College fosters a better outlook on weight and nutrition

Heard from a first-year

Maia Delegal

However you rang in the New Year—watching the ball drop on television, spending time with relatives, making questionable decisions with friends—you probably had some run-ins with “resolutions.” Some people resolve to do broad and unquantifiable things, like to be nicer to people. But certain resolutions require stricter self-monitoring and a high level of discipline. The most common resolution (and the prime example of one in the latter category) is to lose weight. And so good old-fashioned American capitalism prospers yet again.

It’s not a new concept: Companies profit off of the public’s insecurities. ‘Tis the season. The pressure to achieve a certain body image plagues almost everyone, especially women. Society influences women to think that their worth is contingent on beauty, the parameters of which are defined by the narrow representation of women in media. Advertisers propagate the belief that the “ideal” woman uses whichever make-up, hair care or weight loss product they’re selling. By now we’re conditioned to seeing pretty much only one female body type in media: thin.

That pressure on women culminates in epidemic rates of girls who suffer from eating disorders, depression and self-harm. Some other mechanisms for achieving weight loss goals include over-exercising and neglecting balanced nutrition for the sake of reducing caloric intake. These techniques are much more widely accepted than those directly affecting mental health, but can be just as harmful to the body and mind. Fortunately, college can direct our attention away from trying to look runway-ready and towards more substantial life goals without forcing us to neglect our health.

Case Western Reserve University shines a refreshing light on conscious eating. The dining halls consistently offer healthy options (though “consistently” might also refer to Leutner commons offering the same food day after day). They’re well-stocked with ample options from every vital group on the pyramid. Vegetarians never go without much-needed protein since things like tofu, bean curd, vegetarian chili, eggs and even nuts are regular menu items. Regardless of whether you always approve of the dining hall food, you can’t deny that CWRU makes balanced nutrition possible for every student.

While having balanced nutrition and eating healthily are admirable goals, shaming yourself for occasionally indulging does very little good. Sometimes life gets in the way of perfection. You may find yourself studying all day for a final and realize that you’ve skipped a meal or two. It’s late at night, and the only thing open is Denny’s. I obviously would never recommend eating at Denny’s more than absolutely necessary (you don’t want to see how many calories are in their burgers, trust me). But what’s the harm in having a basket of fries once a week? Deciding against food commonly known as “bad for you” doesn’t necessarily speak to your level of discipline. It could instead indicate your willingness to deprive yourself ease and pleasure in the name of some supposedly sacred attempt at owning a model’s body. There’s that saying, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Well you know what tastes better than skinny feels? The satisfaction of finishing that A+ paper which will warrant a stellar recommendation from your professor, landing you in the graduate school or job of your dreams. If the only fuel available for that night’s work is a chicken guacamole wrap with extra onion rings, why turn it down?

Since you might be thinking about needing to work off the fried stuff, engaging in regular physical activity should be a priority for everyone at every age. But it’s important to choose an activity that fits your lifestyle and level of comfort, even if that means forgoing exercise for a while in order to accomplish life-changing feats. Choice is key. Luckily, CWRU has a variety of sports teams, clubs and classes to help students shape their routines. And that’s all exercise should be, a routine. There’s more to life than gaining ab muscles. And compulsively checking your weight every day after working out for hours isn’t healthy, nor is it feasible with such a strong academic focus at CWRU. It’s almost as if we’re being taught to invest more in boosting our brains than maintaining a “bikini body.” Maybe that’s radical, but that’s college for you.

CWRU freshmen understand that Veale Athletic Center is worlds away from our living spaces, that walking through the deep snow only to have your sweat freeze to your face after your workout sucks and that L3 pizza tastes really awesome after a late night lab or rehearsal. Hopefully in the same way we all can accept image as a secondary concern to crafting our lives through learning. Who cares what you look like if you’re engineering the future, anyway? So if you feel like tweaking your New Year’s resolution, I suggest you resolve to be healthy and happy above all else. Don’t give in to the fads.

Maia Delegal is a first-year student from Jacksonville, Florida. She is planning to double major in music performance and either cognitive science, psychology, neurobiology, political science or women’s and gender studies. In her free time she likes to read, write and have jam sessions with the talented musicians in Taft.