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Nutrition Class: Helpful or Hurtful?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

This article discusses the topic of eating disorders, which might be triggering for some people.

When looking for a general education class to fill a health and wellness requirement, many opt for a nutrition class. Upon first thought, many probably assume there is no harm in this. A nutrition class should be a practical way for college students to learn about healthy eating habits.

According to a close friend of mine (I’ll call her Grace for privacy reasons), her nutrition class is encouraging the exact opposite.

For Grace’s major, Biobehavioral Health, nutrition is a requirement. Even so, Grace was looking forward to the class initially as she was hoping to learn more about how to live a healthy lifestyle through the foods she eats, as she is very into both fitness and biology.

Within the first week, Grace began to realize the potentially toxic nature of this class.

It began with an assignment called “Assess my Diet,” which included logging her diet into a nutrition calculator app. The calculator would then inform Grace of things like her sodium intake and calorie count. Then it would tell her things like how she could improve her diet in the future by suggesting things like alternative food options and smaller portions.

Throughout the semester, there have been many assignments similar to this. These assignments are a requirement for the class, and provide no disclaimer beforehand.

A lot of people may be reading this and believe this kind of assignment not only seems doable, but also helpful. What could possibly be wrong with something informing people how they can make healthier options when it comes to eating?

Apps like those included in Grace’s “Assess my Diet” assignment perpetuate the very harmful idea that one needs to eat a perfectly nutritious and balanced diet every day in order to be healthy. Many who already struggle with eating and body image issues may see an app like this and believe they need to entirely revise their diet by cutting out meals or food groups in order to be healthy/lose weight.

In short, nutrition calculator apps are extremely capable of stimulating an eating disorder. This is not the case for everyone, but most certainly can be for a large number of people.

Because of this, Grace has stated her disbelief that that use of such an app is required in class. And, for Biobehavioral Health majors like Grace, use of the app is unavoidable.

After talking to Grace, I truly believe nutrition classes like these need to be revised. It is unacceptable to put students, especially those who are prone to disordered eating, in a position where they have to closely track the details of the foods they are eating daily.

Although many other nutrition classes are likely very helpful and have a curriculum that is safe for all students, it is as important as ever to acknowledge and adjust the ones that are not.

Unhealthy eating habits, particularly in the name of weight loss, and the tools that influence them need to stop being normalized in society overall. And a huge step towards this would be to keep these “tools” out of college classes.

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