Why Gaining The Freshman 15 Was The Best Part Of My College Experience

I have gained precisely eight pounds since beginning my first semester of college about two months ago.

Although that may not sound like a significant amount to most, it was nothing short of a cataclysmic event for me.

In order to assess the inevitable damage, I weighed myself while at the gym last week.

I was shaken, but not surprised, considering the increase in food intake that had welcomed me to my first semester away from home.

It was hard to resist the constantly available, “free” snacks my sky-high tuition afforded me.

Nonetheless, I promptly planned on executing a strict diet plan that consisted of daily salads and one weekly dessert. I even downloaded a dieting app.

The diet never came to fruition, and the app grew dusty while sitting on the shelf of the “Lifestyle” app folder in which it resided.

Eventually, I defeatedly accepted my fate and mourned the subsequent loss of my thigh gap with anyone who would join me.

It wasn't until parents' weekend that I realized how very wrong my mentality concerning this weight gain was.

I warned my family of (what I considered to be) my newfound “chub.”

My sister immediately scoffed.

She told me that, if anything, I looked the same as I did on move-in day.

This was coming from the same sister who had spent years picking out my insecurities and questioning every ounce of confidence I ever instilled in myself.

(I don’t mean to paint her as cruel. This was merely her job as a sister.)

I was shocked.

She assured me there was no visible evidence of my weight gain, and the rest of my loving, brash, brutally honest family firmly agreed.

I realized they were right.

It was not until that moment that I realized the ultimate insignificance of my weight gain.

This was in addition to the pressures students — women specifically — face concerning the maintenance of a certain standard of beauty and, once reaching such a standard, the upholding of it with integrity under any and all circumstances.

In college, eating is a social opportunity and unifier.

You eat with friends.

You bake cookies for your roommate’s birthday.

You meet people while in line, waiting to order a tall pumpkin spice latte.

You make dinner plans to meet at that new Mexican place down the street with a classmate.

You dress up in heels and hoop earrings for dinner on the weekends before going out with a group.

You share meals when the portions are too large.

You laugh over the staleness of the dining hall bagels with a boy you just met.

You order pizza and eat it on the rug at 1 am on a Tuesday with your philosophy study group.

To ignore these opportunities for real-world connection because of an unofficial obligation to uphold standards no one actually approves of would be ludicrous.

Sure, gaining weight may not exactly reflect a healthy lifestyle. But this does not mean we should feel shame over a mere 15-pound weight gain.

Let yourself experience the social aspects college food has to offer.

Let’s remove the negative stigma associated with the dreaded freshman 15, and instead, let's embrace the beauty that resides in the social interactions resulting from the constant influx of food that accompanies most college freshman experiences.

I am proud of the eight pounds I have gained because they represent the friends I’ve come to meet and the glorious late nights filled with salty popcorn, cold pizza and warm cookies we have shared together.

The freshman 15 is, simply said, just another way in which women are made to feel bad about the decisions they make concerning their bodies.

So, if you’re ever wondering whether or not you should bake that extra plate of cookies, always say yes.

Don't let the looming fear of the freshman 15 undermine your desire to connect with people and taste the rich flavors your college experience has to offer.

If you do, I can guarantee you will always be hungry for far more than what you've ordered.