Scale back on the freshman 15

Gwen Ueding | Cartoonist

By The Editorial Board

The freshman 15 holds a lot of weight — the phrase, that is. As college students and incoming freshmen, we are familiar with how commonly changes in appearance and body type are discussed.

There is a load of unnecessary judgment and negativity surrounding college students’ lifestyles. The concept of the freshman 15 not only is a myth but also makes gaining weight in college come with needless shame and fear. From teenage years to college years, it’s normal to have changes in body type and weight.

An article from U.S. News looked into a study done at the University of Georgia; the study showed the average weight gain of a first-semester college student is about 4 pounds.

Students are plopped into the deep end when they go away to college for the first time. The chaos that is freshman year can be hard to navigate. Being away from home and adjusting to a new environment is overwhelming, and it’s OK to prioritize other things over a diet.

Food is essential. The shame the freshman 15 implies should not have an impact on how someone nurtures themselves. Whether someone has lost or gained weight, there is no need to make that a topic of conversation.

Going back home after being at school can be overwhelming for numerous reasons — one of them being the fear of judgment from your family members or friends.

Commenting on noticeable weight loss can imply someone didn’t look good before, and losing weight does not always mean leading a healthier lifestyle. There are so many different body types, so changes in weight or appearance do not coincide with the health or beauty of a body.

The physical aspects of a person do not tell all. Multiple factors can influence eating habits. There is no way to know if someone has healthy or unhealthy routines, and making an untimely comment can leave a lasting impression.

As college students, we can do our part to minimize the impact certain phrases and topics have. Don’t be a bystander; step in if someone’s weight is being spoken about negatively. Something as small as changing the subject can go a long way.

Along with the rising momentum of the body positivity and body neutrality movements, the consumption of social media has influenced the “typical” or “ideal” body type. Susan Albers, Psy.D, unpacked these concepts in an article from Cleveland Clinic.

“Body positivity wouldn’t even be needed if we appreciated and found all bodies inherently beautiful,” Albers said. “Society is reflective of what our culture and environments teach us to believe — to dislike our bodies for so many reasons.”

The majority of conventional or ideal appearances is not realistically attainable. However, those images, which most students consume daily, can contribute to the negativity surrounding weight and appearance.

While it may be unrealistic to love your appearance unconditionally every day, these ideas about body positivity or neutrality can benefit the way we view others. The “ideal” body type for men and women has been popping up on our feeds and causing an unrealistic expectation for how everyone “should” look.

It’s OK to want validation or to show support for personal progression. If you know someone has been working hard to make changes in their habits, congratulate them on their success in doing so. However, keep in mind there is a time, place and way to express that joy for them. Know the difference between unwarranted comments and mindful validation.

Combating the toxicity of the freshman 15 as an everyday college student can simply mean keeping an open mind and avoiding judgmental conversations. In addition, there are a number of resources to utilize and share.

Cut back on the freshman 15 — don’t let a mirror, scale or perception influence your self-worth or anyone else’s.