The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
I’m sure you’ve heard it many, many times. The dreaded “freshman 15,” a reference to the weight gain that some first-year college students experience, has been a significant topic of conversation lately due to classes beginning around the world. To put it frankly, I’m sick of hearing about it. I used to sit for hours staring at a mirror until it felt as if my body was no longer my own. My warped perception of myself made it difficult to eat, sleep, or attend social gatherings. Diet culture, being so deeply embedded in our society, altered my entire mental state and basically controlled my life with an iron fist. Being told constantly how fast I eat, how much food I put on my plate, and how often I make my way into the kitchen created an extremely toxic relationship between me and food. I fell into a binge-and-starve pattern that made me depressed and completely exhausted nearly all of the time. The final straw for me was constantly hearing about the “freshman 15.”
I opened my eyes and began to realize that I fell right into the trap, I was feeling exactly the way that I was being conditioned to feel. Eating is good. A car can’t run without gas, plants can’t grow without the sun, and your body can’t safely house your beautiful soul without food. As a college student, you are growing in so many different ways. Mentally, physically, and spiritually. Having the proper nourishment to do so is absolutely essential, and the “freshman 15,” along with the stigma around weight, will only hold you back from reaching your full potential.
The harm of weight stigma
This is a formative, stressful, and emotional time in your life. And the last thing that you need to be worrying about is weight gain. You may even have easier access to food than you did at home. It’s my opinion that what/how much you eat is nobody’s business but your own, and telling someone, especially a woman, to “watch out for weight gain” can be detrimental to her confidence due to societal pressures to maintain the Eurocentric, skinny beauty standard. It can also contribute to eating disorders, which are very common among high school and college-age students. They are dangerous, and often fatal, many instances being a direct result of weight-related bullying. These constant reminders from peers, loved ones, or even social media can negatively affect mental health and cause eating disorders, low confidence, and body dysmorphia (altered perception of ones physical self causing low confidence and other mental health problems.)
Fact or Myth?
Along with being harmful, the “freshman 15” is also a myth, having been debunked by countless researchers. On average, the majority of adults only gain about 3 pounds during their freshman year, (which is pretty much the same as everyone else.) Regardless of how much weight you gain or lose, it’s no ones business but your own. Eat the ice cream, have that extra Cheeto, and just enjoy yourself. Your body runs on food. Food is a good thing and no one should be made to feel ashamed for fueling and nourishing their bodies. I promise, there are much bigger things to focus on than putting on a little extra weight while in college. If you’re one of those people who likes to remind others of potential weight-related consequences of having a meal, please realize that you’re only contributing to fatphobia and weight stigma. There’s no place for judgement at the dinner table, in the dining hall, or in a productive and accepting society.
Your body, your business
If a friend, parent, or even a stranger gives unwanted commentary on your weight or food intake, it’s best to educate them on why this is a harmful and a problematic behavior. Some people just won’t listen, but by doing this, you may be able to change someone’s perspective and make them realize that what they’re doing could be hurting those around them. If someone approaches you about watching out for the “freshman 15,” realize that it comes from their own insecurities and that what goes in your body is your business only. Period.
Fight the stigma
While being an advocate for yourself, do your best to advocate for others. If you see someone being made to feel less-than because of their weight or appearance, do your best to remind them how beautiful they are. Your body keeps you warm, safe, and alive. We should be celebrating the life that it gives us, and the lives of one another. If you find yourself making judgments about others due to their weight or appearance, take a step back and think: “Is this coming from a place of insecurity within myself?” By being comfortable in your own skin, you are fighting the stigma. You are fighting the thought process that is holding you back.
Your Health is What Matters
College is a place in life where you discover yourself. You’ll make friends, learn lots, and have all kinds of experiences. These are supposed to be the best years of your life, so I’m begging you, please don’t waste them worrying about the “freshman 15” and scouring the internet for dieting tips and strenuous workouts. Stay healthy, go to class, and have fun. Your body is beautiful, end of story.