30 October 2007

A Campus-wide Eating Disorder


My good friend pointed out a rather disturbing fact to me the other day. Apparently, one of her classmates in global health class found that some horrible figure like 30% of the typical female college student's daily conversation is centered around food. Whether it's about what to eat, whether we should stop eating, boasting about how much we just ate, or weighing the pros and cons of going for that study-break cookie--it's all about food. Some of it in a healthy way, most of it not. The mere fact that we talk about it so much sounds pretty unhealthy to me. Once my friend mentioned this to me I noticed how much of my conversation really does revolve around food. I think I'm the last person to have an eating disorder, but it's fascinating (and horrifying) to me that my conversational skills are so limited by what I put in my stomach.

This reminds me of Michael Pollan's idea that America is afflited by a national eating disorder. As omnivores, so much of our everyday brain power is devoted to deciding what to eat--whether it's safe, what the benefits will be to us, and most of all, whether or not we desire it at the particular moment.

I remember the days when I ran cross country in high school and could put anything and everything into my stomach. Huge plates of pasta before the big race. Waffle cones filled with double, triple scoops of cookies 'n cream ice cream. Everything except for milk--which, I found out the hard way, takes hours to digest and will slosh around uncomfortably in your stomach for everyone within ten steps of you to hear. Back then, I'm sure I talked about food a great deal, but most of it was in anticipation of what I was going to eat next. Never about whether or not I should eat something. Now, though, maybe because of the limited healthy options available to me on a college campus, or maybe because I have some kind of minor eating disorder that afflicts all American young women, so much of my brain power is put to the useless task of deciding whether it is "okay" for me to eat something or not.

I say, forget about whether or not you should eat that cookie. Who cares if there are 300 calories in it? Just eat the damn thing, and think of those 300 calories as extra energy that you'll use to power your brain in its new task of thinking about something useful.

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