WIAW Goes to College
I think it’s fitting to start this post with the Asher Roth classic, “I Love College”! This was my jam during my sophomore year.
What wasn’t my jam was some of the food I lived off of! College is the time period during which I became more adventurous and expanded my palate. It also is the time period during which I developed my eating disorder. I had a lot of different food phases in college. I went from a freshman year of fourth-meals to senior year of starting recovery and learning that eating a rare fourth meal wasn’t going to kill me (especially when I’d skipped the day’s first…second…etc meals). I figured I’d start with sharing some freshman year faves and end with the foodie faves I started to explore both before I developed my ED (when I started trying to “tone up”) and after I entered recovery.
So about that fourth meal…
My go-to late night meals freshman year consisted of honey BBQ boneless wings, cheese pizza dipped in ranch or bleu cheese dressing, calzones, and Domino’s CinnaStix and Cheesy Bread. Yeah, told you I used to eat very differently! Toward the beginning of my entry to college I’d say I was ordering late-night food every night! It was at this point that some freshman pounds definitely crept on.
I loved visiting our Student Union’s food court for chips and queso, loaded baked potato soup, and meatball grinders. I had a bad habit of eating meatball grinders after my afternoon classes and promptly returning to my dorm to nap.
My house-and-dorm-party drink of choice was vodka and sugar-laden OJ. To this day the smell of OJ makes me think of Dubra and I can’t ever use it as a mixer.
The choices of early college Caitlin…
I recall a time when I ate some peanut butter (I’d still only touch Jif Reduced Fat Creamy back then – extra sugar much?) as fuel, and set off on a walk to the gym with some friends. My guy friends came along because they were going to the food court. I ended up staying with them at the food court, ordering/eating a brownie, and never making it to the gym. OH BOY.
My group always went to Friendly’s for birthdays because it was on-campus and rarely did any of us have access to a car. I ALWAYS ordered a sundae (three-scoops minimum). For my entree, I rarely strayed from a burger and fries.
When home from school breaks I only worked part-time, so I spent most of my free time going out to eat.
My boyfriend at the time was always trying to save money, so whenever I was with him (AKA a lot) we’d eat fast food.
I was always “the girl with a bottomless stomach” who ate “whatever she wanted” and I was pretty confident. I had parts of my body I disliked (my stomach) but never enough to take any action.
At the end of my sophomore year I got a job in the Student Union’s food court coffee shop and started experimenting with drinking sugary coffee drinks from both there and Starbucks. At one point I was so addicted to caffeine that I would get a splitting headache if I didn’t have at least three coffee drinks daily (and all three were full of sugar and fat).
Trying to shape up…
At the beginning of my junior year I reached a breaking point with how dissatisfied I felt with my body. I’d gained some more weight and though I’ve never been overweight and know that, I didn’t feel confident or comfortable at all. I didn’t feel good about myself. So I started going to the gym, experimenting with group fitness, and making small changes.
At first I went the super-processed route. I strove for less calories, not clean calories. My breakfast often consisted of a FiberOne bar, my morning coffee was full of sugar-free syrup, and I used 100-calorie packs to tame my sweet tooth. (On a side note, when going to look up FiberOne links/photos for this post, I stumbled upon their new 90-calorie Cinnamon Coffee Cakes. I kiiinda want them.)
I also knew when to congratulate myself for a week of regular workouts or healthy eats. I indulged more on weekends in normal stuff like pizza at parties and margaritas at restaurants (hooray for finally turning 21!)
I was also becoming, the more and more I learned about healthy food options, an enthusiastic foodie! I started trying new-to-me restaurants and interesting food combos.
But I had a number I wanted to see on the scale. I lived for that number, and just could not seem to get there. I felt like I’d done all I could and yet I still couldn’t hit that magic number that I thought would make me happy. I started to take more drastic measures.
The food becomes less…
…and less and less. I broke up with my boyfriend the summer before my senior year and threw myself into diet and exercise. I kept getting compliments the more weight I lost, and received praise and admiration for my discipline. Hunger and cardio became an addiction.
I had a rule in my head that I had to do 200 minutes of cardio a week, because I’d read 150 minutes of moderate cardio per week was good for weight maintenance, and I wanted to lose. So 200 seemed reasonable – but it was all or nothing, it all had to be intense. If I wasn’t out of breath, I didn’t even count it toward my 200 minutes.
I stopped weighing myself once I hit that goal number and decided that I still wanted to lose more weight because I remained dissatisfied with my appearance. I didn’t want to see the number keep going down because I knew I was hurting myself. After a routine OBGYN appointment weigh-in revealed I’d lost 25 pounds in the last few months, I knew I had to call someone.
Recovering in college…
My senior year of college was a constant recovery battle – a battle with my mind to allow myself to eat and not work out, a battle with the doctors who wanted to send me to in-patient treatment, a battle with my friends who expressed concern when I declined their invites to hit the dining hall for breakfast. I went out to the bars on weekends, but would only drink straight alcohol or rum and Diet Coke, and only if I hadn’t eaten dinner.
I would come home from the bar, order pizza, and wake up the next morning filled with regret – and still NOT filled in my stomach. I could not understand that my body needed that food it kept screaming for. I had certain “safe foods” that I lived off of: salads, whole wheat English muffins with Laughing Cow cheese, Dannon Light ‘n Fit yogurt, fruit. And repeat.
Slowly I started to see that more food, or not-perfectly-clean food, wasn’t going to make me blow up. But it’s still a daily struggle. Though today I can eat foods that a year ago I never could have eaten, or eaten as often as I do (and I’m always trying to tell myself that’s not too often at all), when I graduated from college I was still at a weight that was too low and my doctor, nutritionist, and therapist still were pressing more intensive treatment. Once I started this blog I started doing better, but have still had dark periods and setbacks. I’ll never forget that senior year of college, trying to chug water before being weighed, or not being able to sleep the night before a doctor’s appointment in fear my weight would be too low and I’d be “sent away”.
I’m so happy that I’m past that dangerously low point now, but that doesn’t mean I’m recovered. My food habits changed drastically throughout college and I still have changes to make now in my mindset. I still have crutches I need to stop leaning on. This post ended up being more “about me” than WIAW, but that’s okay. It’s what I needed it to be. Now I just need to get where I need to be.
What were your food habits like in college? Did they evolve at all?
If you are interested in healthy eating, when/how did that interest start?
Did you have any body images struggles in college?