The fab, the fear, and the freshman 15

I was on the bus, eating a Rice Krispy square.

While I ate, I noticed someone looking back at me with disgust. She was beautiful and incredibly fit, wearing athletic clothes and perfect eyebrows. As she shook her head, she not-so-discreetly whispered, to no one in particular, “this girl is clearly letting herself go.”

Once we got to Production Station I rushed up the stairs to catch the train. She climbed with ease while I was huffing and puffing. When I finally got up to the top, clearly out of breath and sporting red cheeks, she shook her head again and uttered the words, “freshman 15 is so disgusting.”

What she doesn’t know is that I struggled with my weight.

In preparation for high school grad, I was 5’2” and 105 pounds. The freshman 15 — or the supposed weight gain that university students struggle with in their first year — was the one thing that scared me the most about starting university, and I vowed that I would never “let myself go.”

So in first year, I made it my mission to keep my grade 12 body. I starved myself through classes, only bringing a banana and water with me — and no cash to buy food. I politely declined trips to the food court with my new friends and refused to eat alone in public.

But at home, I ate like the apocalypse was upon us. I would eat heaping portions of everything to make up for the banana and water during the day. When my sisters wanted ice cream, I had ice cream. I smuggled chocolate, chips, and even cold pasta with me to eat in private and binge eat everything, only to repeat the cycle the next day.

At home, I was eating like the apocalypse was upon us.

I weighed 135 pounds at the end of first semester.

To my dismay, I wasn’t losing weight, I was gaining it. I balked at my mom’s attempt to fill my backpack with extra food, thinking that she was sabotaging my plan to lose weight.

But it wasn’t until I fainted at work that I realized that my successive headaches were not coincidences, that driving while seeing double was quite dangerous and that my internal rumblings were not meant to be ignored. My body was crying out for something, anything, and I had cut it off completely.

When I talked to a friend about my weight struggle, she had confided in me that she too had a similar experience with freshman 15. My friend is what most people would consider as beautiful, and her years of playing soccer helped her to develop a slender and athletic physique. It was then that I truly saw that the negative stigma around freshman 15 affected everyone. And no matter how many times I tell her that she is beautiful just the way she is, she will continue to smile and brush it off — just the same way I did so many times over the course of my first year.

 

Our bodies, regardless of shape and size, are fine the way they are.

I had developed dangerous eating habits out of my obsession of staying skinny, thanks to Photoshopped models and unrealistic body standards. But if even Barbie can figure out that our bodies are diverse, then maybe we need to remember that too.  I realize now that my goal is not to be skinny, but healthy.

Even if you don’t look like that Calvin Klein model, it’s okay. Over the course of my struggle, finding help and seeking a safer way to maintain a healthy weight, I began to see how valuable our bodies truly are. Our bodies do so much for us, and regardless of shape or size, it is important to remember that we are not defined by our jean size.

Tips on how to be healthy and happy

  • Schedule in eating and exercise: we all have busy schedules, so make sure that you set aside time to enjoy your food as well as time to get out for some fresh air.
  • Bring lunch with you: packing a simple lunch like a sandwich with veggies and fruit will leave you more satisfied — and it costs less too!
  • Add walking to your commute: obviously this doesn’t mean walking down the mountain to Production Station, but something simple like getting off one stop earlier and walking the rest of the distance is a way to keep yourself moving.
  • Find a workout buddy: it’s always more fun and motivating when you have someone to go with. A buddy will keep you accountable and will make it less intimidating.
  • Positive self-talk: remind yourself that you are fabulous and that your outward appearance is only one facet of you.
  • Have a support system: surround yourself around people that build you up and images that promote healthy lifestyles. Express your feelings and don’t be afraid to fail — just remember to pick yourself back up, with their help.