By now, every current Boston College student has been in college for anywhere from six months to three and a half years. This is undeniably a formative period in our lives, complete with spurts of personal growth and, often, a side of physical growth as well.
As freshmen on football game days, we bonded with new friends, tried unsuccessfully to memorize the words to “For Boston” and soaked in the overwhelming sea of gold that is Alumni Stadium. As sophomores, juniors and seniors, game days marked sweet reunions with old friends as well as some more failed attempts to memorize “For Boston,” though the sea of gold started to feel less overwhelming and more like home. And for all four years, these memories were enhanced by the delicious scents of someone’s mom’s baked goods on Shea, grills ablaze in the Mods and overpriced hot dogs at the concession stands. Between the burgers, brownies and beers, our Superfan shirts got just a little bit tighter from one game to the next.
The never-ending stream of midterms and finals teaches us lessons in procrastination, from sustaining an all-nighter on coffee and vending machine snacks to making up for a lost night of sleep with a mid-afternoon nap. These unhealthy habits do not fit in the skills section of a resume, even though the ability to consume excessive amounts of caffeine and sit in a chair for hours on end while staring at a computer screen is pivotal to surviving just about any internship.
And then there is Late Night, where BC students go to worship over piles of mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers and French fries after an evening of Solo cups filled with ungodly substances. Late Night, where we bond with the semi-acquaintances that we would otherwise consider giving the BC look-away because there is no room for shame in a crowded dining hall after midnight. Late Night, where we find redemption after a disappointingly uneventful night in the Mods. Late Night, where we are made to feel special by the workers who toss in an extra mozzarella stick or two for asking nicely. Late Night, we are forever indebted to you.
These moments, for better or for worse, have been staples to my lifestyle as a BC student. Throw in a semester abroad in Italy and a crew of roommates who share in my affinity for Pad Thai and ice cream, and, well—it’s safe to say that my current figure is not what it used to be in high school. No healthy amount of trips up and down the Million Dollar Staircase or visits to the Plex could return my body to the shape that it was in when my meals were home-cooked and my bedtime rarely passed midnight.
This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and given that BC goes on spring break in a few short days, it could not have come at a better time. Weight bashing has infiltrated the campus dialogue, mostly in the form of self-deprecating conversations between friends. The fear of gaining weight can drive students to feel more remorse over skipping a day at the gym than sleeping through a class, or more shame over ordering pizza after a night out than running a bar tab into the triple digits. Instead of self-love, we choose self-punishment.
The phrase “eating disorder” is often treated as a black-and-white label, as though people can be categorized based on some kind of a checklist that renders a person anorexic or bulimic. But somewhere between BC’s often-unhealthy lifestyle and the pressure to maintain our reputation as an overall attractive student body rests a grey area in which we forget how to love every inch of our ever-growing selves.
While I am all about making health-conscious choices, the language and attitudes behind "healthy" goals often removes personal well-being from the equation, leaving the desire for acceptance from peers in its place. In reality, however, our preoccupation with the way that others perceive our weight is arbitrary, as we are harsher critics toward ourselves than we could ever be toward one another.
Maybe you’re slightly disappointed in yourself for eating pasta for dinner instead of a salad. But by harping on this relatively harmless decision—especially by complaining to your friends—you hurt not only yourself but also the people who are forced to internalize your complaints. As these self-destructive conversations invade campus, they become toxic for any person in the vicinity of this public sacrifice of self-love.
Self-doubt is contagious, and my most self-conscious moments tend to be facilitated by listening to others bemoan their own bodies. I frequently hear girls who are in great physical shape (and quite frankly, skinnier than I am) refer to their weights in a negative light, and I cannot help but wonder about myself. If she thinks she’s fat, what does that make me? Should I be more worried about my own weight if this person’s standards of beauty are that high?
But that’s the thing. When I hear other people whine about their figures, my mind instantly goes to my own body. I am far more concerned with my appearance than anyone else’s, and I would go so far as to say that I genuinely do not care about or even really notice my friends' weight. I am too busy being self-absorbed and turning other peoples' observations about themselves into moments of self-reflection. And it is exhausting. I am exhausted with the effort of keeping up with the campus-wide weight bashing, because in the end, we are all too preoccupied with ourselves to truly judge one another's weight, anyways.
Growth—and yes, that includes weight gain—is a fact of college that should be celebrated, not scorned. Every pound that I have gained since coming to college has accompanied a significantly more substantial amount of personal growth, and for that, I can only be grateful.