College can be overwhelming, especially for new students. There are assignments to submit, tests to study for, social events to attend and barely any time for sleep. This constant bustle of college life doesn’t leave much room in our schedules for nutrition, and in a big city such as Miami, the pressure to keep up with looks can lead to body image issues and a culture that’s all about appearances.
The prospect of gaining the dreaded “freshman 15” has scared some students so much that they resort to drastic, unhealthy methods of preventing it, resulting in another problem altogether: a sort of “reverse freshman 15.” Today, up to 20 percent of college students claim to have an eating disorder, according to the Walden Center for Education and Research—and in 2011, a University Oregon study revealed that most college students don’t even eat one serving of fruits and vegetables per day. The lack of nutrition is widespread, and multifaceted.
At a popular school such as the University of Miami, body positivity can often be easier said than done. People often put immense pressure on themselves to look a certain way, to keep up with the glitz and glamour that surrounds them. While the students themselves often celebrate diversity and self-confidence, the coveted “Miami standard” the area is known for can still be hard to escape. Overcoming it calls for changes in how we see, and treat, ourselves.
Like any woman in her 20s, I too have felt unhappy with what I see in the mirror. One way I was able to combat unhealthy trends was discovering that how I feel about myself is directly related to the kind of people who surround me. I chose to focus my attention on spending time with the loyal friends in my life that had stuck by me, and less on those who were content letting the friendship fade away
When I narrowed my inner circle, it positively affected everything in my life, especially how I saw myself. By strengthening friendships with those who genuinely rooted for my success, I became more accepting of my flaws and insecurities, instead of being hindered by them.
Practicing balance and taking the shame out of treating yourself also helps. Something as simple as having breakfast every day can promote body positivity and self-care by giving the body the fuel it needs to feel and perform its best. According to a 2006 study from Saint Martin’s University, this simple step alone can help students improve their short-term memory retention in classes following breakfast.
Once I began to implement balance in my life regarding food, I felt a huge shift. Academic accomplishments, being a loyal friend, and treating others kindly proved to be much more important goals. It’s still a daily pep talk I give myself, but it has made me happier knowing that others cannot define me by my appearance because I do not define myself by it.
There is no such thing as the perfect body, and there never will be. I’ve found that it is much better to be happy than perfect. We can reach this happiness by not adhering to society’s unrealistic standards, instead setting our own standards and telling ourselves each day that we’re more than enough.
Nicole Macias is a junior majoring in English.