How I Gained The Freshman 20 And Lost It Within a Year

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April 2016 to April 2017

This post is going to be super personal, but I feel like I’m at a place where I can (and should) talk freely about my health journey over the past year and a half. My life has been full of changes, from going to college to completely dumping toxic friends to starting three (!!!) new jobs. My body has changed with these things, bringing me to this point, where I am completely comfortable and confident in how I look and feel. The photo on the left above is from April 2016, where I weighed about 125 lbs. The right is from this week (almost April 2017) at 107 lbs.

All my life, I have been a very small person. In elementary school, I was always the shortest in the class and it took me until junior year of high school (and starting birth control) to break 100 pounds. It never bothered me; I liked being small. My volleyball career didn’t exactly work out the way I wanted it to, since, you know, all the good volleyball players are giants, but that was okay. I was a champ at hide-and-go-seek and never thought twice about what I ate. (Which is why I ate french fries every single day at lunch in high school– my stomach turns now just thinking about it.)

But all of that changed once I went to college. I completely uprooted my life and moved 300 miles away from the place I had always called home. My parents got a divorce and I was distanced from my high school friend group. I spent most of my first semester with friends that didn’t give a sh*t about me and tried to be someone I wasn’t. Honestly, I was a wreck. I felt anxious all the time and wanted nothing more than either 1. people to love and accept me or 2. to curl up alone in my bed.

Because of how I was feeling, I ate terribly. I tried to eat healthy in the dining hall, but let’s be real, mini corn dogs and fries are much more tasty than a salad and chicken breast. I “treated myself” when I did something good– got a good grade on an exam, went and worked out, or reached out to someone and asked them to hang out (this was a big one for me, I got super anxious about new people). I would eat when I was stressed to make myself feel better or get drunk and eat a whole pizza. Let me reiterate: I was a wreck.

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Actual photo of a pizza I devoured myself.

I didn’t know much about emotional eating at the time, but I now realize that I was absolutely the poster child for it. I ate when I didn’t need it to make myself feel better. Food reminded me of home and it made me feel better; I ate when I felt stressed or anxious or sad or homesick. It was there for me when friends were not, and for a big portion of my first semester, that was frequently.

And then I started to get really bad acne. Mind you, I have never had terrible acne, even in my most awkward of awkward phases. Sure, I’d get a pimple here and there, but a simple application of over-the-counter zit cream for a few nights would get rid of it. But this acne was different. It was cystic (i.e. painful and under my skin) and refused to go away with every trick I tried. It was terrible, and it didn’t do anything to help how anxious I was feeling.

I also gained twenty pounds. The freshman 15 is on a lot of girls’ radars as they enter college, as it was on mine. I knew that I would probably gain a little bit of weight but figured that I would be fine. If I could eat french fries every day for four years without gaining any weight, I sure as hell could go to college and not gain the freshman 15. But when I came home for spring break my freshman year, I got a rude awakening. I weighed myself only to realize I had put on not just the freshman fifteen, but five pounds more than that. Now that you know how I ate, it’s not surprising that I gained that weight and my acne got significantly worse, is it?

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A normal post-workout snack.

I wasn’t doing much to move my body, either. Since I had very little motivation to get up and complete everyday tasks, I had even less motivation to get up and go to the gym. I would go occasionally but never went with a plan and always just ended up on the elliptical. But my workout routine changed this summer, when my dad invited me to work out with him before work every day. I figured this was a chance to spend time with my dad, and time together was hard to come by with both of our busy schedules. I jumped right into his HIIT workouts and weight training. It wasn’t easy at first– I had to take breaks and wasn’t quite at his level– but I kept going.

I started seeing my energy increase and my body get stronger. Because of this, I began looking at food as fuel instead of a band-aid. You wouldn’t put gas in your car that would damage it, so why would you put food in your body that does the same thing? I realized that healthy food can actually be tasty and junk food can be eaten whenever you want in moderation. You don’t have to limit yourself to a “cheat day” or no junk food at all. Trust me, I still eat greasy pizza like it’s my day job.

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January, 2017

I also began to foster healthy relationships that I began building second semester of freshman year. I dumped my old, toxic friends (some that had been around for years) and decided to spend time with those who made me feel good about myself. I don’t think we realize how much the people we surround ourselves with influence our attitudes. I am so thankful for the wonderful friends that I have, and they set the bar pretty high for the ones I’ll make in the future. I will never again subject myself to being friends with someone who doesn’t have my best interest at heart.

I can proudly say that I am in a much better place now. I rarely feel anxious at school and find time to work out at least five times per week. My acne has improved with the help of prescription acne cream, but I am convinced that my diet played a huge role in how it came about. I adhere to a workout plan and eat to fuel my body, not to make myself feel better.  I officially lost all the weight that I gained freshman year this past December and am working on getting stronger (which may mean putting on a few pounds in the future). And most importantly, I treat myself when I feel like I need it; not when I’m feeling stressed or bored or homesick.

But at the end of the day, it’s really not about the number on the scale for me; it’s about loving how I look and feel. It’s seriously a great feeling to look in the mirror and genuinely like what I see and have the energy to keep up with my busy lifestyle. Eating healthy and training my body makes me feel soooo much better than I ever did before. I hope that by sharing my story, I helped inspire just one person to work towards their fitness and healthy lifestyle goals. It’s never too late to start.

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