Towards a Holistic View of Health

Apparently, this week is National Public Health Awareness Week. Being out of the field for about a year now, I had no clue. Alas.

The school where I go is very well-known for its public health programs, making it no surprise that student groups wanted to make everyone aware of public health.

You can guess what topic they chose to make people "aware" of: how fat we all are!

A student at an elite college NOT knowing about the "obesity epidemic" seems to me to be quite ludicrous. There are "healthy eating" signs and brochures in the dining halls and eating areas. And every female (and probably every male) knows about the dreaded Freshman 15.* I envy anyone who doesn't know about obesity.

There were the standard "2/3 of Americans are OVERWEIGHT or OBESE!" The caps were on the sign. And the words were in blue glitter glue. The irony is that eating disorders are completely rampant on campus. Way to freak people out, Public Health Student Association.

There was also "Eat More to Weigh Less: Eat Breakfast to Lose Weight." Now, I am all for eating breakfast. It does stimulate your metabolism, which is beneficial in more ways than just weight loss. You feel more awake and less sluggish. You don't want to nibble on your co-worker before lunchtime because you're so freaking hungry you can't stand it. You think better (mom was right). Breakfast is called that because you are breaking the fast that happened during sleep.

The last sign was "Get your 30 minutes of daily exercise: run to class!" Granted, I usually race to class, but not for exercise. Mostly, I'm running late or the elevator is broken, or both. I also have to wonder about the mechanics of this. You have a backpack or tote bag likely full of books. That can't be good for your back. And a herniated disk or pulled muscle is one way to keep you from exercising for several months, as well as create a lifelong back problem (just as me). Secondly, do you really want someone all sweaty and gross sitting next to you in lecture? Maybe if they get some deodorant vending in the bathrooms. And you can't really run in the pouring rain, or the freezing cold, the ice and snow, or the stinking heat.

I can think of many public health issues that should have been addressed: lack of health insurance, access to places to play for kids, access to fruits and vegetables, childhood vaccinations, STDs, you name it.

Even the health sections of most news websites are all about weight loss. It's really sad. Health is NOT about losing weight- unless you want to equate that with losing health and sanity. Girls who diet are more likely to be anemic.** This noticeably lowered their IQ scores, and their energy levels. They were less likely to drink milk, putting them at risk for osteoporosis down the road.

Come ON, people. We can do better than this. Much better. There are so many aspects to health, and weight loss isn't even one of them! Why don't we focus on what we can change? And what will, I don't know, actually make us healthier?

*Although my mandatory health class was kind of ridiculous, one good thing I learned was that women are supposed to gain extra weight around that time, as our bodies finally ready themselves to give birth. The pelvis widens, and more fat is added to sustain a pregnancy. If only she included that girls are also supposed to gain 1/3 of their final body weight during puberty, but alas.

**These were NOT just girls with eating disorders- just your run of the mill middle school and high school dieters.

***That dieting should be considered run-of-the-mill is quite frightening in its own right.

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Katy said...

Wow, I'm so excited that you actually addressed the ridiculous BS that is the "Freshman 15" hysteria. It's made me nuts forEVER! Seriously, have people ever LOOKED at 18 year olds? They don't look like grown ups! And it's not because we should all weigh what we did at 18 for our entire lives--it's because people's bodies aren't fully freaking developed. (Hell, I weigh less than I did at 18 (not in a bad way--high school=lots of stress eating for me) and my boobs, hands and feet are all bigger. And I'm an inch taller.)

I'm sure some people gain weight on pizza & beer and the crap in the dining hall that passes for food ('cause if it's deep-fried, you can't taste how disgusting it much) unrelated to physical maturity, but I'd hazard a guess that for a good percentage of people, it's called growing up.

Rant over.

Your sanity is appreciated. :)

KC Elaine said...

I agree 100%. I'm so sick of people toting "health" as weightloss. They are NOT the same. And the topics you listed are so much more important. I'd say the epidemic of eating disorders is much stronger at my college than the so-called "obesity epidemic." And that's great that you should mention the freshman 15 - I was just chattnig with a friend about that and I commented on how 1) the average freshman gains only 7 pounds, and 2), you're SUPPOSED to gain weight at that age. sheesh!

way to go!

carrie said...

Thank you for your support, my K friend ladies. :)

It is quite daunting being a whole decade older than the freshman walking around on campus. Screw the fact that I'm a grad student- it's so hard!

Nikki & David Goldbeck said...

Good rant. I havr taken up the issue of kids and vegetables and fruits.There is no doubt that a critical underpinning of a healthy diet is significant consumption of vegetables and fruit. Unfortunately, many adults do not like these fine foods - so we must make sure kids don’t develop these attitudes. Parents and teachers interested in getting kids to develop friendly feelings towards fruits and vegetables should take a look at a new book called “The ABC’s of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond.” Out only a few months and already being bought in quantity for class use. Suited for kids of all ages as it is two books in one – children first learn their alphabet through produce poems and then go on to more mature activities. It is coauthored by best-selling food writer David Goldbeck (me) and Jim Henson writer Steve Charney. You can learn more at

carrie said...

Actually, I was looking more at the availability of fruits and veg in inner cities. I'm originally from a town just north of Detroit, and about 2 years ago, the last grocery store within city limits closed. I'm not saying that some of the convenience stores didn't have fruits and veg, nor that people didn't travel outside city limits for groceries. However, many families (adults included!) don't have ready access to fruits and veg. Milk- which has gotten expensive enough in its own right- is especially pricy if the only place you can buy it is at a convenience store or gas station.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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