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An Open Letter to the Freshman Fifteen

You were the thing that scared me the most about coming to college. I had heard all of the horror stories, all of the whispers that followed my friends who came back two sizes bigger, all the tips and tricks to avoid you. I went in with a game plan to avoid everything and anything with sugar, carbs or fat in an effort to stay “healthy.” However, that is far from what happened. 

Dear Freshman Fifteen, 

Here are the things you actually taught me.

Eating balanced is more important than eating healthy. 

One of the main reasons diet culture fails is because it’s unsustainable. It’s not fun to eat a salad at every meal, nor is it healthy! Finding harmony between Ian’s and fruits or veggies is how you stick with balanced eating — so, eat pizza, salad, pasta, sandwiches and ice cream. You’ll be so much happier eating the foods you love and living an unrestricted life. 

View food as fuel, not as an emotional coping mechanism. 

Transitioning away from home and into a stressful environment leads to a lot of high emotions. On top of losing home-cooked meals, it can be tempting to turn to comfort food to fix your problems. Finding other ways to deal with emotions such as reading, listening to music or going for a walk helps to teach your body what the role of food is. Listening to your body’s natural hunger cues teaches you that food is fuel. After all, your body needs it to hike up Bascom every day!


The most important thing that came from my fear of the freshman fifteen is learning a lot about taking care of my body. I started being proud of all of the things my body has done and will do. I learned that loving myself is a process that looks different every day. Sometimes, my self-love is eating ice cream while wearing a crop top and skipping the gym. Some days, it’s a lot harder than that. But life is short. Punishing yourself by skipping dessert or the extra piece of pizza isn’t worth it. 

Learning to have a good relationship with food and with yourself means ultimately letting go of what the numbers on a scale say and giving your body what it truly needs. Some days, what it truly needs is a scoop of Babcock ice cream, and that’s okay.


Jessa Stecker

Wisconsin '22

University of Wisconsin-Madison Dog enthusiast
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