I came into college gleefully delusional–I thought I would be a cardio bunny at the gym and survive on salad and Tic Tacs. Yes, I actually thought I would lose weight my first year of college.
Little did I know, the dining hall would quickly become my new haven. I remember walking in on my first night there and feeling overwhelmed by the massive amount of food. From pasta stations to pizza ovens and even a Chinese buffet line, I knew I would be committing carbocide more quickly than I had anticipated.
But the dining hall wasn’t my only edible-adversary. His name was Costco. The real problem I faced with Costco freshman year was that I had the parental credit card but no parental supervision: a lethal combination when faced with aisles that housed more cheese products than the entire state of Wisconsin. Sure I enjoyed eating a box of Cheeze-Its big enough to feed a small village or downing a jar of Nutella the size of a kiddie pool, but I started to notice my jeans weren’t fitting me anymore.
Maybe it was my classes or boys or juggling a job, but I stress ate my cares away; it was like I couldn’t stop myself. Unfortunately, it wasn’t like I was stuffing my face with baby carrots either. If baby carrots had been my go-to for the Friday-night-2-a.m.-drunchies, I may have been able to zip up my jeans. But sometimes, I just couldn’t see the point of going out if I couldn’t eat my favorite comfort snacks while watching re-runs of New Girl afterwards.
I remember times when I would wake up Saturday morning with my eye makeup smudged and a pillow case crease the size of Texas on my cheek, and I would reach over, grab a pop tart and watch Netflix until two in the afternoon. Sure working out sounded nice, but staying in bed always sounded a little bit nicer.
It was during that sleep-deprived finals’ week in May, when I discovered just how freakin’ fantastic Mexican food tasted after one in the morning. But not just any bean and cheese burrito would hit the spot, no— it was the one-off, drive through taco shop, located right next to our neighborhood strip club that was my ultimate late night go-to. There was a directly proportional relationship between my stress level and my primal need for cheap Mexican food.
After long days holed up in the library where I drowned in a sea of study guides and old notes, the only thing that kept me sane was the knowledge that there was a burrito with my name on it at the end of the night. My friend Margo and I stress ate our way through over 12 burritos that week—our personal record.
Over time, I didn’t feel as comfortable looking in the mirror anymore. All I could see were the extra pounds these foods had given me. I can laugh about my eating escapades now, but at the time, those pounds I gained brought up a lot of insecurities for me.
As summer approached, I stood on the scale and had to come to terms with the fact that freshman year had left me with a whooping 17 extra pounds. I remember going back home for the summer and feeling pretty lousy about myself.
I spent the next three months of summer vacation at the gym and under the influence of kale shakes. My mornings began with sloppy buns, Lululemon yoga pants and shoes that actually had arch support. The gym has never been, nor will probably ever be, on my list of favorite places to visit, but for three months I was a regular patron. By the end of summer, the weight had finally come off.
As I regained my self-confidence, I was able to see just how many great memories I had made freshman year: I made lasting friendships, joined a sorority and discovered my passion for writing which helped me declare an English major. Just because I made poor diet choices and didn’t always feel confident in my own skin, I didn’t want to suppress those memories.
My unhealthy lifestyle was a comfort to me in the process of adjusting to college. Maybe I needed to experience the effects of ignoring my health, to reaffirm just how much better I felt when I actually took the time to take care of my body. As a sophomore, even though I love my venti whole milk mocha cookie crumble Frappuccinos with extra caramel, I’ve left that habit behind along with my freshman 17.