A food obsession taken too far

If you don’t like the waffles, don’t eat them.
If you don’t like the waffles, don’t eat them.
Photo: 
Elana Finestone, ArtSci '08
Elana Finestone, ArtSci '08

I’ve been a student here at Queen’s a mere two weeks and already there is a language of food I’ve noticed circulating in the cafeterias. No, it’s not a series of sighs as the gravy on the potatoes disappoints once again, or the hushed whispers of engineers about to orchestrate a food fight.

It goes something like this: “Oh, I shouldn’t eat that,” or “I can feel myself gaining weight as I eat this,” and worst of all, “I’m such a pig.”

I’m surrounded by frosh, the majority of whom are women, obsessed with their potential for weight gain.

It’s not just the language of food, it’s also the language of the female gender.

For some reason, a calorie and a number on a scale generate such a strong sense of unworthiness in the hearts and minds of women. This issue is not aided by the dreaded urban legend of the “Frosh 15.” While these are matters of concern in my mind, I really wish they weren’t. I have more important things to worry about like classes, sports, activities and my overall university education. These are the elements that make a university experience what it is. A calorie, or multiple calories, is not a part of this equation.

Of the many packages I received from Queen’s last year, the package with the meal plan inside was one of the thinnest. Can you guess why? Because no one comes to a university with the sole intention of obsessing over food. At least I should hope not.

Food is supposed to be the fuel that gets you through your day. It’s there when you want to be social or when you’re in the mood to eat alone, but shouldn’t dominate any large space in our minds.

I’ve realized that while it is important to keep a healthy body, it is more important to keep a healthy mind. Sanity is so important. Eating a cookie is not a bad thing. Fretting over how much weight you think you’ve gained will not help you in the long-run. Looking at the nutritional information of a food item before you eat may make you more informed, but will also make you twice as anxious over what you’re about to put in your mouth guaranteed. I find myself constantly reassuring my girl friends and myself that what we eat is acceptable.

We’ve had a long day and we’re hungry. Sure, the food isn’t like home, but no matter where we are, we need to keep our stomachs satisfied.

I’ve noticed that everything comes in time and that slowly but surely, everyone will learn the system in their own way. In other words, trying the pizza won’t kill you. Learn what you like to eat in the cafeterias and learn what you don’t.

The first week here, one of my friends gathered three plates of food and sample a portion of each one. If she didn’t like it, she would simply stop eating it.

Meanwhile, she never felt like she was depriving herself. It takes a while to get used to a buffet, so take advantage of the fact that if you don’t like something, you can go back and try something new, all in the same night. Eventually we will all know what we like and what portions are appropriate for our bodies and our lifestyles.

The Virginia Tech University counseling centre estimates that one in 20 university-aged women have an eating disorder. That’s one fifth of our age group who worries constantly about food and can’t function properly as a result. Nobody likes to be a statistic.

I am not denying that eating a healthy diet is something to strive for; however, the way you go about it is another matter.

Panicking about the “Frosh 15” whenever you’re hungry isn’t healthy and can trigger unwanted and unhealthy eating behaviours and habits. Take a deep breath, make a healthy choice and stop by the gym on the way back to residence.

During Frosh Week I asked my Gaels whether the “Frosh 15” was a common affliction. Most of them said it wasn’t. My Gaels ate regularly and made sure they exercised. Only one of them said they gained a bit of weight, but, lost it during the summer. They all seemed pretty relaxed about it.

And relaxed they should be. After all, it’s only food and weight is just a number. These past few weeks made me realize I had to take food for what it was worth. Enjoying the selection, indulging once in a while and living with no regrets are part of the deal.

As I finish up this piece, I will probably log on to WebCT and print off my psyc notes. Then, meet up with a few friends before my classes and go to the poster sale. University seems to be about everything all at once and I want to take everything in.

When my “Super PSYC” class is over, I may grab a chocolate bar as my dessert. After all, I deserve it for sitting that long.

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Elana Finestone indulges once in a while—but only in moderation.

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