UMass: A Place for Good Habits?

Hello Collegiettes,

I know that feeling that we are just hanging out at a summer camp is slowly subsiding, and I hope that your first rounds of exams have gone well!

With the constant pressure of work, exams, and maintaining some level of a social life, I can’t help but notice that one factor lies directly between the two. At this point in our lives it is crucial to set healthy patterns for ourselves that will stick with us for the rest of our lives. This includes, mental, physical, and social health. Studying and doing well in exams attributes to our mental health, being social and learning valuable lessons attributes heavily to our capacity to be social and create healthy relationships, and in between all of the massive amounts of time that each take away from our lives, it is easy to put physical health on the backburner. Personally, I have spent the majority of my last week cooped up in my lounge and eating junk food because I simply didn’t have the time to care about anything else, and colleges understand that. Over the years, UMass has made increasing efforts to get our school noticed as one of the more health-conscious schools around, but I am not so sure that the school’s definition of health-conscious is the correct one.

Our dining commons are known for their ability to promote healthier eating choices, which includes things like constant access to salads, and Hamp’s efforts to eliminate soft drinks and promote juices and smoothies. But what the dining commons don’t talk about is the never-ending supply of pizza and fries that are just as easy, if not easier, to decide to eat. We all know that college students are lazy, so who wouldn’t prefer grabbing a piece of pizza and fries over taking the time to make a salad?

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And if you have taken any time to look social media in the world, teenagers and young adults have TV, movies, magazines, and social media trying to tell us to be the best version of ourselves. You can be skinnier, have better muscle definition, you can gain more weight, but not too much weight, and it can only go to certain places. This “best version” is more than skewed. We try to create this mold for every type of girl to fit into, and at this point in our lives, I don’t think the pressure to be that has ever been stronger. Beyond advertisements, there are Twitter accounts and other applications pertaining specifically to our campus where people long to be acknowledged as a hot girl or guy, and people can anonymously make or break someone’s self-esteem in one blow.

What better place is there to take out the pressure, than on something you can control: food intake. Besides the conflicting message that the dining common is sending its students, one of the biggest mistakes we are making as a university is the choice to have every food item accompanied by their respective nutrition facts. Yes, it is nice to know what is being put into our bodies, but is it right to stick the calorie and fat contents in the face of a student wanting to splurge that day? Staring at calorie counts, for some, encourages nothing but dreaded calorie counting and hyperawareness of their bodies. Yes, we should be aware of the foods we are consuming, but I don’t think that making students overly conscience of every food they eat, at each meal, daily, is the right way to encourage positive habits. Rather than encouraging people to make better choices of food, it encourages a lesser consumption of food.

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These signs are hard to ignore, and the ever-looming sense of wanting to fit these molds surround us. So we workout probably a little too much at our state-of-the-art Rec Center, and no thanks to the dining commons, we don’t eat that piece of cake when we really want it. Forget looking at the fat content of your meal and treat yourself, you work hard and you deserve it! Food is great, and as long as you feel good about yourself, nothing else matters

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