By Trey Gregory, Assistant City Editor
Every year there’s a lot made about the famed freshman 15. Jokes inevitably make their way onto Tosh.0, and there’s bound to be some tired story or column written about it in the Lariat every year. Not me, though; I’m here to talk about something much more highbrow.
I am a nontraditional student; I worked for a couple years out of high school then joined the military for slightly over seven years. Now I am a young 29-year-old student. Maybe it was my nontraditional status, but I managed to keep the freshman 15 at bay for at least my first three to four semesters at Baylor. Over the past two semesters, though, I did gain quite a bit of weight, and I became the victim of what I now call the junior 30.
I finally got sick of the extra weight and am currently in the process of losing it. Going into weight-loss mode, however, brings fresh perspective to the culture of health on college campuses. Many claim the freshman 15 is a phenomenon that occurs because students are on their own for the first time and don’t have mom and dad to tell them what to eat. Bad dietary habits due to lack of income combined with the stress of studying and lack of sleep equals weight gain, right? I’m not so convinced.
My time at Baylor certainly isn’t my first away from family. Frankly, I’ve experienced long periods of time in the military with much higher stress than college life.
I walk around campus a little stunned at times. I see students standing in a line to board an elevator one or two floors while much older faculty members ascend stairs to the same levels. As far as dependable goes, one of the only things you can count on more than the Noze Brothers performing lame pranks every semester is a stunningly long line at Chick-Fil-A every day. Want to see Baylor students sprint? Bring a box of doughnuts into a room and say they’re free for the taking. I even once heard a student declare the area between Castellaw and the Bill Daniel Student Center a “food desert” because of the walking distance to Chick-Fil-A. Yes, they were being 100 percent serious.
I’m not trying to criticize, as I have also fallen into some of these habits. My diet took a nosedive after being immersed into this culture for long enough, and while I do go out of my way to take stairs and sometimes park a little farther, I don’t exercise nearly enough. The narrative about how college students can’t help but gain this weight is a little tired. It doesn’t get any easier to lose weight or keep it off as life goes on, trust me. A lifetime of good health starts with good habits built now.
There’s a good chance if you fall into bad health habits now, you won’t break them, and they will certainly just be that much harder to overcome if you do ever try.
The “eating healthy is too expensive” excuse really gets me. You don’t necessarily need to buy organic food to eat healthier. Organic is a buzzword right now, but there are other things to eat. I can guarantee you getting a pound of lunch meat from a deli in an actual grocery store is less expensive and healthier than eating fast food every day. Fast food is more convenient — there’s no denying that. Laziness is the only thing standing in the way of you and a healthier lifestyle, not food costs.
I worked in healthcare, mostly emergency medicine, for about a decade after I turned 18. I witnessed more people having heart attacks and strokes than I even care to remember. I do remember one thing clearly ,though: Not a single one of those patients said anything resembling, “Well, I ate what I wanted, and I enjoyed my life. I’m ready to die happy.”
In fact, the most common response I witnessed was remorse. The patients were usually crying, scared and apologizing to their family for what they were putting them through.
Most Baylor students don’t have children now but probably will someday. Start thinking about whether or not you want to live to meet your grandkids and then re-evaluate that cheeseburger.
I think a huge reason I was able to keep weight off while in the military was because I was immersed in a culture where being overweight was not accepted. If someone brought fast food into the work place for lunch, we made sure they knew they were killing themselves with every bite. If someone wanted to drive five blocks instead of walk, we called them lazy.
Now, I know military culture is a little more abrasive than Baylor’s, but I think you get the point. A healthier lifestyle was actually easier to maintain than unhealthy because of social pressure. It wasn’t all negative and misery either. Everyone who stayed true to their diets all week would get together on Friday evenings and partake in “Fat Kid Friday.” We could all eat whatever we wanted for one meal a week, and it just made those cheat meals that much better.
There’s absolutely no reason groups of friends at Baylor can’t all start encouraging each other to drop the doughnuts and eat a banana instead. It’s really just about what you want for your life. My point is there are no excuses or a magical freshman 15 curse. It all comes down to choices. Now please excuse me while I go look in the mirror and read this to myself.
Trey Gregory is a senior journalism major from Albuquerque, N.M. He is the Assistant City Editor for the Lariat.