I've long been told the horror stories of the Freshman 15. The age-old advice of, "Take the stairs" echoes through my mind when I think of the concept. Graduates from my high school would frequently return with terrifying tales about the weight they'd gained during their first year of college, so I was trained to perceive the "15" as a depressing measure of the stress-induced binge eating caused by the toughness of University life. Though this may be the experience for some I find that after my first quarter of college, the 15 pounds I've put on that keeps me from easing into what were my most favorite dresses is comprised of the "happy weight" I've gained from making the most of a new way of life.
"Happy weight" is a new term for me. Though many would call it the weight someone gains after being in a great relationship, I choose to see it as the weight someone gains from maximizing their life experiences; literally living life to the fullest- which is what I tried my best to do this quarter. After late nights out, my friends and I would laugh about our funniest moments over the ever-delectable De Neve Late Night chicken tenders (and milkshakes, if the machine was working). We huddled around a small laptop, wolfing down popcorn as Sandra Bullock described her master plan in Ocean's 8. We celebrated birthdays with cannolis, finished midterms with chocolate, and treated ourselves to ice cream in the dining hall (especially if it was a hard day).
The paragraphs above make it seem like I welcomed this weight, but this perspective only comes after forcing myself to rebrand the traditional resentment I usually have toward my weight gain. Growing up in a culture defined by food, I was always a little bigger. I've felt insecure about my body for as long as I can remember. As early as fifth grade I found myself tearing out the workout routines of Seventeen Magazine, desperately trying to minimize my food while maximizing my exhaustion after exercising. I condemned myself for loving food, which I usually ate surrounded by family and friends laughing until my stomach hurt. Looking back, my "skinniest" times were when I felt extreme pain; I saw exercise as a means of distracting myself from rejection or heartache, only turning to food once more when I felt happy enough to enjoy myself.
For someone with this past, accepting my weight gain after my first quarter has been a challenge, to say the least, but I've decided to reframe my perception of this weight and accept myself in a two-step process.
1. Realize that my weight gain is from "happy" weight, and instead see it as a positive relic of the awesome first quarter I created for myself.
2. Treat it with a growth mindset.
Stanford University's Carol Dweck has popularized this mindset in the classroom by stating that teachers should use "yet" statements for their students. For example, if students don't pass a test for the next level of the class, they do not fail but are told they are "not yet" ready for the remainder of the course and encouraged to try again. I choose to use this mindset to accept my "happy weight" by telling myself that it is not that I have failed in becoming the ideal body type, but that I have work to do in reaching my ideal self. Working out or making an effort to live a healthier lifestyle is then not an effort to escape a body I loathe but contributing to the evolution of my best self.
My Freshman 15 is nothing to be ashamed of but something to be proud of, for it means I'm truly living my best life.