How I Messed up The Freshman 15

Ah, the glorious Freshman 15. The wonderful world of college lures you with in with alcohol (beer), free pizza, lattes to help you study, and candy to help you socialize. It’s not cooking for yourself but probably not having a kitchen your first year either, not taking full advantage of the campus gym and maybe dropping from your levels of high school activity.

Oh, wait, that’s not right. It means set meal times without snacking all day every day cause you’re so busy. It means walking everywhere, free water bottles, and a free (kind of, it’s probably a mandatory fee) to your campus gym.

No, hang on, I think I was right the first time.

The Freshman 15 is the like the plague of college- everyone knows about it, everyone tries to avoid it, it happens to the majority of people, and it’s kind of justifiable (free pizza? Again? Well okay…) But here’s my dirty little secret- I screwed it up. I showed up on campus after a gap year from high school and dropped nearly 10 pounds by the time Thanksgiving break rolled around.


The Background: The first two photos were taken in 2010, during the end of my gap year and the fall of my freshman year. The first was from the Canadian Summer Senior Nationals that year-I know the quality isn’t great but you get the idea. The second photo was from my very first weekend on campus. After graduating high school in June of 2009, I put off college for a year because I wanted to pursue the recruiting process and try to get a scholarship. I got a part-time job at Starbucks and trained full time. For a YEAR, every single day was either spent working, training, traveling, competing, or a combination of any of the above. Some days I’d train for seven hours and work for four hours, or work from 5:30am to 2pm and then head to the pool for a couple of hours. I ate almost every meal in my car, opting for convenience over quality. I stayed awake after those continuous 5am alarm clocks with latte after latte, and assumed I could eat whatever I felt like because I was training 30+ hours per week. I would go out and drink with my friends who were still in Calgary on weekends. (I also went on the pill during that year- I know the jury is still out on whether or not the pill makes you gain weight, but lets just throw it in here for fun shall we?)

The Screw Up: When I got the University of Iowa campus in the fall of 2010, I didn’t actually realize how much weight I had gained in the past year. I assumed I was still around where I was at in high school, and didn’t realize I had anything to lose. So when a couple weeks in all my clothes started fitting looser, I bought a scale and checked it out. November of my freshman year and I had lost HOW many pounds?? After some evaluation, here’s what I figured out happened:

  1. I started walking EVERYWHERE. When I still lived in Calgary, I drove constantly. To work, to practice, home, out with friends. I also hated the Cambus system, to me it was always crowded and not reliable and when campus is so pretty how could you not want to walk? Walking became my number one mode of transportation, which was basically spurts throughout every single day to get to my dorm, classes, the pool, if we wanted to go out to eat, etc.
  2. The cafeteria hours kind of sucked. I’m serious! The dorm where I lived closed down dinner at like 7pm, preventing me from eating my life away in the evenings because I was tired. I ended up drinking a lot of tea in the evenings (I had an electric kettle) instead of reaching for leftovers simply because tea was accessible.
  3. The snacks I was able to keep in the dorms too ended up being more of the healthy variety just based on what I had available to me- a mini fridge and some shelving. I’d have apples, granola bars, string cheese, peanut butter, or air popped popcorn.
  4. I escaped Starbucks. Due my busy schedule and new found college-student budget (aka frugal and broke feeling), the only coffee I reached for on a day to day basis was from the machine in the cafeteria in the mornings, with just some skim milk and sugar. No more flavored sugary messes with whipped cream for this girl. When I felt like I needed an energy boost, I’d reach for water or tea without really thinking about it.
  5. This one sounds absurd, but it’s true. THE WEATHER. Without Calgary’s earlier, long, freezing cold winters with minimal daylight meant I was reaching for less comfort foods. Fall stretched on for what felt like forever, so I continued to reach for things like fresh apples and salads because it seemed to fit the mood better than chili and cornbread or a warm scone.

Every point above is what actually happened, but just to reiterate, NONE of it was planned. I did not come to college thinking “oh wow, I have to lose weight.” I never restricted calories, didn’t increase the amount of cardio I did from my gap year, and never felt like I was incredibly unhealthy during my gap year (which wasn’t AWFUL I know- I still had pretty high levels of physical activity!) Circumstances simply allowed my body to be in healthier state, and the weight I didn’t need sort of accidentally vanished. I also did this while still enjoying all those awesome parts of college- kegs, free pizza, and cheap Mexican food for students!

The After- It’s been a couple years since I mixed up the freshman 15, and since then I’ve lost another couple pounds but nothing major. I’m still in the range my body is healthiest, and I have learned a an absolute TON about health and nutrition!

  • My attitude towards alcohol has done a complete 180 (post coming soon)
  • I’ve learned the difference between low-cal, low-fat, no-sugar, and clean eating
  • I learned to COOK!!
  • Strength training and weights has given me more control of my body
  • I’ve learned and competed dives I could hardly imagine as a freshman
  • Cardio workouts have been less about quality and more about quality

The second two photos were both taken my Junior year. The first was in the spring at a house party, and the second was a hotel room mirror pic from my trip to Tallahassee. Even seeing the photos now show me what a difference proper nutrition can make- if it’s a TOTAL ACCIDENT. Messing up the Freshman 15 to me represents the ultimate in healthy living- it’s not obsessive, but forgiving. It’s more about awareness than counting calories, and it’s about quality fuel. It’s not about skinny, but about being the best version of you you can be. 

Comment below with how lifestyle and health habits have changed! Was it college? Was it graduation?

Till next time!

Lauren Elyse



6 thoughts on “How I Messed up The Freshman 15

  1. Something similar happened to me when I first got my teaching job. During the two years I spent looking for a teaching job, I put on weight without even realizing it. (Probably because I was unhappy.) After my first year or two of teaching, I had to replace almost my entire wardrobe because everything was lose and baggy looking on me. Now I’m working on getting into a healthier lifestyle and I’ve found I’m happier when I’m healthier.


    • I completely agree with you Pam! Health can be directly correlated with happiness- of course when there’s a ton of stuff going on health seems to slip some how. I found when I focus on foods and activities that make me FEEL good, the weight just seems to figure itself out!


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