Gaining the 'Freshman 15' When You're Recovering From an Eating Disorder


OK, I admit it. I was terrified when I first got to college.

I had spent the last few months pretending I was absolutely giddy to leave my house and get away, to finally be myself. This happiness was definitely true, but I left out the part where I was also super nervous. What if people didn’t like me? What if my roommates sucked? What if I gained the “Freshman 15”?

Going into college while in recovery from an eating disorder can be a tricky thing. For me, it required months of planning and praying I was mentally prepared to be OK on my own. I found a therapist shortly after arriving at college, and I do believe that made all the difference in my initial success. But the fear of gaining weight was still very much present in my brain. I knew, logically, I wasn’t “fat.” I know I needed to gain weight, not according to the BMI chart I had practically memorized, but for my body and personal well-being. I started the semester with the full intention of not letting this happen. I was so against gaining weight, because I thought it would mean I was losing, that I was giving up and getting “weak.” I did not realize that gaining weight and letting go would be the strongest thing I ever chose to do.

A few months in, I decided to say, “Screw it.” I was going to say “yes” to the things that scared me. I was going to take risks that meant I might not be in total control the entire time. So I started saying “yes” when friends asked to hang out. I said “yes” to the 1 a.m. pizza trips, because they were fun and we were hungry. I said “yes” to the donut my professor brought in for pre-presidential debate comfort. Weeks later, I realized I had not weighed myself in, well, weeks. This was a first for me, considering I spent every morning of the past year weighing myself and meticulously making sure nothing had changed overnight. I decided to step on the scale, and I was shocked to see I had gained a significant amount of weight — almost 15 pounds! In that moment, I panicked. I could not believe I had gained so much weight. Despite the overwhelming thoughts of relapse already in my brain, I forced myself to pause. These past few weeks had been nothing short of fantastic. I had not allowed myself to be afraid of things I really wanted to enjoy. Was I still scared? Of course. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely.

So this is for those who are afraid of the weight gain that can come with recovery. I say, do it. Say “yes” to things you want. I know your mind may scream at you, but I promise it can be worth it. You may not medically need to gain weight, but I found these 15 pounds were filled with memories of late nights and laughter; these 15 pounds gave me a greater sense of enjoyment and life. And trust me, never in my life would I think I’d be thankful for gaining the dreaded “Freshman 15.”

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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