A HELPFUL ARTICLE
College Diet Mistakes & the Freshman 15
Sometimes I look back on my college days and wonder what the hell I was thinking. I mean I actually ate white rice with pasta sauce and parmesan cheese and called it “dinner”. Hamburger helper and dare I say it..Tuna helper actually passed my lips on many nights. This is not to be outdone my the fridge in my dorm room stuffed with spagetti-Os and chef boyardee by the dozen. Do they even sell that anymore??
#1996 and my diet was terrible!
Last but not least was the late night ordering of DP dough..calzones the size of your head stuffed with as much cheese and meat you could possibly imagine. My go to: The Drop Zone. Chicken, pepperoni, ricotta and parmesan. Might as well have called it the drop your colon zone the next morning. I had NO CLUE what “healthy” eating was when I had to fend for myself. My mom had taken care of that for years and I had always been thin, active and athletic. I stayed active in college so there was no way this could catch up to me…Right?
Fast forward to after graduation I was living in Boston, working in a lab finishing up my post-graduate certificate program in molecular biology and getting ready to apply to PA school. I lived with a total stranger who smoked a lot of weed..I mean a LOT of weed (PS-totally not my thing). I made my own meals and tried to “cook” as much as possible. I joined the YMCA and started lifting weights. But as I grew older, the pounds started to pile on. Talk about Freshman 15 even though I wasn’t a Freshman anymore, plus more. I remember so vividly the day I went back home to NJ to visit and my grandmother said (as she could only say) “wow, you got big! Look at your legs!” I ran back to my parent’s house in tears. At that moment I realized the girl that had always been a size 2 or 4 at 115 lbs, was now a size 10 weighing in at 145lbs. These may not seem like big numbers to you, but for a girl who was always “skinny” it was devastating.
I went back to Boston with a plan. I was going to take diet pills. I needed to get back to where I was and FAST. I didn’t have time to work 2 jobs, apply to school and exercise for the amount of time I needed for this to happen quickly. My sister and mother were both smaller than me and that was just not okay. I had seen these Xenadrin on TV and it was supposed to be “safe”. So I hid it from everyone and bought a bottle. I took them for a few weeks and started to see some improvement, but I also started to feel very weird. Physically I had palpitations, nausea, and dizziness. Mentally I felt ashamed and like a failure. One morning I took them and got so dizzy it scared the crap out of me..literally. That was when I decided to stop being stupid. I was not going to threaten my health for my waistline. I was going to figure out how to eat the right way no matter how long it took.
I joined weight watchers which really taught me about making cleaner choices and to eat this, not that. I learned how to incorporate more effective exercise at the gym in a shorter amount of time. I started to feel less stressed and more comfortable in my own skin. I slowly gained back my confidence and my size 6 jeans. When I went to PA school I felt more prepared and ready to tackle the rigorous schedule. I woke up every morning and did Denise Austin DVDs in my living room, went for a run or did a short weight circuit before classes. I prepared my own food to bring with me which gave me the energy I needed to power through those long days in class and continue studying in to the later hours of the night. It also kept me from losing my mind on test days, rotations and feeling like I might never graduate.
I often wonder what it would have been like if I had been introduced to the the system I have now, back then. Online workouts available 24/7 with a built in nutrition plan and a coach to check in on me daily. I would have NEVER turned to diet pills, felt like a failure, or compared myself to my family. Why? Because I would have had some like ME to teach me how to integrate nutrition, fitness and personal development into my life to prevent that feeling of hopelessness. I wish someone would have reached out to me as a student in my undergrad years to show me that I could cook something healthy and not out of a box. That I could make quick and easy meals that tasted good, were filling and didn’t have the word “helper” in them. To get me started on the right track EARLY.
Now at 40 years old, after having a child, being a working PA, wife, mother and coach myself, I am the healthiest I have ever been in my life both mentally and physically. Why? Because I am perfect? NO. Oh hell NO. And if you follow me on Instagram you know that is true. Because I have all the tools right in front of me and someone to teach me to use them.