Well guys, we made it. The year is finally winding down, and summer’s upon us. Freshman year complete! (Hang in there, Cali friends, trimester’s almost done.) As the smoke from finals period begins to recede, some of us may be taking this moment of exam-free clarity to contemplate our new knowledge, friendships…and uh, waistlines.

To be completely honest, I never thought I’d be writing an article like this. Health means a lot to me. And that’s probably an understatement. I’ve been called the health nut, the fitness fanatic, “asian superwoman”…you name it, I’ve probably gotten it.

My social media profiles also bear witness: this year, I completed the #100healthydays challenge and started the first ever #RUNdownforwhat challenge (it’s gonna be a thing, guys). People know me for my regular fitness/healthy living posts.

Also, if you’ve read any of my Spoon articles, you’ll know what I mean. I’ve churned out articles on healthy food swaps, motivational mantras and how to avoid the Freshman 15, for Pete’s sake.

So how can it be that I, too, fell victim to the dreaded Freshman 15? What happened? Well, I guess you could say: life happened.

I started off the year rather, ah, “gung-ho”, as they say. I’d finally shed most, if not all, of the stress-induced…insulation…from senior year, #100healthydays was going strong and I signed up for my first sprint triathlon with Lucinda, a fellow fitness junkie (funkie?).

Freshman 15

Photo by Wendy Sun

Left ankle sprain.

Just like that, before I had the chance to actually compete, I found myself in a walking boot. Well, when life gives you lemons, make vitamin C-rich lemonade, right? For the next 2 months, I dabbled in cross training, keeping up most of my aerobic capacity with swimming, (stationary) biking and elliptical-ing. #100healthydays came to a close, and some weeks of physical therapy helped ease me back into running.

I decided to pursue my long-term goal of running a half marathon, and #RUNdownforwhat was born. Things went quite swimmingly (runningly?) for several weeks: a 5k here, a 5-miler there. Weeks turned into months, and I was progressing with only a few blips along the road: I felt good and I felt strong.

Freshman 15

Photo by Wendy Sun

Right ankle sprain.

PSA: don’t take selfies while walking down dark stairwells. Just a friendly pro-tip. Around the end of March, by some twisted (heh) touch of fate, my right ankle decided it wasn’t feeling the active life. April was hard. With midterms impending and a lack of endorphins to combat escalating cortisol levels, I found myself face-to-face with demons from unhealthy habits past.

In terms of diet, the yo-yo came back with a vengeance. #RUNdownforwhat began to collect dust, and (confession) I still haven’t mustered the courage to break the silence. Being in recovery wasn’t easy the first time, but the second time? Not gonna lie, sometimes it kind of really sucks.

Full disclosure now: I’m your quintessential Type A personality. Perfectionist is my middle name. To me, there’s always room for improvement, whether it’s on a GPA, clean-eating plan or 5k time. I don’t mean to vilify perfectionism; it probably helped me get to where I am today.

Still, moderation is key, right? Striving to be perfect in every facet of your life can lead to unwarranted self-criticism and an “all-or-nothing” mindset, something we perfectionists are all too familiar with.

Freshman 15

Photo courtesy of wikihow.com

Wait a second. Before we let our inner critics take the reins, let’s stop and think. Does it have to be this way? Do we have to say “screw it” and throw up our arms when things don’t proceed as smoothly as planned? Do we have to abandon our goals after the slightest setback?

As you guys already know, things don’t always go your way, no matter how very desperately you want them to. Even when it comes to healthy living. Especially when it comes to healthy living. My personal journey this year has been rocky, to say the least.

But now I’m telling myself—and everyone who might be experiencing similar disappointment—that it’s okay. Life can be a series of mess-ups, but it doesn’t have to be a series of give-ups. Staying on the health wagon is no simple feat, but I’ll be darned if it’s not worth it.

Freshman 15

Photo courtesy of addcovers.com

So from my heart to yours, know that you’re worth it. You are more than the the number on the scale and the reflection in the mirror. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s up to you to find beauty in yourself, because I’m telling you, it’s there.

Onto the next order of business, then. What is next? Well, at least for me, it might help to first redefine “health.” There are many facets to health, and yes, physical health is one of them. Being healthy means rewarding your body with nourishing noms and endorphin-releasing exercise. This is the definition of health we tend to abide by and cling to. Any deviation is considered “unhealthy” and thus undesirable.

We cannot, however, forget about mental/emotional/spiritual health. Being healthy means being happy. If that means enjoying triple chocolate cake once in a while, then so be it. We eat to nourish not only our bodies, but also our souls.

People say that everything happens for a reason. Maybe what happened this year is life’s way of teaching me self-acceptance. Sure, it’d be nice to feel like a lean, clean-eating machine again. Sure, there’s still a teensy part of me that wants to take another swing on the yo-yo. But there’s more to life than that. Weight loss/gain can be transient. Self-love? That’s something to cherish forever.

Freshman 15

Photo courtesy of theloveyourselfchallenge.tumblr.com

Of course, one of my goals remains to improve my physical health. However, at this point, right here and right now, I’m going to focus on another part of the health spectrum. And I encourage all of you to try it out as well, because it’s so easy to fall into the “I’ll accept myself when I’m at point X” trap.

Careful, guys. If I remember correctly from algebra, X is a variable. Its value can change. What if you do reach X, only to decide that you now want to be at Y? Mathematical ramblings aside, what’s the point of striving for a physical health goal without the accompanying spiritual health?

To conclude this ode to health, I present my parting words: love yourself first. If the Freshman 15 (or 10 or 5 or 2) also paid you an unwelcome visit, don’t worry. Read this awesome article. Take a breather and forgive the past. Stop dreaming about a “perfect” body.

It will be so much easier to reach your goals when you stop waging war against yourself. You are strong, you are resilient and you will get through this. As tweeter @positivital once said, “chin up little fighter, things will get brighter.”