Every fall, college students are bombarded with magazine and internet articles about avoiding the infamous "Freshman 15," as if gaining weight is the most terrifying thing about starting school away from home. Trust me, it's not. I'm entering my sixth week as a college freshman, and I've already had many things to stress about that have nothing to do with my weight: homework, learning how to do my own laundry, surviving without a meal plan, making friends, and the list goes on.
Weight is the last thing on my mind. I don't even own a scale, and nothing terrible has happened. I'm still a happy, healthy, functioning college student. Because, after all, there are so many more important things to focus on in college, and if you are preoccupied with weight, you'll be missing out on the chance to have the best experience possible.
The “Freshman 15” phenomenon is such a negative message to send to incoming college students, and it's something you should definitely toss out the window. Sure, you may gain some weight, but if you're truly enjoying your time in school and taking care of your body, it shouldn’t really matter.
Plus, sometimes the best experiences (at least for me) involve trying new food. Here are 15 things that are so worth gaining the Freshman 15 for (even though that will not necessarily happen).
1. Ordering cookies at midnight
Insomnia Cookies was practically made for college students. The cookie shop, which also offers ice cream, delivers fresh-baked cookies to your door up until 3am. Which is sometimes exactly when sugar is most vital. Plus, they have vegan options too, so everyone can get in on your late night/early morning dessert parties and potlucks.
2. Free Pizza
Events, club meetings, and parties around campus are most likely going to involve pizza. Don’t be that person that refuses it, because you never know when the opportunity to eat free pizza will come along. Trust me, I turned down one of the two chances I had, and I still have serious cravings and regrets.
Okay, I’m not talking about straight black coffee, because obviously, that won’t affect your weight. Maybe some people don’t even consider all the fancy, sugary drinks real coffee, but I do.
If your campus is like most, there are coffee shops everywhere, and some days you’ll want to switch up your morning routine and splurge on a PSL, the new Chile Mocha Frappuccino, or some creative concoction from one of the independent, unique coffee shops. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Caffeine, for a lot of students, is a necessity, so you might as well mix it up while getting your daily dose.
4. First Dates
If you’re going to college away from home, you’re most likely single, and that means dating is probably in your future. Dates mean food, and it’s hard to enjoy yourself (and be yourself) if you feel forced to eat a salad every time you go out. Focus on really getting to know the person, not on counting calories. Besides, if the date goes terribly, the pint of Ben and Jerry’s you eat afterwards to cope with the disaster totally won’t count.
If you’re not “chilling,” chances are you’re snacking. The sound of crunching popcorn or Cheetos will help drown out any awkward silences, so when in doubt, break out the snacks.
College students never pass up free food. Be sure to be in the loop about all the major food holidays on which you can score some freebies. You won’t want to bother with worrying about how healthy the food is, because who cares when it’s free?
7. Ice Cream
Fall mornings may be sweater weather, but the midday can start to feel like summer all over again. Ice cream is acceptable during every season, so don’t be afraid to use the lingering heat as an excuse to indulge between classes.
Whether for a bake sale for a campus organization, a potluck, or just for fun, chances are you could find yourself being enlisted to bake something. Maybe it’s just me, but the best part of baking is usually licking the bowl. If you won’t be able to eat the finished product, it’s the next best thing.
Whether you’re studying or partying, all-nighters will probably involve snacking. If it’s studying, it may be stress-eating. Don’t beat yourself up over it—it happens to all of us. And it’s okay, especially when you're doing all you can to work hard and pass your exams.
10.Campus organization bonding
So far, both campus organizations I am involved in have had bonding events at restaurants, so chances are most do or will at some point during the year. These give you a chance to get to know other members on a more personal level, which makes getting involved so much more fun and worthwhile. If I had missed out on them due to fears of eating too much, I would not have made some of the new friends I have now.
11. Trips/traveling abroad
While you may not exactly travel abroad during your first year, there are so many opportunities to go on trips with different groups. The last thing you want to worry about while hiking through the rainforest in Costa Rica is how healthy you are eating. Food can be an incredible, exciting part of any adventure, near or far, so don’t be afraid to let yourself enjoy it.
12. Your first real job
If your first real job is in college, it’ll most likely involve food, because on-campus and surrounding restaurants will be understanding of the fact that you are a student with classes and homework filling your schedule. Working in a restaurant means free and discounted meals, which, again, you should definitely take advantage of.
Maybe you have fast food for lunch three days a week because it’s free and you have very little time between work and class. While it isn’t the healthiest way to eat, sometimes it’s the best you can do. Unhealthy eating habits are a part of college life sometimes, and they aren’t going to kill you if you have to give in every once in a while.
13. Enjoying your newfound independence
For many students, college is the first time they are shopping all on their own for groceries. No more asking Mom to get stuff for you or having to eat things you don’t like because there’s “no food in the house,” according to your standards. Being independent means you get to make more of your own choices about what you buy.
It’s a great opportunity to try new things or even experiment with new diet choices like going dairy-free or eating only ice cream for a week. It also means you can buy your favorite foods without worrying about someone else stealing them from the fridge (unless you have some pesky roommates). So have fun and get creative with grocery shopping!
14. Getting involved with a Spoon chapter
You can’t avoid delicious eats and be involved, it just doesn’t work. As a writer or photographer, you’ll want to at least try all of the food you’ve been describing or snapping pics of every week.
15. Your first holiday meal back at home
After months of dining hall meals and fast food, the first thing you eat when you’re home for the holidays will probably taste even better than you remember it, and you’ll appreciate your family’s home cooking so much more.
There are so many incredible experiences in store for you in college, and honestly, some are just better when food is involved. Don’t let the fear of gaining weight cause you to miss out.