I’m sure you’ve heard about the increasing rates of obesity the experts are calling “an epidemic.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that in Colorado, the skinniest state in the United States, greater than one-sixth of the population is classified as obese. Look around you. At least every sixth person you see is obese. Not just a little pudgy, not just showing love handles, but obese. What can you do to follow through with those New Year’s resolutions and not become part of the statistics?
First, take a deep breath and understand that as a college student you do not necessarily have an environment that fosters healthy eating. You do not have unlimited resources to shop at Whole Foods (which I call “Whole Paycheck”) or unlimited time to grill tofu and cut up salads. Give yourself a break and do not expect perfection, but rather progress.
I remember my first trip to the residence halls cafeteria. Growing up in a family that outlawed sugar and where whole grains were the norm before they were the fad, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Braiden Hall was bursting with doughnuts, sugared cereal, deep-fried fries, hamburgers, pizza and ice cream. The Lory Student Center was even more amazing with 10 different fast food restaurants, a convenience store full of candy and no one looking over my shoulder telling me what not to eat.
I understand your environment and its barriers to healthy eating. I can empathize with a few extra pounds around the middle.
My revolutionary diet advice is simple: Eat when you are hungry, eat whatever you are craving and stop when you are satisfied. Studies by the American Dietetic Association have found children are instinctively able to eat the exact amount of calories that they need for growth and development. Unfortunately, as a result of the Great Depression mentality, our parents and grandparents have perpetuated such false morals as “There are children starving in Africa” (as if our eating all the food is helping them) or “No dessert until you eat your broccoli” (as if broccoli is BAD and dessert is a GOOD reward). I challenge you to know and honor your body by listening to its hunger and fullness cues by giving it what it needs and wants.
Do you remember the last time you felt hungry? Describe what it feels like. For me, my stomach screams and gurgles so everyone within a 10-foot radius knows it is mealtime. My husband gets cranky when he is hungry. Your signal is unique to you – get to know it.
Be careful to not confuse physiological hunger with emotional hunger. Stress, happiness, sadness, loneliness, depression and more can tempt us to turn to food in an effort to fill an emotional need. Food should never be used as a reward or punishment. Reject justifying food choices with “I’ve had a hard day” or “I deserve this.” Eat to fuel your body. Eat for pleasure.
What about the feeling of your stomach’s being satisfied? What does that feel like to you? I promise it is not having to unbutton your jeans or being so stuffed your breathing process is inhibited. Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A., authors of the book “Intuitive Eating,” describe satiety as, “A subtle feeling of stomach fullness.Feeling satisfied and content.Nothingness – neither hungry nor full.”
Diet myths tell us there are “good” and “bad” foods. Diet books are written to exclude “bad” foods such as carbohydrates and fat and to promote “good” foods such as grapefruits and cabbage soup. Deprivation psychology suggests when we label a food as bad we crave it intensely. For me it was those 100 percent sugar Scooby Snacks for kids. When I was on a diet, I dreamt about them and saw them at every checkout line. They plagued me. When I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted (as long as I was physiologically hungry) I realized they tasted like food coloring. Experiment with foods, taking the time to taste them. Do you even like the foods you crave? If so, enjoy.
Are you ready to take the challenge? Are you ready to honor your body and trust it to regulate your weight? If you need extra help and advice, call the dietitians at Harthshorn Health Services. It is an inexpensive investment in your health. Here’s to your health!
When hunger strikes, be ready. Here are quick, healthy snacks to put in your backpack:
o Apple slices and a tub of peanut butter
o Carrot sticks and salsa for dipping
o Trail mix
o Dried or fresh fruit
o Cheese sticks and crackers
o Milk or fruit smoothies in a water bottle
o Ants on a log (Celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins. Juvenile, I know, but they ROCK!)
o PBJ sandwich
Esther Hansen is an alumnus of CSU. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in dietetics.