My freshman year of college had an incredible amount of positives. To put it bluntly, it was all around stellar.

I met so many wonderful people and made phenomenal friends, I highly enjoyed my freedom and independence, I couldn’t love campus life more and I have already been involved in so many opportunities that can aid me in my career.

I came home from my spring semester on an emotional roller coaster—incredibly sad from missing all of the people I had grown close to throughout the year, yet excited to reconnect with the friends I left back home.

Well, that roller coaster was tested even more after I thought it’d be great idea to step on the scale.

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I was always aware of my love for food. There have been multiple times in my life already where I had made conscious efforts to lose a few pounds because I just couldn’t keep my hand out of the cookies jar, or after-school snacking meant eating my entire kitchen.

I had thought, however, that I learned from these mistakes going into college.

Having gone vegetarian for the past 11 months I thought that the last thing I needed to fear was gaining weight. On top of that, I walked upwards of seven miles every Monday and Wednesday just going across campus to my classes. I thought that if anything, I very well could have lost weight!

I was wrong. Oh, so wrong.

Alas and to my surprise, I came home with about 20 pounds of extra baggage—and I’m not talking about the truck full of boxes and luggage filled with junk from my dorm room.

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After gawking at the scale for a few minutes and weighing myself three more times (“Mom, it’s definitely broken…”) I finally was real with myself and got down to the fact of the matter: I had gained the Freshman 15…plus some.

Saying I was discouraged would be an understatement. Saying I was crushed, yeah, that’s more like it.

Summer is supposed to be the time to flaunt crop tops, wear bikinis and rock shorts every day of the week. It’s a time for sun kissed skin and care-free living. A time made for ice cream and other indulgences.

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I don’t have time to be worrying about body image and frankly, I don’t even want to think about it.

As much as I just wanted to use the word ‘accept’ to justify my not wanting to eat healthy and exercise daily, in all actuality, I was using that word synonymously with ‘excuse.’ This isn’t about being content with what had happened to my body the past two semesters, it’s about taking care of my body after a year of neglect.

My health is what is most important; not necessarily how I look in the mirror.

So, needless to say, something has to be done. This can’t just go ignored. The question I had entering my brain was simple: “Now what?”

Well, here’s the list I came up with. It seems pretty reasonable:

Cook more food

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Being used to the dining hall means that I was also used to not knowing what exactly was in my food. I didn’t pay attention to the calorie count, the freshness of the ingredients or what it was actually doing for my body.

But now that I’m home, I can actually make wholesome meals for myself. It’ll just take a little work.

Drink more water

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Water is undoubtedly the best beverage out there. It’s refreshing, simple and naturally calorie-free. Making a habit of throwing in some lemon for extra antioxidants and flavor would change things up and make drinking 64 ounces a day more enjoyable. And from what I understand, lemon water is also a good detox.

Indulge Sparingly

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Every hard work deserves a reward, but rewards taste so much better when they’re earned! I’m trying to teach myself not to break down and splurge on something that’s not worth the calories. I’d sooner wait all week to dive into a rich milkshake on the weekend than eat a bag of mini Crunch bars on a Wednesday night just because I let my sweet tooth get the best of me.

Also, apparently eating chocolate can help you lose weight and that’s pretty cool. Check it out here.

Get moving

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I was so surprised with how much less motivated I was to exercise at home when I wasn’t forced to make the trek to my classes every day. Making an effort to head to the track for an hour or spend some time on a treadmill this summer will make definitely a difference.

Confide in others

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I was pretty embarrassed to admit that I had gained weight in college, but after talking to a few friends at home, I realized that I wasn’t alone. Now we’re pledging to hold each other accountable for living healthier lifestyles, which is both encouraging and, well, awesome.

Set a goal

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Losing 20 pounds seems like such an awfully high goal to set, but breaking it down to losing about 6.7 pounds per month from now until August doesn’t seem so intimidating. Breaking it down even further, that’s about 1.7 pounds per week. So much more doable.

Eat consistent, balanced meals

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Losing weight does not mean cutting calories or skipping meals. What is important is to eat balanced meals and snacks throughout the day to keep energy levels up and avoid ravenous late night hunger.

Stay positive

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Losing weight isn’t about changing my body. It’s about taking care of the one thing that is 100% mine. Summer is a time for rejuvenation, cleansing, relaxation and renewal, and when looking at life with that mindset, anything is possible.