They say that during your first year of college, it’s easy to gain the “Freshman 15.” Living on your own for the first time comes with a lot of firsts while you’re learning how to be independent. This includes deciding what you put into your body and whether or not you will have an exercise routine. This is where the “Freshman 15” comes into play for many young adults who don’t know how to eat right and are usually adding alcohol to their diets. There’s also some of us (guiltily raises hand) who go overboard and gain the “Freshman 40.”
I look back now and wonder how I ever let myself get to the point that I was at. It’s strange because I remember still being happy when I was at my heaviest. Sometimes I really didn’t even notice how bad it was. Some people have issues with food because of insecurities or how they were raised. My family has always had issues with food. In my house, food was a source of both comfort and discomfort, ironically. I grew up having a bad relationship with food because I was shamed for eating the wrong things instead of being taught why I should eat the right things. So whenever I had the chance to eat bad things that tasted good, I binged on them.
Food issues are difficult because eating is no longer just a form of survival. Eating can also be a social or emotional struggle. I lost touch with the fact that food is fuel for our bodies. We are all required to take some sort of health class growing up. We learn about types of foods and where they fall on the food pyramid, but does any of that really stick? As young adults, we have to find it in ourselves to learn about nutrition and how to be healthy.
The “Freshman 15” can come at any time in our lives. It could be triggered by a new job or new city. Stress can cause us to lose control of our eating habits. When I was able to realize my problem areas, I took initiative and lost 80 pounds. I am still working toward my goal weight, but I am working to get there, and if you are in need of some lifestyle habit changes maybe I can help you! Here are some examples of the changes I’ve made and what I used to do vs. what I do now:
It’s so easy when you’re hungry or in a hurry to pick up some fast food that can be found on every corner, so choose healthier options off the menu.
Old me would order anything I wanted whether it was 10 items or an extra large meal, with no concern for my health.
New me remembers what it felt like to eat 10 fast food items. Not so good. Opt for the grilled chicken instead of fried. Just one sandwich or burger can be extremely filling. If you have available French fries on the side, you are going to eat them whether you are hungry or not, so skip them all together. Fast food restaurants have made a point to incorporate healthier items on their menus, so it’s just up to us to make the smart decisions!
I am not someone who wants to give up alcohol completely. If you can do that, more power to you! Opt for lower calorie, low sugar drinks and avoid the drunchies (drunk munchies).
Old me used to drink whatever and whenever. In addition to this, old me used to eat whatever I wanted while I was drunk.
New me chooses 1-2 nights a week if I am going to drink. I realize that the details matter, like the fact that vodka has significantly less sugar than rum and other dark liquors. I also focus on the fact that it’s going to be harder for drunk me to say no to fries than sober me.
The way that you grocery shop and how frequently you do it can be very beneficial to a healthy lifestyle.
Old me would grocery shop maybe once a month. I wasn’t informed about which types of foods were best. I would buy Lean Cuisines and consider them healthy. Old me would treat the grocery store as if it were a fast food menu and make impulse buys.
New me reads about which types of foods are healthy. Diets aren’t for everybody, but at least knowing what is and isn’t healthy makes a huge impact. I now enjoy eating foods that are “whole foods.” “Whole foods,” to me, are things that have one ingredient like chicken, avocados, brown rice, eggs, etc. I avoid processed foods. If you can barely pronounce some of the ingredients in the foods you are buying, that might be a red flag. We can take basic foods that are rich in nutrients and turn them into tasty meals!
Eating healthy is just a change of habits and lifestyle. Indulging in things that we love that aren’t so healthy every once in a while is totally fine!
Old me wouldn’t just have one indulgence. I would cheat all day all week! I didn’t realize that these items that aren’t as healthy will always still be around. They aren’t going anywhere.
New me makes sure that for the majority of my days, I am eating healthy. But if cravings come along, and they will, then cheat! Don’t deprive yourself of the things you want. Cheat meals here and there are 100% okay. I wouldn’t say eat an entire cake, but one slice isn’t going to ruin you.
Having healthy eating habits is key. Adding exercise into the picture is key to leading a healthy lifestyle.
Old me used to exercise here and there. When I did exercise, I wouldn’t have a strategy or a plan. I assumed that cardio was the answer. I would sometimes do cardio solely in order to feel better about something unhealthy I had eaten. I would go without exercise for months sometimes.
New me loves the way it feels to be working out consistently. I love feeling strong. I realize that cardio is great for the heart, but for fat burning, the more muscle you have, the more fat you burn. I have found resources online (like bodybuilding.com) and taught myself how to strength train, build muscle, and start a cardio regimen. Strength training granted me the most reward, as I was able to physically see my body changing.
A common theme across all these points is that the old me wasn’t informed or making healthy decisions. As soon as I became aware, all it really took was some research to learn how to become healthy and the willpower to turn it into a lifestyle. It’s not easy, and I’m not saying that it will be, but it will be worth it. They say that it takes about 21 days to form a habit, and I found this so true. Our hormones get used to the way we live, and if you just dedicate yourself to some changes for a few weeks your body will adjust, and with time, it will feel normal!
If you are someone who is guilty of gaining the “Freshman 15,” it’s okay. If you are in place where you are ready to drop those pounds and maybe even more, you can do it! Take baby steps. It definitely didn’t happen for me overnight—it took time. Maybe start with just alcohol issues or fast food tendencies. All you need is the will and then there is a way!!!