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.”
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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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