The number on the scale weighs on my shoulders

The “Freshman 15” is a very real thing, and on most accounts, unavoidable.

You’re studying at all kinds of hours, late into the night and surviving on a student budget (meaning cheap, sodium-packed snacks). You’re also using your meal plan that you paid way too much for and only provides overly large, unhealthy meals.

This becomes the norm, and in what feels like days, your weight has shot up while your self-esteem has hit the floor.

Let me tell you now: you can lose that weight. I did it. It’s possible, and once you get off campus, it’s way easier. But as a lot of you very well know, sometimes your weight means a lot more than a number on a scale.

I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. Like many people, food is my emotional crutch. When I feel sad, I eat. When I feel happy, I eat. When I feel anxious, I eat. When I feel bored, I eat. Unfortunately, this means going through periods of dramatic weight gain and loss, just like my last couple of years at college.

After a tough freshman year being 4,000 miles away from home and dealing with a number of personal issues, I ended up gaining 25 pounds on my already chubby frame. This did nothing for my self-confidence, and when I looked at pictures of myself, I felt disgusted. Then during the fall of my sophomore year, I rapidly started losing weight. At one point, I lost seven pounds in a week. I know, right? What was my secret?

I was starving myself.

That’s how I lost the weight. I didn’t just cut out a few of calories and exercise a bit more—I didn’t eat. I also told people I was doing this, but everybody laughed it off, assuming I was joking. I wasn’t.

I would go through a day eating only a 90-calorie granola bar and chugging about a gallon of diet coke. I knew what I was doing. I knew that none of this was healthy, and the hunger was unbearable some days, but when I received compliments on my appearance, my behavior was validated. After doing this for about five months, I reached my lowest weight in about six years, 40 pounds down from the original 25 I gained.

Then the spring came. During the worst, most stressful semester of my college experience (and perhaps the worst four months of my life), I started packing the weight back on. My close friends didn’t notice, since they were with me all the time, but I did. I could feel my stomach expand over my new skinny jeans and I would go through a cycle of binging and starving myself, day in and day out.

After a busy and stressful summer, I’ve now returned to my “normal” weight. The weight I maintained for years before college started. But with the looks people give me after coming back from summer vacation, you’d think I’ve gained 200 pounds. Even my close friends, when they first saw me after my time away, looked at me with mild disgust. They don’t think I can see it on their face.

After a lifetime of judgmental looks from people over my weight, I can always see it. I always know what they’re thinking.

Personally, I wish I had a happier ending to this and I wish I could tell you that I’m “happy with my body and weight” and to “not care what other people think about your body.” But I can’t.

I’d be a hypocrite if I did.

I’m also not writing this article for any sympathy. I don’t want it. I’m only writing this to inform—to tell you that if you see a friend or acquaintance of yours struggling with their weight, don’t comment on it. As hard as it is, don’t pass judgment and don’t give them any weird looks. Unless they specifically ask you for your opinion on their body, do not open your mouth to comment.

Their own brain is handing out enough judgment already.

Elif Gabb is the Opinion Editor for The Collegian and can be reached at [email protected]