Confession: I Gained the Freshman 40

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Often, people assume that health and fitness professionals have never had to struggle with their weight. You may think that we love to exercise and must have a natural aversion to all decadent or "sinful" foods, too. But that couldn't be further from the truth—at least for me. I was fit as a child and teen, and I am now as an adult. But college was a different story...

I gained about 35-40 pounds in college. I can't tell you the exact number, because it depressed me to get on the scale, so I just stopped looking. I was a little underweight when I started school, because I was exercising like a fiend and eating way too little. (I thought what I was doing was healthy. How little I knew then.) So when college started and I was living off of dining hall food, barely sleeping, and engrossed in a stressful major at a competitive school, I didn't have time to exercise like I used to, and I started stress eating. After under feeding my body for so long and then eating more, my weight ballooned up quickly—to the point that none of my clothes even fit! Talk about embarrassing. I came home for the holidays and my tell-it-like-it-is grandmother said (in front of everyone), "Nicole sure has gained weight in college!" (Thanks Grandma…I hadn't noticed.)

My weight issues continued for a few years. I remained overweight and unhappy, and was constantly getting ready to start new diets and fitness programs. I'd tell myself "No sweets starting Monday!" or "I'll exercise for 2 hours every day." Each plan would last about a day or two, and then I'd gorge on bags of candy and start skipping my workouts. I struggled with emotional overeating and an obsession with food, all the while hating how my body looked and wanting to change desperately!

So what did change? I learned to accept myself and care about myself. I learned to stop saying no to sugar, carbs, candy, or other "bad" foods. I learned to listen to my body's REAL cues for hunger, to stop reaching for food to cope with bad feelings, even when my body wasn't hungry. I re-trained my brain so that it was no longer "normal" to snack every time I watched TV or went to a movie. And I stopped obsessing with my weight (I threw out my scale). It didn't happen overnight, and I didn't even lose weight for a long time. It wasn't easy. I had setbacks, but I'd keep them in perspective and just keep trying to be better to my body and myself. Even without losing weight at first, I was happier. And I knew that eventually, my body would return to what was normal.

Over the years, I continued to drop weight without even trying, just by eating in moderation (when hungry), exercising in moderation (without focusing on the calories burned), and focusing on my health overall. Now I'm at a point where I'm happy enough with my body. I'm fit and healthy and I can look good enough in my clothes to not feel self-conscious. At the same time, I can enjoy eating without obsessing about the calories or fat, and I can exercise as much as I feel like, without forcing myself to do things that I don't enjoy. Overall, the things that helped me most were:

  • Learning and honoring my body's true signals for hunger and fullness. I don't eat by a clock, and even if I just ate 1 hour ago, if I feel hungry enough that my belly rumbles, I'll eat. At the same time, I won't eat just because food is around (at a party, at the movies, in the evening at home). Also, learning to be satisfied without being stuffed goes a long way.
  • Not weighing in. I never weigh myself. I have a general idea of how much I weigh, but I gauge how well I'm doing based on how I look and how my clothes feel.
  • Exercising because it feels good. I do not pay attention to how many calories I burn. To me, that's just one small factor. Instead, I exercise at the appropriate intensity for me and I pick workouts that I enjoy because they're fun or because I know they keep me healthy, fit and feeling good.
  • Journaling. I turned to my journal to help deal with my emotional eating issues. When I'd slip up, I'd write about what happened, examining what I was really feeling and what I could have done to remedy the situation without turning to food for comfort.
  • Taking care of myself. Instead of hiding in oversized clothes (like I had been), I bought new, flattering and fitted clothes that gave me confidence. I decided that I was worth it just as I was and I deserved to look good, even if my weight wasn't where I wanted it to be.
  • Not comparing myself to others. This was probably the hardest of all, but the more I compared myself to others, whether it was women I saw on campus or celebrities in magazines, the worse I felt about myself. So I stopped. And I learned that variety is what makes the world go 'round. We can't all be size 2's with amazing legs and cellulite-free butts. But we can choose to be fit and happy in the bodies we have right now.

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CECELW 1/1/2021
I can relate. Report
A great article. Thanks for sharing. Report
What!!? I thought it was the Freshman 15, SparkFriends. Report
What!!? I thought it was the Freshman 15, SparkFriends. Report
Thanks! Report
Good article. Report
Thanks for sharing! Report
Excellent article! Thanks for sharing! Report
This is a great article..................Thank You. Report
I gained 60 pounds in college, and I am trying to lose it now. It's not easy, but I learned that I need patience, forgiveness, and self-confidence. Report
Being able to eat well in college is a great luxury. Thank you for such useful recipes, I think this is very important for students. And if you are too lazy to write a bunch of homework or you don’t want to spend this time, I recommend paying attention to a useful
on-writing-service/ platform that will help you deal with such a problem. Report
Thanks for sharing! :) Report
Excellent! Thanks for sharing this one! Report
Absolutely Report
Thanks for sharing Report
We've come a long way and learned a lot of things since the "freshmen years"! Report
My story is similar, but happened in my fifties. After a long career in a physical job, I quit and went to university to earn my degree. There I gained 30 pounds from the lack of exercise and stress.

Being in my late fifties when I finished, I was overweight, post-menopausal, and according to my doctor, pre-diabetic. I tried and tried to take off the weight with no success. You said you don't weigh yourself, don't count calories. Well, I wish I could do that too, but now I've lost almost 30 pounds and the only way I've been able to do that is weigh and count calories. Yes, I've incorporated exercise into my life, but I did that before with no luck on the weight loss.

I think everybody is different in regard to how it's done. My big concern now is working on losing those last 10 or 15 pounds is how to keep it off. That's the next challenge! Report
Thank you Nicole! Even though you wrote this almost 6 years ago, your words are still giving comfort and inspiration to those of us who are facing similar struggles. Thank you so much! Report
Nice story. I want to see pics of before and after. Report
Thank you for sharing such an honest story. It's true that when you see someone in a role of authority in some field, you assume that 'they can't understand my struggle, all this came easy for them!' I hardly know an instance where that has actually been true--and yet I still make that assumption!

I also really enjoyed reading how you managed your weight loss. I like the simplicity, the natural flow that it seems to have. I must admit that sometimes I get carried away and start obsessing about calories and control. What happens? I feel let down every time I look in the mirror (because I'm not a stick) and I let myself get way too hungry. Then everything in life (not just weight loss or health) seems impossible. Reminders, like yours, that we need to be kind to ourselves and try, not to overly restrict ourselves (while ramping-up our exercise--of course!) and eagerly expect to drop 3 dress sizes in 3 weeks, but try to love ourselves and listen and respect our bodies true signals. Thank you!! Report
Wow, Nicole, this is me exactly. I am in my sophomore year of college now, but my freshman year I started out slightly underweight, exercising constantly, and only eating certain "healthy" things. Once the stress of school overwhelmed me, I turned to food and gained a whopping 50 pounds! I went from being underweight to being overweight in two semesters! Its nice to know that I'm not alone. I'm still at the weight I ended freshman year with and I am trying desperately to get lean and healthy without damaging my body the way I did in the past (I went almost two years without a period). Thank you so much for the tips! Report
Hi Nicole! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am a college student currently going through the same struggle. I was underweight going into college because I wasn't eating enough and I danced a lot. Now I'm in a competitive college and don't have enough time to exercise/stay up late. I have gained 30 pounds and feel terrible about my body. I am working to develop healthy eating habits but I can't seem to loose the weight and don't want to revert back to how I was in high school. I feel like everyone else at my school is a size 0 and I am the only one going through this struggle. It was really nice to read your article and see that I'm not alone. It was also nice to see someone who overcame the same struggle! I hope I can too. Report
I really like the article. I think the points mentioned make a lot of sense. But also, I'm surprised. Because coach Nicole is one of the main 'characters' of SP and SP is full of 'weigh-in's', calorie counting and calorie burning. I would love it if more of the behaviors and points that she mentioned in this article were encouraged on SP... Just my thought. Report
Excellent article. This is very inspiring (even though college was eons ago for me). Thanks, Coach Nicole. Report
Very inspiring - I must admit that one tends to look at people who look good and think 'it must be easy for them' - you never know! Report
wow. This really is an inspiring article and I really appreciate it. Before I started college, I had taken six months off to work and in all the free time I had, I would workout and eat very little. special k cereal, oatmeal, green tea, and granola bars was most of my diet. I lost 25 pounds in less than 3 months. I loved it, but as soon as I started college, I ate fast food and slept less and stressed. By the end I had gained it back. I have been back on my plan since new years, but this time I am being much more understanding of myself. I am hopeful and confident that I can reach my goals. Thanks. Report
I LOVE this blog. Thanks for your honesty and your way of being healthy now is fantastic, I also do not weigh myself (I don't own a scale). I also gained weight in college, - there was healthy food to choose from, but I did not eat it - and lack of exercise put on the weight. Report
The opposite happened my freshman year. I shrunk to around 100 lbs. As a vegan I could barely eat anything in the cafeteria. Cooking, or rather microwaving, food for myself was an entirely new experience for me. If your cafeteria was anything like mine, I'm not surprised this happened. There's hardly any healthy food out there. Simple things like 100% wheat bread are non-existent. Without proper food, you can't fuel your workouts and are more than likely to just give up and eat junk. Report
I saw so much of myself in that. Weighing in never worked good for me - I never got the knack of not getting depressed by a 'bad' weigh in. Or - comparing myself with others on pictures... and so on and so forth. So thank you for the good vibes. I see better now. Report
So true. I also yo-yoed through most of my 20s and 30s. I put on weight in grad school and then immediately got pregnant. now that my youngest is almost 2 and I'm almost 40 I'm finally figuring out what I need to do to lose weight. I'm bummed that it took me so long but happy that I am finally doing it.

I'll be so happy the day I can throw out my scale. Report
I love this article! In high school I started caring about my weight, I was around 175. I lost 25 over summer by obsessively exercising. I'd skip breakfast, grab a bunch of sugar laden stuff just before Gym so I had the energy to do double time. I worked harder and faster then anyone else there and I made it a point to do so. I would walk instead of eat lunch (sometimes I'd eat a lettuce leaf with dressing and maybe a roll because of my sister) but then I'd get home and workout at the bus stop while waiting for my younger sister to get home. Then I'd get home, work out some more. Sometimes I'd go to bed early and skip dinner and sometimes I'd eat. To me, I felt like my fat body was because I couldn't control my eating. So I CONTROLLED it. I ignored the hunger pangs and felt strong and confident. I felt healthy, i was more active and had lost 25lbs and was able to do everything in Gym for once. When I had to change schools shortly after starting, I turned my anger into self-destructive behavior - by eating and not exercising. I gained until I was almost 200lbs - in the course of a few short months! Several years ago I started a very healthy eating plan that has been teaching me a lot about what healthy eating is - and I've been discovering a ton about my eating behaviors, my relationship with food, and how I respond to life with eating. I whole heartedly agree with journaling it out. I felt like reading that part and the part about exercising, as if I was reading something I had written! It's so important to enjoy yourself. I only exercise in a way that I enjoy and if I make an unhealthy choice, I write it out and analyze what I could do better. I'm so glad you are here and you never let yourself lose total control over your weight or continue down the road of obessing. Kudos to you sweety! Report
I did the freshman 50 and then lost some... then I did the Mommy 50 and lost some... did the Mommy one again... you get the idea. Report
Thank Nicole! I at one time became anorexic due to always wanting to look like someone else or magazine covers. I became obsessed with not eating and exercising was just as out of control. When I finally got off that crazy ride and started trying to eat healthy and cut back on exercising to stop killing myself, my body weight ballooned way up!
I refuse to go to either extreme anymore. I finally feel comfortable with myself and with the help of Spark People I am going to finally master a healthy lifestyle. Thanks for the tips and letting me know others are out there with the same feelings. Report
I'm new and i need all the help i can get.... thanks for the helpful hints. Report
I gained 30 pounds my freshman year at college despite vowing I would only eat at the snack bar. Between the stress, the choices, and birth control, I gained a considerable amount of weight. I am so glad that there are so many people out there who are so supportive. I am in your same boat - but you have mentally come so much further than me. Keep up the good work!!! Report
Thanks so much for posting this and I can definitely relate! During my first 3 years of college, I gained about 30 pounds. Although I kept up with working out throughout these years, I attribute my massive weight loss to being extremely out of tune with the nutritional needs of my body and a lack of understanding of how many calories I was actually consuming in a day. I realized that I was gaining, too, but had trouble acknowledging that I had to start making myself a priority in my life.
I started Spark almost 5 months ago and I am proud to say that I have lost about 35 pounds. I was especially happy that I was able to maintain and ENJOY the holidays!! I am still unpacking a lot of negativity that I hold against my own body, but I know that this is a work in progress. I have made a stand; the feelings I get when I can keep up in a difficult spinning class or do push-ups will no longer be tainted by society's constant message that looks mean everything. I can feel the positive changes that I have made and it makes me happy that I am actively pursuing a healthy me for a healthy future! Report
My story is very similar to yours! I gained about 25 lbs during my first year of college. The summer when college started I was able to workout every single day and went down from 135 -105, but it was definatly not the healthy way! I ate very little and worked out for 3-4 hours everyday. After my first year of college I now weigh 130. Report
I also gained 40 pounds my freshman year in college. By my junior year I had switched my major to dietetics and lost around 20 pounds learning how to eat right and exercise, and I learned how important that is to health. Even though I lost this weight, I was still the 4th heaviest in my graduating class. After I graduated I started a job in the food industry as a supervisor and was working 16 hours a day and every weekend. I never had time to exercise or plan meals, and I was super unhappy. After 6 months and those 40+ pounds came back, I quit because I knew this lifestyle was not what I wanted. Now I have another job in the food industry but I am with a company that gives me weekends off (on occasion) and I only work 10 hour days. Having those extra 6 hours a day gave me plenty of time to plan meals and exercise, and I have since lost 20 pounds and more to come! Report
thank you for posting this. i hadnt even noticed i gained the freshman ten-fifteen (depends on the day for me) until I came home for the summer. It's been a depressing summer, because both of my sisters have recently graduated from college and dropped to a size four and two. I have started obsessing with being the "fat" sister. Thanks for letting me feel more normal, and giving me hope that I CAN change my habits. :) Report
I have felt the same so many times Report
God, I related to your article so well. I also gained the Freshman 40 and learned a lot about my bad habits and self-hatred. I learned, like you Nicole, that the way to get a grip was to start listening to my body and treating it and myself with self love. A changed attitude goes a long way when changing habits Report
Thank you for sharing your story I also have always been thing but over the 2a lyears have put on more wiehgt than I need I just want to feel comfortable in me and be healthier Report
Hi, Nicole! This is the 3rd blog of yours I've read today.....I don't think, in the year I've been with SparkPeople, that I've EVER read the blogs. But the reading today began with "Finding Balance" and then I read three of your Confession blogs and some things are finally starting to click into place for me.

As I'd posted on one of your other blog entries, I am just tired of fighting with my body, tired of obsessing over numbers, but I'm also tired of not being able to "manage" my weight very well. I just want to feel strong and healthy and be comfortable in my own skin. I'm about 15 pounds from the high end of my health weight range. I'm irritated with how my martial arts uniform fits (or doesn't) and I'm letting my reflection in the mirrors beat me up mentally at every class.

Your guidelines at the end of this post make a lot of sense and are good reminders. I realized that when i was first married, I maintained for a LONG time in the upper 160s and we didn't own a scale. And I do, in small ways, compare myself to others. The Wise Me and the Insecure Me need to have a heart to heart. I also realize I worry about what other people might think. At 40, I feel like I shouldn't be doing that but I do. That's something else I need to work on.

Thank you! Report
I can honesty agree with this article, I gained 50 pounds my freshman year and I am now currently a sophmore. I am now seeing the results of over eating and for a while I've been depressed about the weight gain. One day last semester I got up and got a free personal trainer provided by the school and I excersice four times a week but the problem is I am still not eating right. I have a thing for sweets, cakes, browines, cheesecake, pasta, bread you name it. Seeing that someone else has been though this does not make me feel alone. Report
Thank you for sharing your story! Report
Thank you for sharing your story! :-) Report
did you lose the weight then? Report
i gained the senior 30... i dont know if their was such a thing, but i guess there is now. im ditching the scale too. ill diet and exercise, but the scale stresses me out. Report
Nicole, you look so petite and fit, I never would have guessed you'd struggled with weight in college! And I LOVE your idea about ditching the scale! I do best when I don't look. Happy New Year! Report