When I started university ten (omg) years ago, I was like most freshman: I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.
Since I didn’t move away to school, I had to wake up at 5:30 am to make the bus for 8:30 lecture at McMaster University. The only upside? I had my best friend with me to make the 45 minute commute bearable. We’d share headphones and listen to ridiculously loud music to stay awake or guard each other’s backpack if one of us was lulled to sleep by the rocking of the bus.
Freshman mistake # 1 – I never ate breakfast
I would be starving by the time I got to lecture. So, I would grab a muffin at the student market or a bagel from Tim Hortons and eat in class.
Freshman mistake # 2 – I wasn’t paying attention to my food
I would be eating absentmindedly while I took notes. Ok, that was a complete lie. I was too busy people watching to take notes. Before I knew it my bagel/muffin/carbalicious treat was gone and I was covered in crumbs. It was like that movie Memento: Did I eat? Did I not eat? WHO AM I?!
Freshman mistake #3 – I ate after every lecture
My first year schedule was horrible. I would have three hour gaps in my timetable and would make my way to the Student Center to, you guessed it: people watch. I would sit for hours with my friends (the few that decided to stay local) and watch person after person buy pizza, hamburgers, submarines (Sweet Jesu Mio did I love the subs!) and again, muffins. I would get so bored I would eat just to be social.
Freshman mistake #4 – I never slept
High school for me was easy. University? Not so much. It was like I would look at my homework and my brain would say, “You won’t be needing any o’ this!” and turn off. So I worked harder. I was pulling all-nighters and was getting incredibly frustrated because the more I tried, the less my grades improved. Soon I became so stressed out that I couldn’t sleep. I would stay up all night feeling bad about myself and my grades. I sat around watching terrible infomercials and eating junk until I would manage to get 2-3 hours of sleep. Then I’d wake up and go to school and repeat the cycle all over again.
I know what you’re thinking, “Haven’t you heard of coffee? or Adder-all?”
To you I say, “Do you want to hear the rest of the story or not?” Geez.
Freshman mistake #5 – Thinking just because vodka’s clear, it has zero calories like water
Err- no. Alcohol has calories. Lots and lots of calories. PLUS it slows down your metabolism. You know what else has calories? The McDonald’s you eat at three in the morning after a night of partying This one is pretty self-explanatory, kids.
Booze = weight gain.
Freshman mistake #6 – What’s a gym?
During my freshman year, if you suggested I hit the gym, I’d tell you to go f*ck yourself. Sure, I wore a lot of athletic gear, but my soccer days were over. Plus, I was gaining weight rapidly, there was no way I was going to fit into skinny jeans! I needed elastic waist pants! I couldn’t stand the changes to my body. If I even tried to go for a run I would get so discouraged I’d wind up crying in the park because my inner thighs were rubbing together. Seriously, that happened.
By June 2006, I had gained 25lbs. I was under so much stress and so unhappy that the changes to my body were just one more thing that made university seem impossible. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore! I felt out of control and I became very, very depressed. I was miserable but my boobs had never been bigger (silver-lining?)
Alright. Enough of me being a ninny. I gained weight and was miserable. So, what did I do about it? A few things…
The biggest change was during my second year I took a leave of absence from school to get my head back into a good space. That’s drastic, I know, but I really needed time to figure out what I wanted. I had chosen my school and my program out of convenience and was terribly unhappy. I spent the next two years working until I was finally ready to go back to school. When I felt ready to return, I changed my major and only took 2 or 3 courses each semester. With a lighter course load , I was able to REALLY learn the subject matter instead of just cramming information into my muffin obsessed brain.
Leaving school really made me a more confident person. The time off really brought me out of my shell because I was forced to interact with people and was no longer painfully shy. In school, when my grades were taking a steady decline I felt like a failure – a chubby big boobed failure. All that changed when I stepped away from the university setting and started to achieve things on my own. I was making new friends and receiving lots of positive feedback from my managers; little by little I stopped doubting myself.
To be honest, the weight took a long time to come off. It bothered me A LOT and I won’t lie about that. Eventually I got into a new routine. I started eating breakfast, cutting out sweets, limiting how much I drank (my friends are rolling their eyes) and getting enough sleep (can’t go out and party on a Wednesday when you have to work the next day!). Without really trying I lost 20 lbs. For the past six years my weight has stayed the same. Sure I fluctuate 5lbs every once in a while, but for the most part I’m finally at my new “normal.” I still have issues with my body, what woman doesn’t? Gaining weight that quickly really did a number on my body. Seriously, it looks like a road map of Ontario on my hips and butt, but whatever. That’s life! Now I just tell people I’m half tiger whenever they catch a glimpse of my stretch marks and who doesn’t love tigers? #amirite? Listen, by no means am I suggesting that I’m hot shit or perfect. I still whine about my body and struggle with feeling pretty or confident but I can definitely say I’m happier than I was when I was a freshman. I’ve come a long way physically and mentally and I’m grateful for the journey. I’m slowly accepting that I’m more than my physical self, and its a continuous work in progress.
I’m not a nutritionist or swimsuit model but I can tell you this: When you’re happier, you make better and healthier choices.
Take care of your mind, body and spirit and you just might avoid the Freshman *ahem* 25.
A Note to Muffins
Dear Muffins. I miss you. I will forever love you and the time we spent together. Love always, Libby