Society and social media have constantly fed into my insecurities and fears that once I would arrive at college, I would be gaining tons of weight. In reality, because of this anxiety I had with food, the opposite happened. If you are triggered by food-related conversations, I recommend you click away.
I have always had a bad relationship with food since I became aware of its effects on my body. From a young age, social media has fed misinformation about the ideal body that I thought was only attainable through food restriction — which I have learnt now is entirely inaccurate. My biggest fear was the dreaded “Freshman 15.”
This rumor is that you will gain 15 pounds because of the freedom to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Because of this fear during my first week, I became hyperattentive to whatever went into my body, using calorie counters and Google searches to ensure I was on the right track.
This myth controlled my meals. It also fueled my subconscious fear and my comparison to my peers. At home, for dinners, I would sit with my family and have no comparison to how much food I should or shouldn’t be intaking.
It was my parents — I wasn’t trying to compete with them. But when I would go to the dining hall with my friends — fellow, insecure 18-year-old girls — I couldn’t help but compare our plates. If they got one slice of pizza, I would get one — no matter how hungry I was for that second slice. If they didn’t go up for my food, I wouldn’t get up. I was genuinely shocked at how little some girls were eating.
I started questioning the amount of food I’d eaten my whole life.
So instead of eating as much as my body needed, I would go to sleep on an empty stomach, thinking I just had a huge appetite. This, along with all the walking to classes and desire to take advantage of the free gym led me to exhaustion, with a short attention span and a lack of motivation. All because I was too insecure about eating an appropriate amount of food.
After noticing all these physical changes in my body, I decided it was time to start caring for myself. I began to go up for seconds and thirds. If that didn’t suffice, I would eat more later.
I also learned that these girls weren’t just eating what they have at the dining hall but were massive snackers, which my family never was. This means that their leaving the dining hall not eating that much doesn’t mean they have a small appetite. They probably had something to eat just before and would eat more after they left.
But it doesn’t matter how much they eat or how much anyone eats. The “Freshman 15” doesn’t exist. Even if you are gaining weight, it’s probably because your body is growing. I had to deal with the harsh reality that I was not the same as anyone around me, and I needed to take care of what my body was asking for.
If I am hungry, I will eat. I’m lucky to have the resources to feed myself when I need to because it helps me become a better student and a healthier person.
So, if you are someone afraid of the “Freshman 15” — it’s not real. Take care of your body, and listen to what it’s asking for. Because I wasted a lot of time starving in bed at the beginning of the year, all because I was afraid I would gain a pound.