Dreaded ‘freshmen 15’ pounds triggers unhealthy weight loss

 As college students, we have all invariably heard of the dreaded “freshman 15.”

In my younger and more naïve years, I believed this was the number of times any one freshman would be expected to become blindingly drunk at a party in his or her first year.

Since then, I have realized the freshman 15 is really the number of pounds a freshman is expected to gain upon entering the world of college.

This terrified me as an incoming freshman. At 5 feet 3 inches and weighing in at a mere 98 pounds, I imagined weight being directly applied to my body with a rollerball applicator.

Clearly I was overreacting, but as a kid who had been sheltered in my own little world of small-town hospitality and Baptist churches, I figured I had earned the right to panic since I was moving to the big city of Conway.

In my last summer months before becoming a college student, I began eating healthier and exercising. I ate fruits and vegetables when otherwise I would have chosen cookies and Cheetos. I biked and ran, even when the TV and air-conditioned house called my name. I did yoga and drank protein shakes and got a healthy amount of sleep. I was determined to be the exception of the freshman 15 curse.

Then August rolled around, and the time came to move to Conway.

In my first year at UCA, my exercise level remained constant, which consisted of walking to and from class and absolutely nothing more.

My eating habits were the same as they were in high school, with the exception of eating a bit more Chick-fil-A than usual, although I think we can all attest to falling victim to that.

I lost three pounds in the first two weeks of school. By Thanksgiving, I had lost a total of five pounds, and my overall weight loss for my first semester tallied up to a shocking nine pounds, making me a gaunt, over-stressed 89-pound skeleton.

It wasn’t until my second semester when people began to notice, and some of my friends took it upon themselves to force-feed me in order to get me back to a healthy weight.

As someone who had always kept the subject of body image in the back of my mind, I found losing that much weight affected me in a much more negative way than gaining the freshman 15 would have.

I wandered around in a constant haze of fatigue and stress. I would collapse in exhaustion after every class, and then drink gallons of coffee every night to compensate for the lost studying time.

After hour upon hour in the library, I would crawl into bed for an hour or two of sleep before the vicious cycle began yet again. I found myself praying I would gain back my lost weight, as well as gain the freshman 15 on top of that. I might be a bit heavier, but at least I would have an ounce of energy to spare.

Now, with a year of experience under my belt, my weight is holding true in these early weeks of classes.

I can also happily report I have noticed a bit of weight gain.

There was a time when the extra weight would have been mercilessly blasted off by a week of salads and miles on the treadmill in the gym. Today, I can look at myself in the mirror without wincing.

So to the freshmen of 2014, don’t worry about this freshman 15 thing. It’s nothing to stress about.

You may even find a few extra pounds will give you the energy to keep up with the rigorous schedule you’re bound to follow in your college years. Plus, eating is part of the college experience.

There’s nothing quite like having a Papa John’s right across the street or partaking in a snack-enhanced study session with friends in the library.

Outside of college, it’s not likely that you’ll get the chance to experience such a tasty opportunity again.

You may be focused on staving off the freshman 15 now, but just give it a couple of weeks. You’ll be plenty stressed with juggling classes, studying and a social life. I suggest getting a head start and feasting upon Chick-fil-A now.

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