By Jordyn Sava
For new and old lions at the College, transitioning from home cooked meals to dining hall food can be a challenge.
Those headed to college are often warned about the “Freshman 15” — a term referring to the common weight gain students experience during their first year at college. Without parents to tell you what to eat or coaches pushing you to workout, it can be hard not to treat yourself to Redberry every night.
Prior to coming to the College, senior speech language and pathology major Abby Spencer heard a lot about this term.
“I honestly thought it was because people had so much freedom at college,” she said. “They would eat whatever they wanted, so they wanted to have fun food. I almost felt that there was no avoiding it and that it was something everyone went through.”
When she arrived at the College freshman year, Spencer said she felt uncomfortable working out in her room or at the gym, so she “just didn’t try,” and faced difficulties with her eating habits.
“Sometimes I wouldn’t like the food that was offered and didn’t always want a salad, so it was just easier to order out or eat a pizza,” said Spencer.
She is not alone with these struggles, as social media influencer and NFL Houston Texans’ cheerleader, Cori Rae, opened up to share the similar worries about weight gain she had throughout her years in college.
“During sophomore year, I just wasn’t feeling my best,” Rae said. “I was super low energy all the time, I was eating pretty crappy, and I had kind of gained the Freshman 15.”
As a result, the Appalachian State University alumna turned to various media outlets to learn more about diet culture and how to stay healthy while living on campus.
The internet is a popular place to learn about all things health related, yet there is a large amount of inaccurate information online. When Rae first turned to YouTube for advice, the amount of information overwhelmed her.
“There was so much information telling you to eat low carb and only a certain amount of calories in a day,” she said. “And then some people are saying eat high carbs and eat whatever you want.”
The amount of contradictory information she was being subjected to online quickly became detrimental to her mental health, and was negatively affecting her college experience.
“I used to be so controlling over my calories and what I would eat in a day. I would use my fitness pal and if I didn’t hit my numbers all the way, I would get really down on myself and the next day over exercise or make up for it in some way,” said Rae.
After struggling with negative thoughts surrounding food and her body, Rae realized that you do not have to follow exactly what people are saying in order to be healthy.
She began documenting her journey using social media platforms, including YouTube, Instagram, and most recently, TikTok, where she now has over 150k followers.
Her posts focus on what she said helped her overcome her bad relationship with food: intuitive eating.
This practice focuses on getting in touch with your body cues like hunger, fullness and satisfaction. Rae displays the way she has incorporated this approach into her life, and shows her followers that you do not have to eat perfect all the time to be healthy.
“When I was going down the path of trying to find what works for me and trying to heal my relationship with food, I found this video on intuitive eating,” said Rae. “I was like, that goes against everything I learned on the internet before this and what diet culture has told me is to eat less. Intuitive eating just worked for me because I feel like I’m honoring my hunger cues. Your body gets hungry for a reason, so feed it when you’re hungry.”
This mindset has helped many individuals like Rae focus more on enjoying their college experience, and less about the weight they may gain freshman year.
Spencer adds that she has found exercise to be beneficial on the harder days, and recommends “going for walks if the weather is nice, sitting in the sun, or even journaling.”
Rae encourages students to remember that college is supposed to be a time to discover yourself and have fun.
“Enjoy the journey. I am someone who gets super overwhelmed thinking way ahead in the future and thinking of an end goal,” Rae said. “I kind of have to sit back and remind myself to enjoy the process because that’s where all the fun is and later on, I’ll appreciate this even more.”