“Four energy drinks, a bag of Doritos, Easy Mac and a whole pizza at 2 a.m. Welcome to the diet of a college freshman. Foods like these make up the recipe for the “freshman 15,” the amount of weight college students are expected to gain their freshman year,” says Abby Lutz, in a recent article published by The Ball State Daily, Students, professor weigh in on legitimacy of ‘freshman fifteen’.
I anxiously entered and walked into Case Hall North on August 23, 2002. I had already been living on campus for a week and a half, as we were required to report for preseason on August 11. I was nervous for multiple reasons. My freshman year of college at Michigan State University was about to begin, I would be meeting our suite mates in minutes, and life on campus had come alive, all while I was personally still adjusting to independent living. The sign at the entrance of our dormitory cafeteria read, “Opening at 4:30pm,” and that would be our first dinner in Case Hall North. Prior to that, our soccer team ate all meals in a housing area on campus that accommodated athletes who were present earlier than the general student population. As the double doors opened, a line formed, and it was my turn to swipe my meal card. As my friends quickly dispersed, I scoped the scene, and thought, “Wow! An all-you-can-eat buffet! So many yummy options!” And that is how freshman fifteen began: in a college dormitory cafeteria. Here I was, a Division I student-athlete who had just completed ten days of two-a-days, plus strength and conditioning sessions and additional fitness activities. Therefore, I was able to eat whatever I wanted and however much I desired, or so I believed. “An ice cream machine, with a toppings stand, too! Such a treat! Why not make myself a big sundae, too? I will work it off at practice tomorrow anyway,” was a soon-to-be daily thought when glancing at those unlimited delicious desserts. Even if I did not want it, the pure presence of such delight made it so incredibly tempting, and for that, why not grab a second ice cream on my way out?
These eating extravaganzas described above were representative of only the dormitory cafeteria. Can you imagine what took place outside the cafeteria? At local campus restaurants? Ice cream shops? Wait, how about late night carry-out or delivery? “I just had dinner in my dorm, but sure, I’d love to join you and meet you out at Cosi!” were statements I found myself using too much. The excitement of so many new options, unlimited meal plans on campus, vending machines in every hall, and late night Jimmy John’s ordering were all contributors to my “new” college figure.
As the season and semester went on, the days of putting on “real” clothes as opposed to soccer clothes became less and less, and more and more uncomfortable. Finding myself doing a jean dance each time I got dressed to tug the pants over my legs and up to my waist became a normal operating. I just remember thinking to myself, “I just must be getting stronger and more muscular with all the working out I do as a college soccer player.” It wasn’t until the spring of 2003 that it really started becoming obvious I had put on some pounds. And, they were not muscle pounds, like I had thought. Despite being a collegiate athlete, the amount of food I was consuming on a daily basis would cause anyone to gain weight.
I recall vividly one night meeting my good friend down for dinner. We had a few conversations leading up to that night that referenced our bodies, how we felt, and the result of freshman year eating. So, we swiped our meal cards, entered the cafeteria, and both walked over to the salad bar. Salad happened to have been my favorite part of every meal. This was always true, even as a little girl, believe it or not. So, I went and filled my salad to the way top, and headed down to the dressing bar. I reached for and scooped a mass amount of ranch dressing out of the metal bowl and globbed it on top of my salad. My friend gasped, and said, “Erin, if you want to lose weight, I wouldn’t eat ranch dressing. My sister just told me that it is the most fattening thing you can eat. There are like 40 grams of fat in one scoop.” I looked at her in a very innocent, curious way, and thought to myself, “But it’s my favorite dressing.” How can my salad be fattening? Salad is the healthiest choice out there! It contains lettuce, vegetables, and dressing! If my salad is unhealthy, what else do I eat that is fattening? I never thought about that concept when eating or selecting foods.
And this single interaction was the first to expose me to food and body type. I will never blame this friend for anything, as my knowledge regarding this topic was bound to be shared with me at some point. It was just a matter of time. It is typical for freshman girls in college to overeat, as it is extremely difficult balancing all responsibilities, including school, diet, health, sports, and social life. As a result, once the weight is put on, they end up searching for ways to get their “old” body back… And as quickly as possible.