The Orientation 15
By Myrel Iturrey, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, September 4, 2012
So you’re back on Robo lawn after four long days of outdoor shenanigans. You hear a low, daunting grumble and wonder if a grizzly moose has indeed followed you back to campus. You fear for your life.
Don’t. You needn’t look past your own digestive system to find the source. Brimming with Cabot cheese and banana chips, your stomach begs for a meal that isn’t worthy of a gerbil training for an iron man race.
Although you are fairly certain a bird has cozied up somewhere in your knotted hair, you’re now considered well groomed in the ways of a Dartmouth student. You return to your dorm, heed your trip leader’s advice to check your blitz and find eight new messages, each with the same, glorious promise: FREE FOOD @NOW. Before you trip over yourself scrambling to the promise of crepes in Collis ... take a shower. And as you shower, remember this — the Orientation 15 is very real. And if you don’t indulge with care, it could happen to you even before you have a chance to start on your Freshman 15.
What is the Orientation 15, you ask? It’s what happens when an all-too-available array of comfort food meets a crowd of newly independent young adults. It’s weight gain that manifests itself in the tummy and thighs and, in the most extreme cases, a second or third chin. For its unlucky victims, it marks the beginning of poor eating habits in college and a very unhealthy relationship with the Zimmerman Fitness Center. But with the right guidance, you, ’16, can glean the benefits of your SmartChoice meal plan and the food-boasting information sessions without busting your buttons.
The first thing you should know about food at Orientation is that it is everywhere, and not just in the various dining spots. From your floor’s common room to the temporarily empty library, it’s impossible to escape groups of eager upperclassmen, armed with platters of tempting treats. A cappella groups host ice cream socials to attract new talent. Academic open houses almost invariably offer trays of baked goods to accompany their presentations (steer clear of these trays — they’re usually not worth the calories). Whether you’re genuinely interested in the information they have to offer or are just trying to chat, it is not impolite to refuse goodies. As a rule of thumb, avoid munching when you’re not hungry. You’ll need to work up an appetite if you’re going to get your money’s worth out of your dining plan.
As an incoming student, you’ll have the SmartChoice20 meal plan. True to its name, you’ll have 20 meal swipes per week and four opportunities each day to use them. However, unless you are a hefty football player or you’ve never seen food before, you probably won’t eat often enough to use the plan to its full capacity. Don’t let that money go to waste — get crafty.
At FoCo (what you will come to call the Class of 1953 Commons), you’ll certainly get the most bang for your buck. As the College’s only all-you-can-eat venue, it is a campus favorite for dinner. During Orientation, you will probably run into that freshman who has never been away from home before. He or she will crack jokes about being able to eat dessert before dinner and then proceed to sample every item at the dessert station. Don’t be that freshman. No one likes that freshman. You won’t like that freshman.
Be smart about your FoCo visit, or your visit to any dining hall for that matter. Take a quick lap around the stations and scope out the scene. Fill one plate, sit down, eat it, and if you still aren’t satisfied, go for a second round. Don’t scarf down your meal in one gulp. Enjoy it. It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full, so pace yourself. Put your utensils down after every few bites and get to know the people around you — your waistline will thank you.
Remember, unused meal swipes don’t roll over. So if you find yourself hopping from one Orientation event to the next, use your swipes to buy snacks for your dorm. The refrigerators and counters in both Collis and the Hop are lined with yogurts, fruits, boxed cereals, hummus and granola, all of which are perfectly portable and easy to store. As soon as classes start, you’ll be glad you stocked up.
Alas, if food were the only adversary in the war against the Orientation 15, there would be far less casualties. But the most devastating weapon in its armory tends to make its wicked, calorie-imbued appearance in the comfort of the evening hours, and usually in the warmth of a fraternity basement. Besides being an avalanche of information, Orientation is a notoriously frivolous time as upperclassmen sing their good-byes to the last carefree days of summer. This means parties. Parties mean pong. Pong means beer. Beer means calories that you don’t really notice until the weekend is over and wonder why your shirt is bunching up against your belly so strangely. It’s a slippery slope. Don’t let your body image get in the way of having a good time, but consider yourself warned — beer bellies happen.
Should the college-sponsored taco nights and the not-so-college-sponsored evening revelries begin to show, don’t fret. Dartmouth green is a surprisingly slimming color.