Feb 272008
Authors: Maggie Canty

Eating is no laughing matter.

In a society that is bombarded with nutrition facts, diet fads, weight loss tricks and health nuts, it seems normal to care about what you eat.

But when does caring become obsession, and obsession become disorder?

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, dedicated to the knowledge and prevention of what has become an all-too-common obsession with food.

With studies showing that this is an area that affects all races, sexes and ages, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, it’s time we take a closer look at how we view “healthy” eating.

At its most basic level, food is fuel. It keeps our hearts pumping, our legs moving and our minds from wandering during class – sometimes.

But somewhere along the way, Americans have lost sight of food’s simple purpose.

We’ve become obsessed with nutrition labels, calories and grams of fat.

We’ve learned to fear carbs, consider fast food evil and avoid “comfort” foods at all costs.

But how much of this is good, and how much are we letting our diets control our lives?

Hunger is a basic instinct we’re born with.

When we were young, we ate what we wanted when we wanted it, and stopped when we were full.

We let our bodies guide our meals, and didn’t give food another thought. Until we got hungry again.

And what’s surprising about this is that far fewer young children have weight problems than adults.

Like they know something we don’t. Somewhere during our socialization, we stopped listening to our stomachs and started relying on our heads to decide what and when to eat.

Everything from what a balanced meal should contain to when it is appropriate to eat pancakes is guided by some rule or regulation we’ve been taught to abide by.

And therein lies the problem. Americans have been obsessed with knowing fat grams and calorie contents for ages, relying on a label or particular diet trend to know what to eat.

We restrict ourselves to foods that fit to our societal standards, whether we like them or not.

And yet we keep getting fatter. Simultaneously, all this emphasis on food has created a breeding ground for disordered eating, affecting 24 million Americans, 10 to 15 percent of which are men, according to the National Eating Disorder Association.

And CSU is no exception.

“Disordered eating and eating disorders are absolutely an issue here,” said Chris Baucman, a registered dietician specializing in eating disorders at Heartshorn Health Center.

“They’re a concern for both men and women, especially on a college campus.”

So we’re either overweight or starving ourselves. Something obviously isn’t working.

Maybe the problem isn’t that we don’t pay enough attention to what we eat, but that we no longer base what we’re eating on how it makes us feel, or what we actually want.

Our bodies no longer dictate when, where or how much we eat. Our minds do.

But it’s not too late to change. This week, try and consciously let your body make your decisions surrounding food, not a label or diet. Eat what you’re craving, when you’re craving it.

It’s called intuitive eating. And it’s wonderful.

If we learn to listen to our stomach’s gentle signals, we will never get too hungry or too full. And if that means we’re eating scrambled eggs at 9 p.m. and pizza for breakfast, that’s OK.

If you’re giving your stomach what it wants, you’ll feel more satisfied, and be less likely to overindulge on “restricted” foods.

The ultimate goal is to stop letting your mind do your stomach’s job.

I’m sure you’ll realize your body knows more than you think.

Entertainment Editor Maggie Canty can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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