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The Surprising Thing That Happened When I Gained the Freshman 15

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"Listen, I'm not letting you eat another slice! You can't be fat if you want to be a TV reporter!" my relative scolded me. Though this person was well meaning, her crude comment only left me with a frown on my face and my eyebrows crossed.

Most college students talk about the dreaded freshman 15, but during my first year in college, I gained not 15, but close to 25 pounds. Despite hearing friends and relatives criticize my new body, I quite frankly am not the least bit bothered by my weight gain. In fact, I absolutely love it! As bae likes to remind me, "There's more to love!" I may have stretch marks on my hips and some cellulite on my stomach, but believe it or not, I admire them. What could be cooler than practically being a tiger-human?

While I grew up feeling verbally attacked about my slim build, I never saw my small frame as a bad thing. Whatever, I thought. I turned on the TV and tuned into The Tyra Banks Show to watch her "So What?" Campaign, a movement that encouraged people to overlook their "flaws" and love themselves enough to say — as Leah Remini did —"Yeah, I'm chubby...so frigging what?!"

My biggest regret is not sharing what I learned with other girls my age. I assumed that only adults cared about their changing bodies, until one of my closest friends told me she had an eating disorder. I still recall hearing her coughing out our cafeteria lunch in the girls' bathroom at school, and when I attempted to ask her if she was OK, she screamed at me and stormed out. Unfortunately, she would be the first of many classmates (both male and female) to open up about their struggles with bulimia, anorexia and binge-eating. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, only 1 in 10 women with eating disorders receive treatment and up to 24 million people (of all ages and genders) suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. alone. These statistics are appalling, and it's time we each made a stronger effort to spread body positivity to our closest friends and family members. You don't have to be a celebrity or public figure to make a change — start small.

Now, I will admit that I could eat healthier (which rings true for most of us, no?), but it seems that no matter what my weight is at any given time, someone always has something to say, whether it be my family doctor or a teasing relative. I wanted to write this blog post because when I recently went shopping for clothes to accommodate my new physique, there were moments when I felt like I should've been more upset with my heavier appearance. It kills me to think that others might also be thinking that their own bodies should repulse them. Is it wrong for me to have a gut? Maybe I should start working out, I thought to myself as the voices in my head echoed the negative comments I was being bombarded with on a daily basis. I wasn't sure how to feel about my body. I personally felt happy to have a fuller figure, but people around me didn't hesitate to remind me, "Having to shop for new pants because you gained weight? That's not something you should be proud of and happy about." Well, that sucks for them because I'm pretty happy to go shopping any day.

I feel very blessed to have a healthy, functioning body. Considering that there are people suffering from painful, chronic illnesses in their bodies, it feels unfair for me to complain about mine. We take simple things like being able to walk, swallow, hear and see for granted. Take time to appreciate your body and how well it works instead of highlighting its minute flaws. As for others, YOU decide how much you let others' comments get to you. That being said, it's difficult to ignore comments, especially when they're repeated to you multiple times a day. My favorite way to combat negative critique is through gratitude; be thankful for every sense and limb you have. The human body is a complex, fascinating thing, and it's about time we stopped criticizing it.
This is a photo of me trying on a prom dress at H&M (with my gut feeling suffocated by the dress). When I look at these photos, yes, I spot a difference in my appearance, but no, I'm not ashamed of it. Our culture pays a lot of attention to aesthetics, but don't let any person or advertisement let you think for a second that you are anything but a fabulous queen (or king). Love yourselves — and don't sweat the freshmen 15.
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