I remember being terrified walking into the dining hall my first year of college. I had just spent months on a restrictive diet, counting calories and “eating clean”. It was time to face the unlimited dining options and I was determined to not only avoid the freshman fifteen but even lose a few more pounds.
Things started well, I loved the salad bar and managed to avoid the soda machine. But once the school stress started to pick up, I couldn’t help but make my way to the dessert bar. I had never had this freedom before, to eat what I wanted and when I wanted. To enjoy soda with my dinner or eat pizza and fries late at night. The freedom was thrilling, and I started to develop an “all or nothing mindset”.
I began to use food as a crutch, fueling my late night studies and helping (or so I thought) my battle with mental health. And the pounds started to tack on. By Christmas break, I had gained a substantial amount of weight and the last thing I wanted was to go home, see my family and friends for the first time, and feel embarrassed with how I looked. The weeks leading up to Christmas break, I dieted. I ran. I tried to lose that weight that I had gained my first semester. And it was exhausting.
Why do we put so much pressure on young women to “avoid the freshman fifteen?”. Why do we tell women that in order to love themselves, they have to look a certain way? Weigh a certain weight? Eat a certain diet? Exercise a certain amount?
Don’t get me wrong, I think eating a healthy balanced diet and exercise is important. However, I HATE that we feel the need to put so much pressure on girls who are in their first year of college to not gain any weight. What would happen, if instead of focusing on the number on the scale, we listened to our bodies and treated them with more respect and love? What if instead of telling young women to “avoid the freshman fifteen”, we told them to find an exercise routine they love, to tell themselves fifteen things they like about their body? I guarantee you, there would be a lot less tears shed and a lot less pressure to maintain a stupid number.
Remember, as cliché as it is, you are more than just a number on a scale. You are kind and brilliant and smart and strong. And those things matter so much more.