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I have a weakness for Double Stuff Oreos. Whenever I eat one, my worries are swept away in a sea of sugar. Nonetheless, each time I prepare to dive into a pack of Oreos to escape a particularly abysmal workload, the number of calories in a single Oreo stops me in my tracks.
Similar to the Boston winter, the “freshman fifteen”—so named for the number of pounds a freshman usually gains during their first year of college—strikes when least expected, despite multiple warnings from friends. Although a night of stress-eating Oreos might cause a higher-than-expected scale reading, this weight gain should not alarm anyone. The freshman fifteen should be embraced and controlled, not feared. Rather than indicating a truly dangerous weight gain, it represents a sign of emerging responsibility in fledgling adults.
Unsurprisingly, college creates a perfect environment for adding pounds. Nearly every student organization promises tasty yet unhealthy food as an incentive to attend their events. The dining halls neither limit the amount of times you can swipe nor the amount of food you can eat. Late-night snack runs and skewed sleep schedules only augment the problem. Because many students come from backgrounds where they were not in charge of their diet, they are ill-prepared to handle the flood of options crowding their plate.
The increased freedom in dietary choices and time management opens wholly unexplored windows. When freshmen navigate the complex labyrinth between sleep, schoolwork, and extracurricular activities, food becomes fuel as nutritional concerns are often left by the wayside. Likewise, although students walk significant distances to get to and from class, cardio-respiratory athletics—activities of which many partook in high school—are forgotten or deemed less important. Freshmen eat and exercise less consciously and gain weight as a result.
The freshman fifteen—sometimes more honestly renamed the freshman five—embodies these liberties. Combating this weight gain requires active assumption of responsibility. Yes, the frozen yogurt in Annenberg is convenient, but that doesn’t mean six visits per meal are necessary. Because a standard deviation of five pounds is unlikely to tip someone into obesity, the concern at hand here is how to deal with the added weight of freedom, not how to regain one’s lost health.
For most people, college represents the first time attempting to take charge of their lives. In this process, the freshman fifteen is both collateral damage and a tangible indication of increased responsibility. In the end, go ahead and eat that Double Stuff Oreo. Go to Falafel Corner at two a.m. when the munchies hit you. The helpful freshman fifteen opens your eyes to the flip side of every decision and the trade-off of every bite.
Irene Y. Chen ’14, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Wigglesworth Hall.
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