Whether you are in recovery from an eating disorder or someone simply entering college for the first time, the first year of university life can be a scary and stressful experience.
Almost anyone who has recently entered college can attest to hearing about the Freshman 15 — the idea that students often gain weight in their first year of college. Among many college students, hearing people talk about the Freshman 15 can instill fear and anxiety, sparking many to engage in dieting behaviors to try to avoid this forecasted weight gain. For persons who have a history of an eating disorder or who are genetically predisposed to an eating disorder, the stigma that surrounds the Freshman 15 has the potential to trigger disordered behaviors.
This stress that comes with changes in habits and routines may lead to weight gain in some and weight loss or no change in others. However, it is key to remember that weight alone is not an accurate indicator of overall health. In fact, no singular number – not BMI, not calorie counts, nor weight – can effectively measure all aspects of both physical and mental health.
Your overall health, your worth, and your value are so much more than just a number.
During the first year of college and beyond, it is important to take care of yourself to prevent adverse effects on your overall health. Here are some ways you can do that:
Manage your stress.
Change is stressful. When paired with the added responsibilities presented to first year college students, you may feel overwhelmed. It is important to establish good time management practices, maintain regular sleep habits, eat a varied diet including all of the major food groups, engage in physical activity that you enjoy, and limit the use of alcohol and drugs to reduce stress.
Get enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation can lead to negative mental health consequences like depression, anxiety, and decreased ability to cope with life stressors. Additionally, not getting enough sleep can impair your ability to concentrate and succeed in academics. Maintaining healthy sleep habits is essential to help your brain and your body rejuvenate each night. A good night’s rest will help you combat stress and be your best self.
Make time for fun.
The added responsibilities of starting college may feel burdensome at times. It is important to make time for socializing and fun activities with friends. All work and no play can lead to feelings of deprivation, increased stress, and decreased mental well-being. With effective time management, you can make time for fun and establish balance between your academic and social lives.
In the time leading up to your first year and in those first few months of college, you will likely hear Freshman 15 buzzing around in conversation quite often. If you feel triggered by this concept and find yourself engaging in restricting, bingeing, or purging, it is crucial to take advantage of your university’s mental health services.
Remember that this is a period of transition. Your life and routine in college will be different than what you and your body are used to. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion, take care of your body, and enjoy the adventure you have begun.