The average woman spends about a year of her life worrying about calories and her weight (over an average 67 years of lifetime this equates to 355 days), according to an article that appeared in The Daily Mail on June 26, 2013.
In the months preceding my arrival to campus freshman year – in the midst of fretting about who my roommate was going to be and how I was going to register for classes – I was worried about my weight.
I understand that everyone’s relationship with food and his or her body is personal, but I want to discuss mine in the hope that what I have learned over the years about this might help someone improve his or her own relationship. And I think it’s also time that as a student body we begin a conversation about these issues that I seldom hear discussed.
My story begins before I even had a chance to step foot on campus as a matriculated student. In high school, I was the kind of the girl that used to eat four Five Guys cheeseburgers in one sitting and never considered seriously dieting. Although I can’t claim I never thought about my appearance or weight (it was high school), I never consciously tried to do anything to change it.
This attitude was transformed when many of my college friends returned for holiday breaks my senior year, telling tales of the unavoidable “freshman fifteen.” Many claimed it was due to their dining hall food, excessive consumption of beer or the ordering of too many late-night pizzas; regardless, they all agreed it was responsible for extra poundage they were dissatisfied with.
So when a friend recommended a new diet book, which she claimed caused her to lose ten pounds, I decided that it was at least worth a read. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The book encouraged its readers to adopt a vegan diet in order to lose weight, and although I had never had the inclination to eat vegan and loved cheeseburgers dearly, I was too concerned with preventing the unpreventable “fifteen” to care about the sacrifices.
I completely bought into what the book said, and without going into details, I radically changed my lifestyle in order to lose weight. Thus at a time when I should have been focusing on my academics, meeting new classmates and becoming an active member of the Tufts community, my attention was drifting to what I was going to eat, when and how I looked nearly every single moment of every day.
I hadn’t bargained for this hypersensitivity about my body when I started reading the book, and it led me down a slippery slope I continued on long after I gave up the diet. Of course, school and friends were always a priority, but it wasn’t until I started thinking about my body and food more positively that I was able to refocus this wasted energy on happier and more intellectually and personally rewarding aspects of my life.
Developing a healthy relationship with food and your body is difficult, especially in an environment where the lines between being health-conscious and obsessed are blurred. Advertisers pray on your insecurities to sell products that will “fix” them. I urge you to resist these negative influences and messages. At the end of the day, the freshman fifteen doesn’t matter; what does is how you become a better person during your time here. Instead of thinking about weight, food or how you look today, think about solving global issues, what you’re learning in class and enjoy the precious moments you have with your friends. I promise you won’t regret it.
Carolina Reyes is a senior majoring in international relations. She can be reached at Carolina.Reyes@tufts.edu.