Finals are complete and the school year is over, and I was ready to come home from college. I packed up my dorm, lugging pounds of paper and textbooks out, and packing all my freshman-year memories into cardboard boxes. Squeezing suitcases, bags, and boxes into the small trunk of our Honda Accord was not easy. My parents exclaimed and pondered why my belongings were such a tight fit into the car that had easily carried them to college in the fall. Lo and behold, I was definitely coming back with an accumulation of new items, from a three-foot-tall stuffed penguin to new clothes bought with the freedom of a handy-dandy credit card, to old posters I collected from my friends who did not want them anymore.
However, physical memorabilia was not the only novel acquisition I was carrying home. Also making the journey back to the city was the extra weight I had put on over the course of the year. I was a good 10 pounds heavier after my freshman year. This I attributed to being a little too-well fed from the cake and ice cream my dining hall served for dessert, and also my late-night indulgences when it seemed like midnight pancakes were calling my name. Looking around at other students on their way home for the summer, I noticed I was not the only one hobbling around with a little extra poundage.
Apparently, the “freshman 15” is no myth. I was astonished by how quickly I put on the weight and I was a bit embarrassed by my weight gain, especially when I could not fit into my summer dresses and bathing suit that I donned so nicely last summer. Reevaluating my eating habits, I realized that my folly was my less-than healthy lifestyle while at college. With an expensive college meal plan and a frugal mind-set, I subconsciously tried to reap all the benefits of my prepaid dining arrangement. With 21 meals a week (three full meals a day), I made sure I ate every single one of them, filling my plate high with food at every meal. It was no help that the food was pretty good! However, bound to my desk with schoolwork (or social network sites and computer games), I did not exercise or work out as much as I should have.
Looking back, I grimace at my unhealthy and foolish eating choices. I am ashamed of myself for not taking care of my body at college. What frightens me the most is how quickly and easily I fell into it. Prior to college, I led a healthy, balanced life without much thought. My mother often portioned our meals appropriately, I figure skated religiously on the weekends, and ran up 10 flights of stairs each day at school. Once in college, it did not take much thought for me to lapse into a sedentary routine. To me, the extra weight is not the utmost important (although a flat belly is desirable for bikinis), it is the unhealthy lifestyle I developed. Fearing a similar future, I have decided to work towards eating better and exercising a lot more. The changes I have made to my life are none too drastic, yet they make a huge difference, helping to improve my energy, confidence, and sense of self-appreciation.
To begin with, I decided to make smarter and healthier decisions when it came to my meals. First, I have cut down on my portions. I have a small stature, so my body does not need a full plate of food in order to function. Rather than stuffing myself like a Thanksgiving turkey, I now eat until I am satisfied. I also reduce snacking in between meals, which I often did at school out of boredom. Instead, I keep myself busy with activities so that I will not idly reach for a piece of candy or a bag of chips to fill the void.
I have also altered my diet to include more vegetables and fruit and less meat, recalling from my high-school health class that the human body actually does not need large portions of meat. This means trying to eat a few meat-less meals a week. I also have traded in salty and sugary snacks for healthier options, like yogurt, fresh fruit, and homemade smoothies. It is easy to find recipes for healthier meals which are simple to cook and delicious to eat on the Internet.
Another change is to exercising. I had to start off slowly with some light jogging and brisk walks, working on more rigorous exercise. The physical activity helps to boost my energy level and makes me feel refreshed when I am tired. I try to stay active whenever I can, even if that means hula hooping while watching television or walking to the grocery store instead of driving there. Working exercise into my schedule has helped me develop a routine. I realize how much I enjoy working out, and it is not too hard to motivate myself.
Transitioning to a healthier lifestyle was rewarding and, surprisingly, was not too difficult. My lifestyle is bound to change and grow as I do. For me, a healthy life is not so much about all the healthy fads and trends (i.e. juicing, cleanses, diets, etc.). It was more about making easy and small changes to how I live and make more health-conscience decisions. A healthy lifestyle is a general term, which means that you do not need to completely cut out certain foods or exercise like you are training for the Olympics. Strive for a balanced diet and a balanced life. It is so beneficial for the future. After all, a lifestyle is a habit and the earlier you start, the better.
Aglaia Ho is a freshman at Williams College and a native New Yorker.