Prior to commencing the college experience, many freshmen feel overwhelmed by a countless number of legitimate fears: “Am I going to fit in? What will my major be? What if my roommate snores?!?” For me, the infamous “Freshman 15” inspired in me the greatest anxiety.
Before I explain further, allow me to introduce myself: my name is Isabella (no, NOT like in Twilight), and I am a freshman here at Vassar. I’m from Maryland geographically and Strong dormographically. I love watching movies—especially those of the romantic genre—writing, cuddling with friends, being a nerd, and running. In regards to the latter interest, my hallmates commonly see me lacing up my sneakers and heading out to the gym every morning—I often clock in at around eight hours of gym time in any given week. But this was most certainly not always the case.
During my sophomore year of high school, I was unmotivated, lazy, and insecure. At 5’8 and weighing between 150 (on a good day) and 155 (on a bad day), I wasn’t clinically overweight, but definitely pudgy and rather miserable. Vowing to make a change, I joined the indoor track team on a whim. I arrived at my first practice, confident in my ability to fake athletic skill, but couldn’t even finish the warm-up mile without walking. Naturally, I did the mature thing and started to cry—not a pretty sight.
However, thanks to my ferocious stubbornness and the unfailing support of my wonderful coach and my parents, I remained on the track team. My intense competitiveness also led to my determination to increase my pace so that the rest of the girls on the team, whose bouncing ponytails would mock me whenever they breezed by, wouldn’t lap me at every practice. With this persistence, I slowly became faster and fitter, gaining an invaluable group of friends in the process. This upward trend of fitness continued through my senior year, culminating in my training for a half-marathon with my dad and finishing in under 2 hours. By this time I had reached 130 pounds.
Although my physical body had improved by leaps and bounds, my mental state suffered in the process. I became terrified of regaining the 20 pounds, thus reverting back to my pudgy self. I began tracking calories obsessively and my self-esteem became inextricably linked to the number I saw on the scale—I weighed myself twice daily, before and after workouts—and the most innocent mention of my weight would invoke thoughts crippling to my self-esteem.
However, as college approached and the dreaded “Freshman 15” loomed nearer, I started to comprehend the ridiculousness of my preoccupation with weight—I was about to begin the four supposedly best years of my life, but instead of eagerly anticipating learning new things and meeting new people, I was losing sleep over adding a little extra padding to my thighs. I realized that I would never be happy with my weight—no matter what the scale read—unless I learned to love my body just the way it is, and I pledged to change my attitude. Unlike my sudden decision to become athletic, this resolution has played out slowly and proves difficult to remain faithful to. On the one hand, I still exercise daily, my friends joke that I would survive the zombie apocalypse by outrunning everyone, I still find a runner’s high to be the most satisfying rush in existence, and after a particularly good workout, I find myself on Cloud Nine. On the other, I still succumb to the unlimited supply of cookies at the Deece, gorge myself on delicious homemade bread, and find the insecurity and self-loathing returning with a vengeance. When the latter three events happen, I try to remind myself that I’m not perfect, and I recall the bounty of positive things in my life, including my loved ones and the Vassar community.
I hope to use this blog as a means of maintaining the inspiration to continue my healthy living habits, improve my self-confidence and body image, and help my fellow classmates find their own versions of healthy, happy living—whether that involves diet and fitness, mental and emotional welfare, or a whole host of other aspects of life. The balance of a healthy lifestyle is hard to maintain, but I always get by with a little help from my friends. In this spirit of cameraderie, feel free to send me an e-mail or to comment on this blog with any questions you may have.
Until next time, I send love and happy thoughts your way.
“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit