Confession time: I have gained 5 pounds since starting college.

But, do you know what else I’ve gained? I’ve gained new friends, fresh knowledge, independence, social skills, study skills, cultural experiences, refreshing perspectives, brand new passions and interests, relationships with people I never expected to get along with and so much more. How is that 5 pounds is more important than all, or any, of these beautiful things? Why is it that the college population is so content with focusing on how many pounds they have gained, instead of how many new skill sets they have gained? Why is it that we spend so much time relating to each other through talk of losing weight, instead of relating new ideas to one another?

I propose a new spin on the freshman fifteen. I say, GAIN the freshman fifteen, and more. Why should we focus our energy on reducing our space in the world and cutting back on consuming food, which gives us energy to be involved in life and pursue our dreams? Is losing 5 pounds really more important than cultivating new friendships or taking the time to learn something you’ve never given thought to before? College is the best time in your life to explore. So EXPLORE! You have the world at your fingertips, and you are allowed to be selfish and indulge in your interests. Spending time obsessing over the number on the scale is time you could have spent getting coffee with a new friend or reading a book a professor recommended (or required). It is time you could have spent enriching your life in ways that you never have before. The focus on weight and pounds and exercise and healthy food can place a stopper between your average college experience and an extraordinary one. When you take down that barrier, you open the door for unlimited enrichment. When you give yourself permission to gain, you are able to jump into your life so much more fully and with so much more energy.

I am not promoting weight gain; health is very important, but being healthy does not mean eating salads for every meal and exercising at 11 p.m. just to get a workout in for the day. Being healthy means having balance in your life. It means nourishing your body AND your mind. I think we have put the body on a pedestal that it doesn’t warrant; the body is simply a vessel for our innate, unique beings. And we are pretty amazing. Think about the people you love the most; do you love them for the lack of jiggle in their thighs, or do you love them for the kindness in their heart?

Embrace your life. Life is so much more than numbers on a scale. You will find happiness does not come from a smaller jean size, but rather from a broader mind and an open heart.

By Tricia O’Donnell

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