Dear First Years...

University is a huge change, and your body is far from unaffected. After over a decade of a certain lifestyle, everything has changed all of a sudden. This is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, it is a very important milestone of many people’s lives. However, it is important to acknowledge these changes, with the understanding that this is a new challenge to overcome.

By this point, every newcomer to university has realized that location is the least of the changes you are undergoing. Often coinciding with turning 18 years old, new students are away from their parents, most for the first time, caring for themselves, able to imbibe, and thrown into an endless cycle of lectures, essays and parties. Students have so much more responsibility and freedom, and first year is all about learning to balance the two. But another big change, one hardly spoken of, can be the changes to your body.

Consider the following:

You played football prior to university, but upon arriving, you decided to give up sports and concentrate on academics and other societies. After a couple months, even if you go to the gym once or twice a week, you’ll start to notice you’ve lost some muscle. Without the sports practices and regimes you used to adhere to, your body simply isn’t being worked the way it is used to, and is changing to accommodate your new lifestyle.

Or perhaps you changed sports, and while you thought you were in shape, new parts of your body start to hurt, because you are using new muscles.

Maybe you’ve noticed that while at home, your family doesn’t always have dessert, but at uni, you always grab one at the dining hall. Week after week of having desserts every night, a new indulgence, has led your body to gain a bit of weight. The same can occur if, rather than dessert, you find yourself out for drinks constantly.

You can find yourself hating (or loving) how your body has changed, going to the gym more or less, or even eating more or less, to accommodate for these changes. It can be a difficult time, but it is important to remember, your body is your own.

I struggled with the above scenarios and more when I first started university. I didn’t know how to deal and I ended up being in the group of people more dissatisfied than satisfied with their perception of their physique. And I stress “perception”. I, like many others, am physically perfectly healthy, but with a warped sense of what I should look like. It took some time for me to realize I wasn’t as in shape as I was used to being, but in certain ways, far healthier than I ever had been before. Just because I have extra desserts now and then, and work out a couple times a week rather than five or six times, doesn’t make my body any less than it was before. It is still mine, it is still beautiful, and I will always be proud of it.