I'm going to be super honest. Freshman year of college was fun. Like really, really fun… but the infamous freshman fifteen exists. Coming to school, I was very fit from spending a whole summer working on a farm, competing as an equestrian at a high level, and running on a daily basis. I had always been tall, lean, and healthy and I was lucky enough to have never before been conscious of my body.
As incredible as my first year away from home was, I gained a lot of weight. Away from my regiment of exercise that I had always maintained at home through riding and running, I was a little at loss as to how I could stay active without my normal routine. I was too intimidated to do anything more than run at the gym, and I was spending my free time with my friends, my sorority, and my new college life. Going to the gym was the last thing I wanted to do when everyone else was going out or messing around together.
Being away from home also presented me with the challenge of having to feed myself. As I said, my life before Syracuse was really regimented and as a picky eater, I ate the same things at the same times every day and that's what my body was used to. The dining hall was a tricky place for me. My love for pasta and my cheeto cravings caught up to me.
First semester, I wasn't facing any consequences for my newly adopted toxic lifestyle and I was having a great time. Come second semester; sorority recruitment and winter in Syracuse, I had abandoned the gym all together on account of the terrible weather and I was turning to food more than ever.
The thing about being unhealthy is you don't really realize it until it's too late. My parents adopted a puppy right before spring break. I was obsessed with how tiny and cuddly he was. Returning home for the summer I was shocked to realize how big he had grown while I was gone and I came to realize I had grown just as much.
The last few weeks of the semester and my first few weeks home I was OBSESSED with losing the weight to the point where it wasn't healthy. I was trying every diet I could find, taking weight loss supplements, and being as active as I could possibly be, pushing myself to an unhealthy point. My body was run down and I was frustrated because I wasn't seeing any results. The only thing that stayed consistent was how I was rewarding myself at the end of each day, binging on greasy, cheesy, or sugary foods that just made me feel gross.
Over the past few days, I have a kind of reflected on my mindset towards this whole situation. At the root, I was really panicked and ashamed that I had let myself get to this point. My family is very active and health conscious, my best friends at school metabolized this year a lot more efficiently then I did, and I scrutinize the "attractive female" on social media every day, wishing more than anything that I looked like the influencers and models I worship every day. Enough is enough.
Being home, I have focused my attention on a few things… moving, putting whole foods into my body, and paying attention to myself both physically and mentally. I have been taking advantage of the gorgeous weather, familiar roads to run on, and my team (both human and horses) that welcomed me home for the summer with open arms. Spending time outside has reminded me how much I love being active and sweating. I had forgotten how rewarding a good night's sleep is after a long day outside.
I have gotten really interested in being as clean about my eating as I can. I have been convincing myself of the value of feeling good after eating fresh meals rather than the value of indulgence on foods that are just going to make me feel gross. I have been having a good time finding healthy alternatives to satisfy the cravings I developed this year. But most of all, I have abandoned the insane amount of pressure I felt around food. I would eat something unhealthy and give up on eating clean for the rest of the day or I would be so guilty about something I ate that I would deny myself from nourishment for the rest of the day. Letting myself eat the things that I like and treat myself in moderation has allowed me to look at this whole situation less like a diet and more like a lifestyle change.
A big part of this for me has been listening to myself and not to everyone and thing around me. I have made an effort to stop worrying about society's ideal body and simply embrace what I have. When I'm hungry, I eat. When I'm sore, I rest. When I'm anxious, I manifest anxiety in a healthy way. Checking in with myself has been HUGE these past few weeks and it has allowed me to slow down, realize my lack of mental health was only perpetuating my lack of physical health, and rethink how I approach my lifestyle.
Nothing comes quickly in this situation. I'm still not satisfied with myself and at times I still revert back to my unhealthy habits, but I have made a conscious effort to start working in the right direction. My goal has shifted from needing to transform my body to be the best, happiest version of myself every day. I have spent a lot of time on my own, taking time to heal and develop new, healthier habits.
Forget diets and workouts and obsessing over what you wish you look like. Embrace what you have now, make choices that make you feel good, and try not to enjoy each day for what it is. Yes, I know that sounds extremely corny, but once you let go of the agenda that society has for you and your body, you can put all of your energy into establishing a new health agenda that will get you to where you need to be.