Dear Freshmen,

There are plenty of new things you’ll be getting used to this year: shower shoes, humidity, “maskne,” online classes, and the list goes on. Another thing you will be introduced to is a shift in eating and dieting culture. For myself and many others, freshman year turned the simple concept of eating into a stressful, time consuming, and anxiety-inducing subject. 

Coming into college, everyone talks about the infamous “Freshmen 15,” or as we call it, the “Tulane Ton.” Whispers about weight gain lead many girls down a rabbit hole of disordered eating patterns, hyperfixation on their diets, over-exercising, and skipping meals. This can even become as serious as developing a disorder called orthorexia, which is characterized by an obsessive approach to achieve a “perfectly healthy diet.” However, there’s been a push towards a new kind of diet in the media–more like an anti-diet–called Intuitive Eating, that I wish someone had told me about me before my freshman year; it would have saved me a lot of food focused stress. For a college student, intuitive eating basically entails listening to your body, eating what you want when you want, which will land you at the correct weight for your body. This will allow you to focus on school and relationships, instead of constantly worrying about food. 

Freshman year of college is likely the first time that feeding yourself 3 times a day (plus snacks) is completely your responsibility. Mom isn’t packing your lunch or cooking dinner, but you do have plenty of options on campus. For most students, starting college can be stressful and it may feel difficult to balance a full class and study schedule with a practical eating routine. Getting to the dining hall 3 times a day is unrealistic for most, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to create balance between your responsibilities, while maintaining a healthy mindset and approach to eating. Continually striving for this is essential to prevent damaging habits from developing. 

According to www.mirasol.net, as many as 10% of college women suffer from a clinical eating disorder, including 5.1% who suffer from bulimia nervosa. Disordered eating can do more harm in the long run than you might think. Not eating enough for an extended period of time in order to lose weight beyond one’s natural “set-point weight” can be detrimental for overall health. This can lead to harmful symptoms such as loss of period, hair loss, and a lack of energy. Other long-term symptoms include: constantly feeling cold, clinical anxiety and depression, weakened bones, low blood pressure, seizures, digestive issues, organ failure, and reproductive issues. While not all disordered eating patterns become this severe in terms of physical manifestations, the mental strain of stressing and obsessing over food can take a huge toll on overall mental, emotional, and even social well being. 

Exercise addiction can become an issue for girls who work out in a compulsive way. Exercise is an amazing way to celebrate your body, feel strong, and get your heart pumping, but you shouldn’t do it if you feel like you have to “make up for extra calories from last night” or if you’re trying to fit into that pair of jeans from high school that are better off at Goodwill. 

Some of the most fun moments of your first year at school will include ordering Dominos with your friends, going out for ice cream, and partying like you’re supposed to! Friends are often made at dinner tables or in dining halls. Practicing intuitive eating in college can seem scary, but restricting foods that you love or avoiding social situations that involve “junk food” will hurt more than it will help. Instead of focusing on avoiding late-night snacking, find freedom and joy by letting go of that fear and having fun with new friends! 

I promise you, shrinking yourself won’t make you happy! Feeling satiated and at peace with enjoying all foods in moderation will bring you more joy than being a size 0. Life is about more than chasing the photoshopped bodies you see on Instagram. Life is about finding lifelong friends, making memories, and eating delicious salads AND gooey cookies. My hope for Tulane is that we can foster a community that lifts each other, celebrates all body types, and allows each and every person to focus on the best years of their life. 

If you ever feel like you may be struggling with eating or food, there are so many resources on campus and people who want to help! 

The Counseling Center: (504) 314-2277, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Wednesday – 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Well for Health Promotion: (504) 314-7400 

Cover photo: Healthline.com (Diego Sabogal)