Shikha Advani, Class of 2021 - President of MSU SEBA

Name: Shikha Advani

Major: Dietetics & Psychology 

Minor: Health Promotion 

Hometown: Canton, MI 

How did you get into nutrition and dietetics? 

I actually was pretty lucky because I came into MSU knowing that I wanted to do the dietetics major, but I had a different outlook on dietetics, and I was really focused on helping people lose weight or meal plan, and that’s what I thought dietetics really was. About halfway through, I found the anti-diet, health at every size, intuitive eating space of dietetics, and it changed my whole entire outlook on what dietetics is and can be. It made me really want to be an eating disorder dietitian, who works from a weight-inclusive, health at every size lens, and even though our curriculum doesn’t really go in that direction, I’ve actually learned a lot from outside the curriculum and taking everything I learn with a grain of salt. I’ve taken what I’ve learned from the curriculum and what I’ve learned from the outside and merged the two. 

So you just mentioned how you had to look for outside sources - I know you started a nutrition account in the last couple of years. How has that been running the account, and has it helped you with school? 

When I started it, it was like “oh I’m just going to post some pictures of food.” I kind of knew what intuitive eating was, and I kind of knew some stuff, but it was really about focusing on food and recipes, stuff like that. Over time, it transitioned to a kind of a social justice page too, talking about eating disorders in marginalized communities, health at every size, weight stigma, fatphobia, oppression of people in larger bodies, stuff like that. I really have learned a lot from being on Instagram and the Instagram community. 

That’s awesome. So now, shifting gears a bit, you’re the president of MSU SEBA (Spartans Empower Body Acceptance). How did you get involved, and how did you make your way up to becoming president? 

Yeah! I just remember getting an email from SEBA. I think it was my sophomore year. I was really interested in the club because it was about body positivity and eating disorder awareness, and I did struggle with an eating disorder in high school and a few of my college years too. So, I wanted to find a group like that, and I was super excited about it. I ended up going to the very last meeting of my sophomore year. I did apply to be on E-Board, and I got the event planner position for my junior year. The club mainly focused on body positivity and eating disorder awareness in general, and then after that, the president at that time chose to make me the president my senior year. When I became president, I wanted to shift the focus of the club and bring in those social justice components, talking about weight stigma, health at every size, intuitive eating, and really focusing more on amplifying the voices of those in marginalized communities. I think the club has definitely shifted from a body-positive focus to a body acceptance focus and focusing on the eating disorder piece a lot more too. 

Body acceptance versus body positivity. How are these two things different, and how do you educate the SEBA members on that? 

So what I’ve found actually is that body positivity is hard for a lot of people. It’s hard to be like “I love every single thing about my body and life in general” every day. An easier place to get to is accepting your body or even focusing on body neutrality - loving what your body can do, or being able to accept your body and be proud of what your body can do. I think that’s an avenue that a lot of people would rather actually go down. We’ve also seen a lot about how body positivity has been co-opted by white women in thinner bodies, and we see, like on TikTok, those trends where they say “normalize normal bodies” and it’s like a white woman bending over showing little rolls, and it’s not helpful. Body positivity was actually started by black women in larger bodies and was meant to be a social justice movement. What I’m trying to do is shift it back to the social justice of all of it and bring the fat positivity, health at every size, explain to people what fatphobia is, and unlearning all of the bad stuff. It is definitely possible to get to a body positivity mentality, and that’s amazing if that’s what you want to do. We’re trying to show people that we understand and that it’s not available for everybody or is something that everybody can achieve. 

Thank you so much for explaining that. Before we wrap up, what are your plans for the future after graduation? 

I want to be an eating disorder dietician, working from a weight inclusive standpoint and also from a cultural competency standpoint just because in the field of dietetics, it’s not diverse. It’s mostly white women in smaller bodies, so really trying to diversify the field and provide more access to healthcare or treatment for people in marginalized communities. That’s what I really plan to do, and I will be moving to Boston in the fall to attend Boston University for my MS/DI, which is the combined master’s program with the dietetic internship. I hope to get my Ph.D. in something psychology-related after. 

That’s so cool that you get to tie all of that together. Is there anything else you would like people to know about or anything I didn’t ask about that you’d like to include? 

I would love to include Diversify Dietetics, which is an organization that I’m passionate about and super involved in. That organization definitely means a lot to me. Check them out here!

Thank you so much to Shikha for taking the time to speak with me! I am so excited to see what she does in the future. Congratulations to Shikha once again, and be sure to find MSU SEBA on Instagram at @msuseba.