As the mother of a soon-to-be college freshman, I was fascinated by a recent article in The New York Times about the Instagram feed Freshmen15. The feed was started about a year and half ago by five best friends from high school. From mozzarella sticks to late-night pizza to delectable desserts, the site highlights the joys of enjoying food. The account’s tagline is, “We gain weight for a reason,” and the concept is simple: It’s fun to eat fun food, especially as a young adult in college.
The article brought me back to my own dorm days. I remembered the almost nightly Domino’s deliveries, the appetizer platters at The Ground Round and the unlimited froyo in the dining hall that I made even more delicious by mixing in a few spoonfuls of Lucky Charms. So many things about the college experience have changed since I attended over two decades ago, but here was something that had not. Students are still partaking in carb fests, and the “Freshman 15” still exists.
I have mixed feelings about the feed. I do think it is great that these young women are trying to eliminate the guilt and shame associated with eating fattening foods and bring back eating for enjoyment. So many young adults are worried about their appearances that it’s nice to hear about young women who are not focused on dieting or being thin. In fact, one of the young women behind the Freshmen15 feed said in the article that she had struggled with an eating disorder and that the Instagram feed has helped with her recovery.
At the same time, I don’t know if focusing so much on eating and specifically on eating unhealthy, processed and caloric foods is such a good idea. The feed seems to glorify weight gain and binge eating, which seems like it could lead to health problems down the road.
Our daughter has grown up in a family that enjoys eating. Our fridge is always full, and our pantry is legendary because of all the options I stock just in case we have company. Family meals are important to us and some type of dessert is usually a daily indulgence.
My daughter loves to eat, and as an athlete, she has a healthy appetite. Sometimes when she gets home from school, she eats a huge bowl of ice cream, but other days she chooses a huge bowl of mixed berries. She likes pasta, grilled cheese and fries, but she also enjoys salads, grilled chicken and veggie omelets.
I don’t want her to worry about her weight or to count calories. I hope that she will not see fried foods and gooey late-night pizzas as her enemy, but food also shouldn’t be her BFF. I want my own daughter to continue her healthy relationship with food as she becomes more independent. She will face many choices in college and what to eat is just one of the many things she will have to decide on her own.
I know that food photos and postings are quite popular. Once upon time, people would say grace before they ate, and now they say “cheese” as they snap a photo of their meal before digging in. While it’s a fun fad, I don’t think it is healthy to be so consumed with what you are consuming.
I want my daughter’s lens to be focused on the friends and not on the food. I understand that eating is social and that sharing yummy foods with friends is fun. I want her to experience that, but I also hope that her lasting memories are of the friends she is making and the laughs they are sharing — not the food they’re eating.