One of the biggest barriers to healthy eating is that people think that food is fattening, and that it is the enemy, Red Sox nutritionist Nancy Clark said at a Jan. 26 panel titled “New Year’s Nutrition” hosted by the Undergraduate Government of Boston College.
The panel, originally planned for Higgins 310, was moved to the larger Higgins 300 after seats quickly filled and students were forced to sit in the aisles and on the stairs. The talk was led by Clark, Sheila Tucker, registered dietitian for the Office of Health Promotion, and BC professor Shannon Hogan to discuss healthy eating when in a university setting.
“The goals of this talk are hopefully to inspire you to be as nice to your body as you are to your car,” Clark said.
Clark believes that eating a well-balanced diet and paying attention to the body’s needs are the most important ways to maintain one’s health.
Clark also advocates for sleep. After subjects in a recent study slept an extra hour and a half each night for a week, their cravings for sweets dropped by two-thirds. Clark noted that sleep deprivation and obesity go hand-in-hand, reminding the audience of the importance of sleep in a healthy-eating program.
Clark has discovered that one of the biggest barriers to optimal fueling is negative body image, like “feeling fat.”
“Fat is not really a feeling,” Clark said. “You don’t feel brown eyes, you don’t feel brown hair, and you don’t feel freckles. What you do feel is uncomfortable with your body. You might be feeling imperfect.”
Another barrier that clients face is regulating calories on calorie-counting apps. By tracking daily intake of calories, clients often unintentionally starve themselves. Instead of using apps, Clark believes the body is the best means of tracking calories, and recommends her clients pay close attention to their bodies’ needs.
“You are probably not addicted to sugar, or addicted to cookies, or whatever it is. You have probably just gotten too hungry.”
“I want to invite you to think: Does my body need this food?” she said.
The largest barrier students come across when attempting to eat healthy or lose weight is binge eating after craving sweets, Clark said. To combat binge eating, especially at night, Clark suggests eating large meals at scheduled times throughout the day.
“It is physiological,” Clark said. “You are probably not addicted to sugar, or addicted to cookies, or whatever it is. You have probably just gotten too hungry.”
Tucker agreed with Clark’s idea of creating a regularly scheduled meal plan. She urged the audience to plan similarly to the way one plans for classes, to avoid going without food for too long or getting trapped in the crescendo.
Clark tells her clients to divide calories into four different “food buckets” of equal amounts throughout the day to avoid binge eating. By eating a “food bucket” every four hours, clients should be able to avoid hunger at the end of the day, a food crescendo.
“There is a food bucket every four hours to eat evenly on a regular schedule,” Clark said. “Eat this way, the even energy diet, in order to have plenty of energy to study, to exercise, and to enjoy life as a student.”
In regards to the types of foods that students should eat, Clark believes that protein-carbohydrate combinations are the best way to fuel and repair the body. Clark explained that hard exercise requires an individual to refuel his or her muscles afterwards.
Tucker believes most students become stuck in a cycle that she calls the “BC story,” a pattern of healthy eating and exercising on weekdays, followed by junk food, drinking, and partying on the weekend. Although students believe that they can maintain their health through exercise and clean eating on weekdays, their hard work is undone after drinking with friends on the weekend.
Tucker told the audience about a recent study done on college students who had five drinks or more, one or two days during the weekend. These students were then compared to the students’ friends who never drink. The study found that those who drank two nights a week had bigger waist-to-hip ratios, or waist circumferences, than those of their friends with the same energy requirements who did not drink.
Clark ended the panel on a high note, encouraging students of the positives when eating healthy and exercising routinely.
“When you eat well and exercise regularly, you feel better, you have more energy, you feel better about yourself, so that everybody always wins with good nutrition,” Clark said.
Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Senior Staff