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Friday, July 22, 2016

The Freshman 30

As the blogging world starts getting into back-to-school-content mode, you're probably starting to see a lot of posts that are sharing advice for college - what to bring, study tips, suggestions for handling homesickness, etc.

You're also probably going to see some posts on how to stay healthy in college, and most of those posts are going to be geared towards avoiding the infamous Freshman 15.

Well, for me, the Freshman 15 wasn't the Freshman 15. 

It was the Freshman 30.

The photo on the top is from the night I signed the honor code along with the rest of my class. It was either my 3rd or 4th day of college. The photo on the bottom is from March of my freshman year.

There's a difference of a little over 6 months between the photos.

I've never been slim. I've always struggled with my weight, but I always figured since I was active and ate fairly healthy it would level off one day.

When I got to Rhodes as an excited 18-year old, I was especially - and unusually - excited about one facet of my college career - swimming. I was going to be working out for 3-4, sometimes more, hours a day. I was definitely going to lose weight. I would slim down and tone up - finally. It was the workout plan I needed to move the always growing mass that I could never quite get a hold of. I threw myself into the Rhodes swimming program and worked as hard as I could. We were lifting, doing two-a-days, and doing so much movement that I was sure that I was finally going to look the way I wanted to.

But, much to my dismay, the opposite happened. I ended up gaining 30 pounds in 6 months.

When the swim season ended in February, I knew that I had gained weight. I mean, come on, what freshman hadn't? I was still able to put all of my clothes on so I figured it couldn't be that bad.

In late March, my mom came to visit me for Kappa Delta Mother's Weekend. Almost every time she comes to visit, we grab a quick dinner at this Mexican restaurant that's close to her hotel. I had seen her about two weeks prior because I had gone home for spring break, but when we sat down to dinner that night, our conversation wasn't about the fun parties I'd been to or what we were going to do this weekend.

She told me that both her and my dad had noticed that I didn't quite look right when I came home for spring break. I looked much heavier and uncomfortable. My dad had actually tried to have a conversation like this with me when I was at home for spring break, but I shut him down and wouldn't listen to anything he said. My parents had started hundreds of conversations like this with me before, and I wasn't ready for yet another round of explaining what I was eating, if I was exercising, and if I was trying hard enough.

Unlike every other conversation like this in the past, my mom didn't lead in with the somewhat accusatory questions. She told me that as my mom, she loved me so much, and because of that, she was concerned. I didn't look like myself. My face was swollen, my eyes were pulled to the sides of my face, and I would get out of breath walking up the stairs in our house. As she explained what she was seeing, rather than searching for what I was doing wrong, she suggested that I go to a doctor. She had been seeing a specialist in Atlanta for several years, and as such, he knew that she had two kids. She had been there in the 2 weeks between me being home for break and her visiting in Memphis, and when he asked how I was doing, she told him a little bit about my struggle with maintaining a healthy weight. After she briefly explained that I had been steadily gaining about 20 pounds a year regardless of my diet or exercise, he said, "I think I know what's wrong. If I'm right, I need to see her immediately."

As she told me about her own doctor's appointment, she said, "Victoria, honey, I know this is hard for you. But, I got you an appointment with him if you want to go. It's up to you."

Another two weeks later I was in Atlanta. It was the most grueling trip I have ever been on. It was the day before my 19th birthday, and I was completely overwhelmed. The doctor had so many questions that I didn't really know how to answer and he ordered so many tests that the lab took almost 20 vials of blood. I came home to Chattanooga to celebrate my birthday with my family and then drove back to Memphis to finish out the school year.

Another two weeks later (apparently my medical conditions operate on this two week timeline LOL), I got a call from the doctor. My test results were in. It was the weekend of Rites of Spring, one of the biggest social weekends of the school year. I was getting ready to go out with my friends when my doctor informed me of a small handful of medical conditions that had attributed to my uncontrollable weight gain.

I was sitting in the hallway of my freshman dorm because there were several people in my room and although I was able to hold it together while I was still on the phone with him, the second my mom answered the phone I was sobbing. I didn't know what I was going to do. At that point in time, I didn't really understand anything the doctor had told me. I was so overwhelmed it was all I could do to not start bawling on the phone with him.

If you've been reading Memphis Made for a while, you might have noticed that I've alluded to some medical problems in the past year or so. These are them. To be completely honest with you, they are complete and total b!tches to deal with. They're frustrating and unusual and just plain unfair.

There is a bright side to this story though. Although the causes for my Freshman 30 have completely changed my life, they are not my fault. My inability to be healthy no matter how hard I tried was not my fault. After years of ceaselessly trying to understand why I couldn't be normal, I cannot even begin to explain to you what a relief that was.

The test to diagnose the most significant of my conditions is not incredibly common and very few labs are able to perform it. It was an awful experience, but once I was able to wrap my head around what was happening in my body, I was able to work with my doctor to begin fixing it.

I did not feel ugly during the spring of my freshman year. I felt extremely self conscious, but I figured it was just part of adjusting to college. My doctor put me on several medications to begin to correct the processes that my body was unable to perform on its own. When I returned home for the summer after my freshman year, my parents helped me adjust to the new lifestyle I had to adapt to minimize the impacts of these conditions. With their support and the medication, I was able to lose all of the weight I had gained in that school year and a little extra too.

Of course, heading back to school certainly made it more difficult to maintain the progress I had made. I would frequently forget to take my medications and I think it's pretty safe to say that everyone's mom makes way healthier food than any dining hall ever will. I gained a little of that weight back, but overall, I was still miles ahead of where I had been just a few months prior.

Those conditions are never going to go away. I'm stuck with 'em forever, but on the bright side, there is a lot I can do to minimize the impact they have on my health and - more importantly - on my happiness. For me, being healthy is sort of like climbing a peak-less mountain. I'm never going to get to the top. There is no top. But I can't stop climbing. I owe it to myself and to the people that care about me to try every single day to kick some major medical ass even though it can't completely be done.

If you're still reading this (long post, you're a champ for sticking with me), I would like to impart a piece of advice upon you. Take care of yourself. It's such a seemingly simple task, but it is okay if for you it isn't. It isn't for me. It isn't going to be. You're allowed to prioritize your well-being. In fact, I encourage it.

I'm not sharing this story to detail what I eat every day or what workout routine I adhere to, but to express that sometimes, especially in your freshman year of college, life slaps you in the face a little. It stings like no other, but if you learn how to fight back, you're going to be just fine. Your battle may not be medical. Hell, you may not even have one yet. But if you do, when you do, you can fight it.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this is a great post! I really enjoyed reading this- so inspirational! I'm so glad you're doing better and you have a great outlook on life!

    Sweetly, Sally //


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xx, Victoria