By Tiernan Field House Peer Health Educators
TW: This article will discuss food and nutrition behaviors.
What is it about Scripps chocolate chip cookies that elicit such simultaneous love and hate? We all know how delicious they are, but often I hear, “oh well I’ve already had a cookie this week” or “I’ll get a cookie if you get a cookie” wherein people feel ashamed of their cookie consumption. Where did this shameful attitude come from? Probably from the constant barrage of the message that sweets are “bad” foods and we should avoid them at all costs.
There’s honestly nothing inherently bad in a cookie, but we’ve truly demonized the treat. I’m here to say this idea of the cookie being bad for you is a myth, and in moderation, a cookie is completely okay if you want it. This leads me to a discussion of Nutrition and Health Myths that Scripps alum Jennifer Tavé, who received her Masters in Human Nutrition from Colorado State University, created in reference to what she sees as common misconceptions among those trying to live a “healthy lifestyle”. Tavé is a Scripps alumna and a current CMS coach, so she understands the food culture on campus. The first myth that “calories are the most important measurement of nutritional quality and health” is discredited by the truth of healthy living being a balance of nutrients rather than a tracking of caloric intake. (not to mention, calories are units of energy so they do not measure health) Tavé goes further to say that not all calories are metabolized in the same way, where, for example, protein can help increase the metabolic rate and reduces appetite (aka your meal lasts longer).
A particularly relevant myth today is that labels like “low-fat”, “organic”, and “gluten-free” indicate whether the food is healthy or not. These words rather than prove any relevance are actually just catering to the consumer because we have become obsessed with the latest dietary trends. Typically when something says “low-fat”, all the fat has been replaced with sugar to maintain good flavor. If you’re going to look for a specific food or food group when making a meal, focus on “whole foods”, foods that are closest to the way you would find them in nature. These natural-state foods still contain most of the original nutrients that can often get removed in heavy processing.
Next, Tavé acknowledges that we have this false idea that “fat makes you fat”. It’s not the consumer’s fault in thinking this because the notion is constantly reinforced by the media. The truth is that overeating is what causes weight gain, specifically the overconsumption of foods with a lot of sugar. Healthy fats, like those found in avocados and nuts, are really important in basic bodily functions and processes like maintaining good brain health.
Busting these common myths about food can help us navigate spaces like the dining hall, where there are a lot of misconceptions floating around with little guidance, leaving students stressed and confused. You don’t have to go through this alone, however, because we have many resources for guidance, like our very own Angela Armijo, who works at Tiernan Field House. Angela is a Certified Health Education Specialist, and a Master of Public Health. We also have a dietician, Whitney Tawney, R.D., available for consultations through HEO. You aren’t alone if you have a love/hate relationship with food, and there are people here for you. Food deserves to be loved, and we are hoping to make it lovable again!!
Contact information for on-campus resources: