Ballet to Barbells - The Freshman 15

The dreaded Freshman 15. It gets nearly all of us.

Growing up I had very involved parents. They would set rules and stick to their guns about them. They were by no means “stage parents”, but boundaries and rules are good for kids and great for teenagers. I’m and half willing to bet this is where the Freshman15 actually comes from.

There were certain standards in my house. You were only allowed one can of soda a day. No dessert if you didn’t finish your dinner. Cereal is not an acceptable dinner substitute and we eat our meals as a family at specific times of the day, especially dinner.

I had a pretty decent amount of freedom around the rest of my life. I was involved in the dance team and Odyssey of the Mind, so it’s not like I had a whole lot of time to go screwing around and terrorizing the streets. But I could pretty much come and go as I pleased.

So when I moved off to college, the biggest change in the amount of freedom I had was in my food habits and choices.

I could drink a soda whenever I wanted. I could eat cereal for every meal and snacks. I could make a run to the vending machine whenever I was nibble-ish. I was only accountable to myself and it felt amazing!

That amazing feeling led me to over indulge in all of the above. I was pretty active, walking around a HUGE campus, riding my bike, taking dance classes.

But as they say, “You can’t out run a donut.”

It all caught up to me. And as a dancer, you can bet I FREAKED THE FUCK OUT when I realized that I no longer had my four-pack abs and that by fall my jeans weren’t fitting like they used to. But I’m so healthy! I’m a dancer!

My first line of attack was to switch out from regular soda to diet soda. That took some getting used to, but I love my sweet, sweet carbonation. I had embraced diet soda by the end of a week.

Then I started running. You see, when I was on dance team in high school, our team director was a big advocate of asking us to run a mile a couple times a week so we didn’t get out of shape over the summer. So as far as exercise goes, dance and running were all I knew.

But I hated running even then. So I didn’t exactly do enough of it to matter.

By Christmas break, I had put a stop on the weight gain, but I hadn’t put a dent into weight loss.

This is a similar cycle that I see people take over and over again.

  • They notice weight gain.
  • They do a couple things to stop the gain.
  • The weight doesn’t come off and they get frustrated.
  • It’s back to business as usual.

Part of the problem is there are so many conflicting suggestions out there:

  • Weight loss is easy, just cut out sugar!
  • Weight loss is impossible, says a recent study.
  • The best way to lose weight is to lift weights and increase your metabolism.
  • But Tracy Anderson says you shouldn’t lift more than 3 lbs!

People get stuck in analysis paralysis. There are so many paths to choose from, and the potential consequences of taking the wrong path are so high (more weight gain!), that they end up doing nearly nothing.

I learned about the Transtheoretical Model from Coach Stevo. There are six stages to making a change:

  1. Pre-contemplation – “Shut up, I’m all good.”
  2. Contemplation – “OK, maybe I’m not all good.”
  3. Preparation – “Yeah, I’m thinking about getting better soon.”
  4. Action – “I’m doing something I need to do to get better, dammit.”
  5. Maintenance – “I’m better, but still working at it.”
  6. Termination – “I’m pretty good and man, was I fooling myself back then.”

Based on my own experiences and on conversations I’ve had, most people get stuck at #3. The step from #3 to #4 is pretty huge. It’s not just that change is scary, but choosing one way in which that change will be made is no easy task. What KIND of diet? What KIND of exercise? What KIND of person do I see myself as and what would that person choose to do?

Shortly after the Christmas break, I was introduced to weight training, which pretty much changed the course of my life.

But that’s a story for next time.