After a week of eating two squares a day in the caf I knew I was going to have the opposite problem—an all-you-can-eat buffet of pretty tasty food all day, every day. There was a pizza bar, burgers and hotdogs, waffle irons with delicious sweet batter, and a cart overflowing with cookies, brownies and cakes. Sure, there was also a long salad bar and plenty of fruit, but those things didn’t interest me nearly as much as schmearing my brownies with peanut butter or the pizza topped with crispy buffalo chicken.
And if I wanted something to eat when the dining hall wasn’t open (which happened quite often because it had horrible hours) my only option was the Grill. This was the fast food option at school. Double cheeseburgers, personal pizzas, paninis, milkshakes, and lots and lots of fries. Their salads were prepackaged bowls of iceberg lettuce, crispy fried chicken, and tomatoes with ranch dressing. They also had some of the most decadent brownies and cake masquerading as blueberry muffins.
This was a popular place to grab a quick breakfast (usually a plain bagel and massive amount of cream cheese) before class or a fourth meal for most students. Without a doubt, I sampled these culinary creations once or twice (or every time I woke up hungover).
This ritual of indulgence occurred twice a day for nearly a month. In that time I gained weight and lost energy. I was napping everyday, snacking through my morning, falling asleep in class.
Very quickly, though, I got fed up with my clothes getting tighter every time I put them on. I got tired of being tired.
So I cut out the junk. No more fries at every meal, massive slices of cake, or burritos the size of full-term babies. I started eating the way I had been doing for years before coming to college—healthily. And you know what?
The weight came off. The need for a daily nap almost completely vanished. I stayed awake in class (unlike in high school). It was amazing how much of a difference my diet could make. And before long I even had enough energy to start working out again.
Then, half way through my spring semester I made another dietary change—I went vegan. I cut out all animal (and bug) products and once again had to learn a new way to maneuver the dining hall.
This change wasn’t terribly difficult since we have a vegan station, but if I ever tried to venture away from this one safe corner, I was shot. It seemed like everything was cooked in butter, smothered in mayo, or generously sprinkled with cheese. Who puts cheese on steamed broccoli? That just seemed ridiculously to me. Like Mrs. Q, the days I could just find plain, unadorned vegetables was a glorious day.
Food I eat now: a big, beautiful, delicious and diverse salad
I make my dining hall sound horrible, I realize. In all honesty, I am luckier than most students. My dining hall uses mostly organic, local foods and practices sustainable dining (no trays, recycled napkins, real plates and silverware, and they compost all leftovers). But pork chops, regardless of the food the pigs were fed and where they come from, are still unhealthy when deep-fried and drowning in gravy.
Once the year ended, I was amazed to see that I had managed to lose a pound or two. But even better than completely avoiding the dreaded freshman fifteen was realizing the power of healthy eating. And realizing that I had the power (and knowledge) to say no to most unhealthy foods.