There is a link between body image and the ideas of a healthy diet and quality of exercise. Both ideas have been hammered into our brains since our physical education classes in elementary school; however, there have been some alterations and developments throughout the years leading up to college.
Sodexo Registered Dietician, Julie Rhule, focuses on proper diets and nutritional balance with college students and said she has realized major changes are occurring.
“Many of us eat foods with too many calories and too few nutrients,” Rhule said. “The problem arises in that we all know how to eat but do we know what to eat?”
“Every week we are bombarded with a new magic pill, celebrity-endorsed diet or fad diet leading to further confusion and misinformation on proper nutrition,” Rhule added. “Coupled with the fact that portion sizes have more than doubled in the past 20 years, it is easy to gain weight and gain weight quickly.”
According to a University of New Hampshire study performed on a group of 18- to 24-year-old college students, one-third of UNH students are overweight or obese, 34 percent of women participated in less than 30 minutes of activity per day, and more than 2/3 of women are not meeting their nutritional needs for iron, calcium or folate.
With obesity on the rise and the “Freshman 15” staring college students in the face, where is there to turn to assure a healthy lifestyle?
“To eliminate the confusion and misinformation, Johnson & Hardwick dining hall offers plates that provide the right portion sizes to make a nutritious meal that still has flavor but less fat,” Rhule said.
Campus food services could be a stepping stone in the right direction, but the choice is ultimately yours.
“College is a great time to develop healthy habits and personal responsibility for individual well-being,” Rhule said. “The reward is bountiful and can lead to a healthy and productive future.”
My Body is My Temple
Thoughts of weight gain and image distortion haunt one’s physical and emotional state, sometimes leading to self-conscious feelings as well as feelings of depression. With the help of campus professionals in the Health Education Awareness Resource Team office, there is a way to seek out support and information.
“If a student came to HEART and wanted to talk about information related to body image, we could spend some time talking with the student and identifying what their questions are,” Kim Dunlap, a HEART coordinator, said.
The most commonly construed idea is that a woman’s body must be perfectly proportioned and must appear like the women in magazines and on billboards in order to be considered beautiful, but this topic needs to be discussed.
“Our job is to talk about educational aspects of addressing body image, such as wellness, approaches to diet, activity, thought, work and relationships,” Dunlap said. “We discuss the initial steps to thinking about the body from a different perspective”
Even at young ages, teen girls are suffering from body image distortion. According to a study by the University of Minnesota, from a survey of 234 Girl Scout troop members who were approximately 10 years old, nearly 30 percent of the girls reported trying to lose weight.
Different references are made depending on the various aspects of the body image discussion women want to have. For example, if students would like to talk about the emotional aspects, they are encouraged to stop by Tuttleman Counseling Services; if they want to address food intake or how to manage their diets differently, they are encouraged to visit Rhule or Nicole Patience, the nutritionist at Student Health Services.
HEART offers the support and resources for anyone who needs to talk through a problem or actively make a lifestyle change, however it must be realized that each of us is a different person with different looks and different ways of living.
With an estimated 95 percent of women having complaints about their weight and shape, it’s no wonder there is a need for action.
There is only so much stress that can be placed on such a topic as body image and perfection and what this ideal “image” really is, but the fight against this ideal is infinite.
Junior film and media arts major Kherise Benoit is a member of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority.
“In order to battle the image of women in the media, we have to educate ourselves about the reality behind the glossy magazines. We must first accept that nothing in the media is based in reality, what we watch on television and what we buy has to look a certain way and millions of dollars and computer software creates that image,” Benoit said.
The power behind each woman goes beyond the physical being and what the media is shaping our society to be.
“In reality, we are all essentially imperfect, and when we accept that we can finally begin to see that our imperfections [make] us unique, you can become your own version of perfect.” Benoit said.
Monica Sellecchia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.