The Freshman 15

Let’s get one thing straight: I didn’t gain 15 pounds at Stevens. I actually only gained 10 pounds when I got here. But, I also needed to lose five pounds from, well, earlier. So, in a weird, roundabout kinda way, I got the Freshman 15. Sort of.

It’s funny, because at the beginning of the semester I promised myself that it wouldn’t happen. I was a health and fitness freak. Having had to lose a significant amount of weight right before high school, I knew how important it was to maintain a healthy weight. And so, I told myself I’d eat healthy and work out every single day, no matter what.

But of course, that advice is much easier said than done. And as it turned out, during my first semester, I prioritized my grades, mental sanity, a somewhat decent (if bizarre) sleep schedule, and Pierce’s late-night hours over working out consistently. Most weeks, my toughest workout was lugging my laundry up and down Humphreys staircase and trying not to look out of breath.

Am I proud of that? Of course not. Am I advocating that people follow my incredibly poor health and fitness regimen? Of course not.

However, it’s not necessary to be ashamed or embarrassed about it. With Founder’s Day Ball having just passed and the cold weather slowly but steadily moving into higher temperatures, I’ve heard girlfriends panic and worry about how much they’ve gained, lost, or fluctuated, weight-wise. And I know — it’s incredibly easy to mentally beat yourself up over what you did or didn’t do right in the last few months since you made that New Year’s resolution (Hello, Planet Fitness, my old friend).

The perfectionist complex is strong in women, and of course, extreme societal pressures to look a certain way or be a certain size can be bothersome at best and disorder-inducing at worst. Putting one’s own appearance down whilst simultaneously fretting about it is practically second nature for women. It’s important to remember, however, that you come first — you the person, not you the weight on the scale, or the inches on the measuring tape. And the “ideal” body type may be just that — an impossible, unachievable ideal.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t fix unhealthy habits — of course not! Get back to the gym, skip Pierce’s pizza, ice cream, and cookies (it’s hard, I know), or continue doing whatever fitness regime you have in place if you haven’t yet (the crippling cold has finally passed!). All of those things are good for your body, and should probably make you feel better. But don’t kill yourself over anything. There’s time for everything to get done.

What’s more important at any given time is your mental health. If doing “good” things is making you more stressed, you’re probably doing it wrong. That’s what people tend to forget — the Freshman 15 is equal parts the fault of bad eating habits, and bad stress coping methods. Eating habits can be fixed more easily than you think. Improving mental health and coping with stress requires a bit more of a sustained effort. And in a world that seems to constantly tear down a girl’s confidence, it’s important to be aware of your own mind and feelings and keep your thoughts positive, regardless of the weight on the scale or tightness of a dress.

So the bottom line is this: whether you fudged up during the last few months or knocked it out of the park, know that you’re still perfectly wonderful as you are. Freshman 15 (or 10, or 5, or 2) isn’t nearly as big of a deal as you think — it’s just another part of the ridiculous, maddening experience of college. Accept it and move on. After all, life can’t stop for something like that. A girl’s got more important things to do.

About the Author

Namankita Rana
Passionate about technology, women's issues, art, fashion, and global politics. Though maybe not in that exact order.