The Time Fat Continuum aka Thoughts about the DREADED FRESHMAN 15
This post was originally published on the FFF website but I am resurrecting here for two reasons. One, my son is getting ready to go back to college for his sophomore year which means many parents out there have kids leaving for their freshman year and may be starting to panic! Secondly, there was this MSNBC article about Health at Every Size that I NEEDED to share with EVERYONE and thought it just may help stave off the FEAR of the DREADED FRESHMAN FIFTEEN!!
Last August, I was one of many moms, dads, guardians, seeing their first kid off to college. For those of you that have not participated in this simultaneously liberating and wrenching ritual… it is fraught with mixed feelings of joyous relief and abject terror. Never mind that many of us went through this rite of passage as students and survived quite well, thank you very much. Those memories of our own accomplishment are buried deep inside the pentimento-like layers we’ve accumulated over the years of seeing our children do really stupid things.
I mean can you really trust your child to separate and individuate on a college campus when he just recently did his laundry (a miracle in and of itself) but washed his cell phone along with his jeans, sweatshirts and boxers??
How will he ever navigate the bookstore, the dining hall, the classes, the assignments without you there to guide him? Even if you have always prided yourself on NOT being a helicopter mom, this new transition trumps kindergarten, sleep away camp and high school combined.
And so last August, there was once again, an annual disruption in the force. Maybe you felt it maybe you didn’t but if you tuned into the frequency it was like a tidal wave of collective longing, intertwined with a downpour of “I didn’t do enough” and rumbling thunderous roars of, “FREE AT LAST!!”
If the next three years fly by as rapidly as this first year did, I know I will not be alone in my amazement at the cruelty of time’s speed. I will not be alone when I say, he never wrote, he never “cawled,” he never texted, skyped, or emailed me. I will most certainly not be alone in mourning and accepting that my son and I will never live together in timeless symbiotic harmony again. Even if after graduation he has to move in with me for awhile, it will be as a stop-over, NOT as my child, growing up. That is part of a healthy separation/individuation and I will not resist.
But that is the future…I want to talk about now. It is almost June and there is another ritual about to take place around the country. This rite of passage, however, I am consciously and purposefully removing myself from, resisting the societal peer pressure to join in, and hopefully convincing at least one other person NOT to drink the Kool Aid.
What should be a joyous time of reunion between college weary kids and kid starved adults is too often tainted by the adult’s obsession with the dreaded Freshman Fifteen. This term refers to the weight gain that many first year college students experience and has been deemed so important of a phenomenon that according to Wikipedia it carries weight as far away as Australia and New Zealand where it is referred to as First Year Fatties, Fresher spread, or Fresher Five – the latter referring to a five kilogram gain).
Instead of kids returning home and being greeted with loving embraces and questions about classes, friends, and campus antics, they are being squeezed with caliper like hugs assessing newly acquired body fat and interrogated about their weight gain.
Who they are and what they have learned becomes secondary to judgments about their appearance and their character. After all, if they were better people they could and would have resisted eating the carbohydrate laden, fast food choices offered in university cafeterias. Not to mention the all you can eat dessert options and the beer, beer, beer, and more beer that students are programmed to believe are an integral part of the college experience. Never mind that they passed all of their classes. Never mind that they were able to figure out the book store, make friends, get their laundry done without having to replace another cell phone. None of that matters in the face of the dreaded weight gain!!! The goals and worries we had just nine months ago, while proven to have been unwarranted, are left uncelebrated. They have been replaced by the horror of FIFTEEN POUNDS!!!! AAARRGGHH!!!
Seriously, is this really what you want your reunion to be about? I know that for many people they feel this is a health issue and if they don’t say anything they are not helping their child, but trust me…you aren’t helping if you are ignoring their triumphs. This overt negative emphasis that bombards the returning soon- to- be- sophomores, brings with it the onset of ineffective, compensatory and self-punitive yo-yo dieting behaviors that will last long past their college years. Their sense of self will be defined by the scale instead of their accomplishments and who they are will be assessed by their BMI not their GPA.
Is this really a course of study you want your kid to major in???