I am super, super, super scared of the Freshman Fifteen.
For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s the saying around college campuses referring to the fifteen pounds that many freshman will gain their first semester/year of college.
When I’m honest, I am absolutely terrified that this will happen to me. Because here’s what I’ve been repeating in my head over the last few months: please, please, I can’t gain fifteen pounds right now. I’m already on the outskirts of what is considered a healthy weight for a girl my age/size to begin with. Fifteen pounds will put me over.
Um. What? What kind of grace is that?
Oh, God. Clearly, You and I have much work to do.
There’s something that needs to be said to both of us, you and me, whether you weigh 120 pounds or 220:
How much you weigh today is not the permanent, forever state of your being.
Let me say that again, in simpler words:
YOUR BODY WILL NOT BE THE SAME FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.
Maybe a little bit bigger:
YOUR WEIGHT DOES NOT DEFINE WHO YOU BECOME.
It amazes me how much we all, myself included, fear weight gain over so many things. My biggest fear is if I gain it I can’t lose it, and that’s not even true. We are gaining and losing weight all the time. Our current state of being is not our forever state of being.
You may gain 10 pounds in the next month, then lose 15, then gain 6, and so on. We’re growing, changing people, and so are our bodies. That’s a normal, healthy process, one that doesn’t need to frighten or worry us. We’re expecting unnatural results from a natural process, and I don’t even know why. I find my own criticism handicapping: more likely to push me into a downward spiral of unhealthy eating habits and couch-potato behavior than inspiring me to get out and do what’s good for me. It does nothing good for me to criticize myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of being healthy. And I will gladly get up and shake some pom-poms in honor of losing weight on behalf of being a healthier self, if that is truly healthier. But there’s an urgency around the weight-loss culture that feels wrong to me, everybody running around in a panic trying to burn off calories. Just. Breathe.
Our current state of being is not our forever state of being.
And to some of you mamas out there? WOAH! Easy on the weight-loss craze! Your body has kept you alive this long, slaved away for you, given birth to your children, and all you can say to it is not good enough as you constantly demand thinner, stronger, lighter? What are you teaching us, the girls that will become you one day, the lovely women who will bear your grandchildren? Do you think that inspires us to love our bodies, or fear them?
I don’t know about you, but if I have a little girl one day I want to teach her to smile when she sees herself in the mirror. My hope and prayer would be that she wouldn’t need to pinch her arms or stomach or thighs and sigh with weariness, but she would learn her body is glorious and faithful and strong the way it’s meant to be, and to give it some grace when it’s weary from all the hard work. That she would learn to love and nurture instead of criticize and punish.
And when I remember that how I treat myself matters, that it affects my friends and loved ones and my someday and my right now, the Freshman Fifteen doesn’t feel quite so big and scary. Being healthy and balanced feels a lot more important than the numbers on a scale. And when I look back on right now, the pounds won’t matter, but the guilt and shame will. So today marks my new beginning, my life as the girl with the gentle body and grace-filled soul.