Weight Gain and Higher Learning – The Freshman 15

It’s the middle of freshman year for many university women across this body conscious land of ours – a time when many may be facing a frustrating realization: they’ve gained weight.

A recent Seattle Times article regarding the ‘Freshman 15’ (the few pounds many of us gain immediately after leaving home and attending college) caught my eye because, like so many other young women of my generation, I too gained weight shortly after attending university…and oh how I wish I would have handled it differently.

Of course, there’s a somewhat simple explanation for this phenomenon – lifestyle change,  time management issues, peer/social/academic pressure, less nutritional food options, stress, lack of exercise, and of course…beer!  Not to mention, our fascination with Biggest Loser weight loss program …just another example of the fat farm and weight loss boot camp mentality  that has surrounded the myth of successful weight loss for young women and for any age.

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that moving away from home to a completely new environment with all the pressures, accompanied by worry about eating and weight, might lead to some weight gain. But when you’re 18, your comprehension of cause and effect are left in the classroom. All you can see is the end result – your jeans are getting tighter and you may no longer be as thin as the ‘other girls’.

The next steps a young woman takes to come to terms with her new body are crucial.

With all the highly publicized diets and social pressure for women’s weight loss, young women can often not obtain or ignore information about what is really involved in achieving and maintaining healthy weights.

Many aren’t aware of the pitfalls of stringent dieting so they aren’t learning strategies avoiding or managing binge eating or managing emotional eating.

Unfortunately, like many young women, I went on a litany of diets, tested, borrowed and begged for every new diet pill I could get my hands on, fasted, ate the infamous chocolate laxative after meals like it was dessert.

Along with Art History, English Literature and Philosophy, I learned about deprivation, manipulation and obsession around my weight and food. Although I lost the weight, I gained an unhealthy attitude around my food and my body image for the next 20 years.  I never really ate normally again.

This time is critical for young woman. Addressing any weight gain is a VERY slippery slope. The key is how a young woman accepts her new body image and perhaps, more importantly, how those most influential in her life handle these changes as well.

I believe this is one of those times in life when it’s best to leave well enough alone. NOT commenting on weight gain may be the best thing you can do for her.

Trust me, she knows she’s gained weight, and it may surprise you to find out it doesn’t bother her as much as it bothers you! Just making sure she feels secure about being loved and valued and feels no correlation to those things and what the scale may say.

Fortunately, Christina Olson (who was interviewed for this Seattle Times article) came to the following conclusion,

“I decided, you know what, it’s OK if I don’t wear a size 2 anymore,” she said. “I don’t need to look like I’m  in junior high!”

Amen, sister!!

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