How Gaining “The Freshman 15” Taught Me To Love My Body

Puberty was an inconvenience. I was growing out of leotards, tights and ballet shoes faster than my mom could buy them, and I saw my body change every day as I stood in front of the mirror in class. I was suddenly taller than all the other girls in my class and almost all the boys in my school. I was still as lanky as a string bean, but I was just starting to get softer around the stomach and the hips, not to mention the protuberances that started to grow out of my chest.

It’s hard enough finding your center of balance during pirouettes, but it’s even harder when that center is changing every day.

That was when I learned to hate my body.

When all the other girls in my ballet class were still rail-thin. When the girls in my fifth-grade class started to talk about shaving, and I noticed the soft hair on my knees was ugly and unfeminine. When I learned that girls shaved their armpits, and tried even though nothing was there. And of course, when I put on a little weight.

I was by no means even close to overweight, but in my young and impressionable mind, if I wasn’t the skinniest girl in the ballet studio, I was too fat. I carried that mentality with me until I got to college.

Through middle school, I watched as the rest of the girls my age started to get proportionally normal, but I still didn’t fit in my skin.

Through high school, I started restricting my eating, then binge eating a few days later, and continued cyclically. I attended summer intensives where there were girls much smaller and better than me, and only one or two boys tall enough to partner me. 

Freshman year of college, I compared myself to every person of either sex that walked past me. Was she skinnier than me? Was he tall enough to not be scared off by my 5 feet and 7 inches? She was tanner, he was leaner, and so on and so forth.

And then I gained the “freshman 15”. And then a bonus 5, for those who are really serious about their mozzarella stick consumption.

And you know what? I’ve never felt better.

Sure, there was a period of adjustment. I was so so so angry at myself for letting me get like this  – this being a weight that falls in the “healthy” category, not different from my old weight. I did some serious soul searching and discovered something that I hadn’t felt since I was 10 – I loved my body.

Yeah, there were some new stretch marks, and a bit more tummy than before, but it still carried me across campus every day to class. It still let me see all the colors of the world around me. It still let me move and jump and sing and even, though I didn’t think it was possible dance. I can eat what I want and not have to worry. I can have that latte if I need a pick-me-up in the middle of the day. My weight doesn’t matter, it has no bearing on my health, my worth, or my attractiveness. It’s just a number on a machine!

My body does so much for me, and I had hated it for so long because it didn’t look exactly like the prima ballerinas on the covers of my magazines?? How ridiculous!

My body may be different now, but so am I. I’m not a pre-pubescent child, why should I look like one? I look like me, I feel like me, and for that, body, I am forever grateful.

Madeline Portzline

Madeline Portzline, Penn State University Major: English Her heart belongs to: bees, books, farmer's market fruit, moleskin journals, and Oxford commas Take her away to: Green Gables, Shakespeare & Co., or a little A-frame in the PNW

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