By Natalie Kouba
For the first half of the semester, food stations in Eickhoff Hall were plastered with nutritional information charts to promote the Mindfulness campaign by Dining Services. The nutritional charts listed the calorie, fat, carbohydrate, protein and other nutritional contents of food items, from a cheeseburger to an ounce of broccoli. Since then, the charts have been removed, but small tips for making meals “mindful” remain, suggesting students take it easy on the cheese, pick high-protein lean meats and load up on veggies — insisting they be mindful of what they put on their plates.
This campaign, however, is anything but mindful.
Instead, it is obsessive. It is calorie-counting to an extreme. It assumes students should be on a low-fat, low-carb, high-protein diet and is soliciting unwarranted advice. The Dining Services campaign claims to practice mindfulness during meals, but mindful eating, in fact, has nothing to do with numbers.
According to the Center for Mindful Eating, the actual concept reflects little of what the College’s campaign promotes: “Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom; using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body; acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment; becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating,” are just a few main principles behind this type of awareness.
If you look on the Dining Services Mindful Eating web page, you won’t find any of this. Instead, you will find the same information plastered in the eateries around campus, causing doubt in grabbing a cookie for dessert, ordering cheese for your sandwich or using regular eggs instead of egg whites in an omelette.
With October being National Mental Health Awareness Month, this campaign does little to help students suffering from serious mental health disorders which continue to grow in severity on college campuses. The onset age of eating disorders, for example, primarily settles between one’s college years of 18-21, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. With an ever-increasing rate of both young men and women developing these disorders, the obnoxious plastering of calorie-counting signs around campus and tips on how to cut calories in dining halls is absolutely unnecessary and can trigger an even more stressful eating experience for these students.
At Eickhoff Hall’s sandwich station, for example, the signs advise students to try skipping fatty dressings and instead add mustard as a topping, since “it has virtually no calories.”
Venture out and you will find that mindful eating has absolutely nothing to do with finding the lowest calorie/carb/fat/saturated fat/restrictive option, but it is about eating what you enjoy, what tastes good to you.
We need to stop assuming everybody is on the same get-fit-quick, anti-Freshman 15, low-calorie diet; stop assuming unsolicited health advice is actually healthy; and stop assuming everyone is trying to cut down on fat and carbs and amp up the protein. Instead, learn what real mindfulness is, if it so suits you, and keep your eyes on your own plate.