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Throw Away the Scale

Freshman 15

by: Emily Stadder

Before university or some point during your first year, you probably heard of the dreaded “Freshman 15.” The weight that everyone supposedly gains in their first year of post-secondary education. I remember being very scared of any kind of weight gain, having spent my whole childhood comparing myself to my peers and constantly feeling “bigger.”

According to the National Eating Disorder Information Center, 80-90% of women are unhappy when they look in the mirror or think about their bodies. I was very much one of those women, and some days I still am. I was weight-obsessed, having gained my “Freshman 15” and then some, I constantly hated what I saw in the mirror or pictures. Even though I was well-educated on the importance of positive body image, I still felt that my body did not deserve positivity.

The National Eating Disorder Association simply defines body image as “how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind.” Positive body image involves having a clear, accurate perception of your body, understanding that physical appearance and value as a person are not connected, being comfortable in your skin, and accepting your unique body. Nowhere will you find that body image involves being a certain weight or having certain dimensions. Contrary to what is portrayed in the media, thanks to photoshop and filters, there is no ideal body image, and trying to chase what you think is ideal will not make you happy.

I always thought if I could get my weight down I would be happy. Well, I did finally lose a lot of weight, but only at the cost of being at the most unhealthy point of my life. Due to mental health problems and physical illness that affected my ability to eat, I reached my “goal weight,” and surprise, surprise, I was not happy. I still wanted to weigh less and be thinner and was scared of gaining the weight back.

When I started to be able to eat normally again, I obviously gained some weight back, but more toward a healthy equilibrium than either side I was on before. I knew I had to make some perspective changes to my body image or I would keep repeating this very unhealthy cycle.

From my experience, I can give two important pieces of advice. First, throw away the scale. Unless prescribed by a doctor, there is no specific weight you should be. How you feel and what your body is able to accomplish is more important than a number, and bodies of every shape and size are able to accomplish awesome things! Personally, golfing at the collegiate level, running a few 5Ks, walking the streets of Paris, and playing with puppies are just some cool things my body has been able to do.

When I stopped constantly weighing myself I was able to focus on these positives, rather than a meaningless number. By continuously stepping on the scale I was only feeding a negative body image by making myself feel ashamed, self-conscious and anxious about my body. My second piece of advice is to be compassionate to yourself. Showing compassion can be an important method to increase body image in girls and young women. I have always been able to show compassion and encourage others to be happy with their bodies, yet it took a long time for me to realize my body deserved compassion too.

A very smart woman once told me “the world will line up to kick your butt, you don’t need to do it yourself.” By showing compassion toward yourself and not kicking yourself when you’re down, it becomes easier to accept your body and create a positive body image.

Besides the advice I can provide from my experience, UWindsor offers many Student Support Services, such as the Peer Support Centre and the Student Counselling Centre, that can help you if you are facing body image or mental health issues. As well, the Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association in Windsor is a centre for eating disorders, health and wellness, doing great work to promote positive body image in our community. For more information check out their website at bana.ca.

Whether you are in first year, a graduate student or even a professor, it is never too late to throw away the scale and work toward a more positive body image!

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