning and social justice. “My major had a clinical psychology focus and I took quite a few classes with Professor Bodnelos, working on research projects that focused on mental health and mental illness. Eating Behaviors is a journal we’d read and learned from in class, so it was very exciting to get the email that this research was being published.”

For Smith, who majored in psychology and minored in health professions and will begin the M.A. program in psychology at the University of Buffalo in the fall, “Almost all of my undergraduate career was committed to gaining research expertise, and to have a publication under my belt going into grad school is a huge accomplishment for me.”

Over the course of the study, Bodenlos, Gengarelly and Smith observed that in the first semester of college, alcohol use was associated with weight gain among males, while for females higher levels of physical activity and lower body mass index were associated with weight gain. At the end of the year, happiness was negatively associated with weight gain among males and physical activity positively associated with weight gain among females. On average, they found weight gains of 6.38 lbs for men and 4.38 lbs for women during the first year.

They concluded that alcohol consumption in males and physical activity in females produced positive associations with weight gain, most of which occurred during the first semester. From this, they inferred that efforts to prevent weight gain in college first-year students ought to be tailored by gender and focus on the first semester.

In addition to Gengarelly and Smith, Bodenlos collaborated with seven other students during the study: Madeline August ’11, Annie Jordan ’11, Walter Green ’12, Bernadette Wormuth ’12, Michele Day ’13, Jaimie Rubin ’13 and Sydni Salvatore ’13.

For Smith, research in the HWS psychology department in general, and this project in particular, “has been monumental in contributing to my experience and expertise that I will be taking into graduate school. As a master’s student I’ll be required to complete a thesis, thus writing this paper gave me some great practice and definitely a leg up during my application process.”

As students, Smith and Gengarelly were co-authors with Bodenlos on a previous study exploring the critical stages that students go through during their first-year of college. They presented the study, “Stress and Loneliness as Predictors of Depression in First Year College Students,” at the 48th Annual Association for Behavior and Cognitive Therapies Convention.

Gengarelly recently completed Teach for America training in Houston, Texas, and will soon move to Miami, Fla., where she will begin her two-year commitment with the non-profit.

“The training was full of long days and long hours,” she says. “They try to cram a lot in, in terms of how to manage class, how to lesson plan. It was intense but a positive experience.”

At UB, Smith will specialize in clinical psychology, anticipating she will complete the program in the spring of 2017, and from there, plans to apply to the Clinical Psychology Doctoral program.

The top photo features Associate Professor of Psychology Jamie Bodenlos and Rachael Smith ’15 and the second photo features Kara Gengarelly ’14.