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Here you are, again, in the Downing Student Union food court, waiting in the long Chick-fil-A line, knowing you should be at Fresh Food Company or Burrito Bowl, eating something with lettuce on it. You’ve heard you need to drop your “freshman 15,” you need to cut your calories in half, run everywhere, maybe take up a dance class, CrossFit or hot yoga in all the spare time you have between your part-time work schedule and your 15 hours of class a week. But here you are, standing in the Chick-fil-A line, waiting to fill your body with a fatty, delicious, diet-ruining meal. And you know what? Good for you. 

The freshman 15 seems so predictable and yet so unpreventable. If you’ve done your research, you’ll know that things such as meal prepping, macro-counting, and SoulCycling can help knock the college weight off, or, better yet, prevent it altogether. Yeah, you can put in the extra hours, sweating to “earn” a Subway sandwich, reducing yourself and your calorie count, or you can get a burger, kick your feet up and rejoice in your belly rolls. Here are some tips on how to do just that

1. Follow the right people

Scrolling through your social media feed, it’s easy to compare yourself to that one girl you went to high school with that’s a size two and “living off the land” in Greece. Instead of looking at her all day, fill your feed with some gorgeous skinny, chunky, fat, pimply, radiant ladies, men and everything in between. Megan Jayne Crabbe (@bodyposipanda) is a great place to start! She brings a cool, funny and sexy light to body positivity, and her sister Gemma is the ultimate icon. Other accounts to follow would be nonbinary Ruby Allegra (@rvbyallegra), Stevie Blaine (@bopo.boy) for some male beauty, and Kenzie Brenna (@kenziebrenna) for a daily dose of both reality and sunshine. Filling your feed with different types of people can make your day a little brighter and make you love your hips and dips a little more. 

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2. Take time to destress

Stress may not feel like a factor in your day-to-day struggle with body image, but after looking deeper, you may realize it has a significant impact. When you are more distressed, all other issues may feel out of proportion, and if you are someone struggling with body image, stress can exacerbate feelings associated with that. If you’re having a hard time with looking at yourself, try listening to music, meditating or taking a hot shower. Relaxing into your body can ultimately lead to a better understanding of it, and a better appreciation of what it does for you. Your mind and body are working hard for you. Take care of them, and they’ll take care of you. 

3. Dance (but please don’t fall) in the shower 

We have reached the point in any good body positivity listicle where I tell you to dance in the shower. Yes. Dance in the shower. OK, this may seem silly (and embarrassing for those with communal showers), but it is beyond worth it. Spending the kind of time with your body in the shower to clean and nourish yourself is great, but taking that additional time to have a little dance and celebrate yourself can make it much more worthwhile. This isn’t just for women, either! Everyone can and will benefit from further depleting the university’s hot water supply in the quest of self-love and shower therapy. 

4. Enjoy your shapes

You are a construction of gorgeous shapes, hills, mountains, curves, bumps, ridges and anything else you want to throw in there. The next time you find yourself dissecting your body in the mirror, stop yourself. Your body has different shapes from different angles; this is exciting, not scary! You are allowed to be lumpy and bumpy. In fact, it is expected! Run your hands across your shapes, identify them, even name them if you want to. Really take the time to appreciate your landscape. It is beautiful and deserves appreciation. 

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5. Your acne is normal

Remember that skin positivity is body positivity, too. With fluctuations in eating habits, stress and hormones, pimples happen. Sometimes they happen a lot. This does not devalue you. Do what makes you happy with your skin. Nourish and wash it, but when pimples pop up, stay chill. There’s no reason to freak out. Your body is doing what it was made to do, and that is OK. Revel in your scars and treat your blackheads like jewels. 

6. Hugs not hate

Even with all this lovely advice on appreciating your shapes in the mirror and dancing in the shower, sometimes you look at your stomach or your thighs or your arms and you think “God, I hate my _____” or “Man, I’m so ______.” Think about it this way — if you found someone talking that way about themselves, what would you do? What would you say? Give yourself the courtesy of those same affirmations you give others, and be kind enough to be your own safe space. Whenever you feel like you hate a part of your body, give yourself a hug. Again, I know, it might be awkward at first. Whatever. Give yourself a hug, because right now you need it, and so does your body. Take the time to thank whatever piece of you you’re mad at, come to terms with it and move on with your day. 

7. Spend time with people you love 

This feels a bit obvious, but spending time with positive people you love will take your mind off the ever-lurking expectations set by the diet industry. Go out, be with friends, be with family and treat yourself. Simply surrounding yourself with people who value you will give you a greater sense of self love and compassion for those around you. Try giving a gift or helping someone who needs it. Giving to those in need will take your mind away from yourself while doing something good for another person. 

8. Stop trying to fit into your high school clothes

Just stop it. OK? It’s not going to happen. Shopping is difficult, especially after a major body change, but the size of clothing is arbitrary. Who cares what number on the chart you are? Get some new, looser jeans, let your legs breathe and get that circulation flowing into the ol’ toes! 

9. Exercise and eat 

This one, I know, seems totally counterintuitive. Why focus on food and exercise if the goal is to be body-positive? Well, a healthy relationship with food and exercise can lead to a healthier mindset. Exercise can increase energy, raise metabolism, help fight sickness and raises those oh-so-important serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain.  Read carefully, this is the most important part of this tip — you should exercise if you want to! Only exercise if your body craves it, if you want to and you feel it will actually be beneficial to your mental and physical well being. Also, test the waters and find a form of exercise that you actually enjoy, running isn’t for everyone and it may not be for you. Don’t exercise for weight loss and stop whenever it feels best for your body. Try to eat intuitively, eating whenever you want, not only when you are hungry. Stop restricting foods for yourself. Nourish yourself with whatever message your body sends. This will eventually restore you back to your natural, comfortable state. 

10. Body neutrality 

All right. So you’ve followed all the positive people, you’ve de-stressed, you danced in the shower (and, hopefully, didn’t fall), you felt every shape your body had to offer, you had a conversation on why your pimples are perfect, you hugged yourself, you gave to others, you bought new jeans, you went for a swim, and you’re telling me you still feel bad about yourself? Well, here’s the good news: It doesn’t matter what you or anyone else thinks about your body because you are not an object of sexual or aesthetic gratification. Your purpose is not to be appealing or enticing to other people. Your job isn’t even to be beautiful for yourself. Your job is to go out and conquer the world. Your job is to live and soak up every little bit of joy you can in the world because you deserve that every single day. You deserve those life experiences because we aren’t going to be here forever. In the end, who cares what you had for breakfast or how your double chin looked in that photo? You are a creature unto yourself. Eat that chicken sandwich. Go eat the world. 

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