Monday, June 29, 2015

The Dangers of Extreme Dieting and the Importance of Moderation

By Cassandra Hastie, Harvard University

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Astrid, Copyright 2010. Available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/charlottedownie/4497292636  

“Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide” - Marcus Tullius Cicero

While not often discussed, eating disorders are serious mental disorders that affect at least 30 million Americans, according to the Eating Disorder Coalition (EDC). To be specific, around 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder, as stated on the National Eating Disorder Association’s website (NEDA). It is important to raise awareness of these eating disorders, because eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (EDC). The EDC and NEDA are two of the leading organizations providing help and guidance on this health issue.

Due to lack of information and limited awareness, only 1 in 10 people with an eating disorder receive treatment (EDC). Scientists are not fully certain of the exact cause of eating disorders, but they believe a combination of psychological, interpersonal, social, and biological factors contribute to their onset (NEDA). Because it is so difficult to predict the likelihood of an individual developing an eating disorder, it becomes even more important to be aware of restrictive eating and negative self-esteem regarding body image. My aim in this blog is to differentiate between mindful eating and extreme dieting and to describe the three main forms of eating disorders and their consequences.

Mindful eating is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and clear head. Learning to be aware of when you are hungry and when your body needs nutrients is valuable and necessary, just as it is important to know when your body is full and does not need more food. There is quite a distinct difference between being aware of how much you are eating and going on a severely restrictive diet. Although it is not guaranteed that someone who has a restrictive relationship with eating will develop an eating disorder, it is definitely a possibility that this type of relationship could lead to one of the three most prominent eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder.

Anorexia Nervosa is defined by extremely low-calorie intake, weight loss, low self-esteem related to body image, and difficulty of comprehending the danger of the disorder (NEDA). Additionally, there are two types of Anorexia, namely the Restricting Type and the Binge-Eating/Purging Type. An individual suffering from the Restricting Type of Anorexia maintains a low weight by limiting their caloric intake to sometimes just a few hundred calories a day, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). The Binge-Eating/Purging Type is also characterized by restrictive eating, but additionally involves self-induced vomiting or exercising after the consumption of food (ANAD).

Another prominent eating disorder, Bulimia Nervosa, is characterized by episodes of eating a lot and then participating in activities to prevent weight gain, which include, but are not limited to, self-induced vomiting. Those who suffer from Bulimia often have low self-esteem when it comes to their body image; also, they can feel out of control (NEDA).

A Binge Eating Disorder is similar to Bulimia Nervosa in the sense that those suffering tend to consume large amounts of food. The difference between the two disorders is that binge eating is not associated with behaviors to prevent weight gain. Binge Eating frequently involves feelings of being out of control, strong shame, and guilt (NEDA).

It is incredibly important to be aware of the symptoms and early signs of an eating disorder. If you feel like you may be affected by any symptoms related to an eating disorder, there are many free resources at your disposal. Two of these resources include the National Eating Disorder Association Hotline ((800) 931-2237) and the NEDA Click-to-Chat resource. Both of these systems of support can be found at the following website: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-referral-helpline.

Everyone who feels like he or she may be struggling with any body image or eating concerns deserves support. No concern is too small. Living a healthy life and maintaining a healthy diet are immensely important, but mental health is equally as essential. I hope that this blog has helped to shed some light on the dangers of extreme dieting and the importance of achieving moderation.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Campus Food Investigation - UCSD edition

By Karen Medgyesy, University Of California, San Diego

I’m Karen, a sophomore at University of California, San Diego and the Bon’App Ambassador on campus. I work with another Bon’App representative, Annie Gorges, investigating how UCSD’s dining halls can be improved. So far, we have distributed a survey to UCSD students about the dining hall food via social media. Here is what these 25 students have said concerning their dining hall food experience:

  • 14 out of 25 said that there is a lack of variety
  • 10 out of 25 complained about the high amounts of fat, sodium, and general greasiness of the food
  • 10 out of 25 do not enjoy the taste and quality of the food served
  • 6 out of 25 complained about how overpriced the food is considering its low quality
There is great consistency between the survey results and our own personal observations, both of which demonstrate what can be improved.  To reduce bias in the survey, there was no option to select what participants disliked. Therefore, students were encouraged to come up with their own opinions on the food to avoid subjectivity. Here is one response that primarily stood out to me:

“Unless you want a salad, fruit, or a sandwich (and even some of the sandwiches aren't very good for you) nothing is really good for you/healthy.”

This comment really resonated with me because I find myself wandering around the cafeteria in efforts to find a healthy meal. Usually, I end up eating the same type of food every day, which becomes very dull.

The sandwiches are certainly a hit or miss option. Here are the nutrition facts for a sandwich costing $7.25:


The sandwich has 1010 calories, 57 grams of fat, 5 grams of sugar and 2180 mg of sodium. All of these are absurdly high for just one daily meal, especially considering that the suggested daily value of sodium is 2300 mg.

As for the variety of the salad bars, one of the UCSD Housing Dining Hospitality (HDH) representatives claims that “it is rotated” but that is not the case. Annie took pictures of the salad bar for over a week and the only thing that occurred were simple substitutions of about one or two items. It is difficult to make a healthy salad every day when you are eating the same type of salad. Here is the salad bar of one of the best dining halls on campus:



Of course, there are no perfect cafeterias, but that does not mean the food at UCSD can’t be improved. Annie and I will continue our investigation as to what can be healthier and more affordable to students as well as research how to fix these problems. We will seek to meet with representatives of HDH and present the “Dream Dining Hallthat we developed as a group of Bon’App Ambassadors last year. It is our reference for healthy student dining in cafeterias, and hopefully we can make significant improvements that will have a lasting impact on student health.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Bon'App Campus Food Investigation - First Results


By Tori Lin, Tufts University

This past year, Bon’App’s Campus Ambassadors set out to begin CFI (Campus Food Investigation). In doing so, the ambassadors distributed a survey, which asked students to rate their campus’s dining hall food on a 1-5 scale. In addition, students told us what options they had on campus, and expressed what they loved and hated about it.  Here at Bon’App, we got to hear from a total of 457 students from 27 colleges across the country. These 27 colleges included, Babson, Berkeley, Berry College, Boston College, Brown, Bryn Mawr, Cal Poly, Gonzaga, Harvard, HULT, James Madison, Miami Oxford, North Carolina State, Northwestern, NYU, Pomona, Simmons, Stanford, Swarthmore, Tufts, Tulane, U of Florida, University of Alabama, UPenn, USF, Virginia Tech, and Wesleyan. Based on the averages of student ratings, the chart below illustrates how each college stacked up against each other (excluding those with too few responses).

Respondents' Campus Food Ratings (Scale 1-5)
Only colleges with greater than 3 responses are displayed.

Top 10 Colleges with the Best Food (Bon’App Campus Food Investigation Edition)
   1.   Tufts University (Medford, MA)
   Score: 4.13
   2.   Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)
   Score: 3.88
   3.   Miami University (Oxford, OH)
   Score: 3.8
   4.   Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
   Score: 3.7
   5.   HULT International Business School (Cambridge, MA)
   Score: 3.67
   6.   Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
   Score: 3.32
   7.   Brown University (Providence, RI)
   Score: 3.21
   8.   UC Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
   Score: 3.08
   9.   Boston College (Chestnut Hill, MA)
   Score: 3.07
   10. Northwestern University (Evanston, IL)
   Score: 2.83

Top 5 Colleges with the Worst Food
   1.   Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo, CA)
   Score: 1.92
   2.   Tulane (New Orleans, LA)
   Score: 2.22
   3.   Babson College (Babson Park, MA)
   Score: 2.36
   4.   University of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
   Score: 2.5
   5.   Simmons College (Boston, MA)
   Score: 2.55

Here are what some of the students had to say about their dining experience:

The Good:
“I love that we have nutritional signage. Also the fact that Tufts dining is super accommodating to the students and they always respond to feedback. –Student @Tufts

“Many of the workers are friendly and sweet. The deli bar and comfort food bar are normally pretty decent.” –Student @Tulane

“I love their roasted Brussels sprouts (which happen like once every 1.5 months). I like that they have 3 soup varieties and clearly label the vegan (dairy free) options!” –Student @Brown

“I love that there are always vegan and vegetarian options.  Some of my favorite items have been sweet potatoes, roasted butternut squash, and coconut pumpkin tofu.” Student @UPenn

“There are always vegetarian and healthier options and a lot of time they stay away from the worst foods. They also have a super varied meal schedule and always have something good to eat. Finally, they really splurge and get some delicious foods and ingredients. Overall, I am pretty spoiled with my dining hall system here.” –Student @Stanford

The Bad:
“There are some nights when there's barely a healthy option in sight and sometimes the vegetarian options are pretty out there. When the one healthy item is cooked poorly or just doesn't taste good, it makes the unhealthy items even more tempting.” Student @Harvard

“Like every person, I like fried and oily food but not all the time. Everything is covered in oil; even the vegetables/omelets are swimming in it.” Student @Tulane

“The salad and fresh produce are rarely fresh. The meats are full of hormones, antibiotics, nitrates, nitrites, and preservatives. There is no reason to pay thousands of dollars a year for a meal plan that is clearly full of carcinogens.” Student @UPenn

“Most of the “healthier” foods have a lot of oils that stay in my mouth and make you feel a little unsettled later in the day.” –Student @Stanford

“Meals are prepared with tons of butter and oils, trying to spruce up the terrible taste of the actually low-quality food. The coffee is also horrendous. We pay around $17 per meal, and I would expect better quality food, as far as health and just taste.” Student @Harvard

The Ugly:

“The meat is barely meat (cartilage, fat, everything). The vegetables are ALWAYS undercooked, except on one occasion when they were so overcooked that they turned to mush. 95% is gag-worthy.” Student @Cal Poly

“I refuse to eat in my dining hall because it makes me so sick. I walk in and instantly lose my appetite. I have overheard employees saying that the only thing safe to eat is the cereal because it comes straight from the box.”Student @Tulane

“The food tastes terrible and it's bad for you. I really have no incentive to eat it other than the fact that I need food to stay alive. The food, even the most innocent looking "healthy options" is full of salt, all types of fat, sugar, and a whole bunch of things that I can't pronounce that I know isn't good for me.” Student @Harvard

“I love that I will get to stop eating at the dining halls next year.” Student @Cal Poly

Things Students want to see change:

“I wish calorie counts/other nutritional information was available on everything, and more visible/accessible on the items that it's already available for. It'd be really nice if almond milk was available as well as soy.” Student @Brown

“I think that there could be more variety instead of having the same specials each week.” Student @Wesleyan

“Although the food at the vegan bar is typically pretty good, it runs out very quickly and it often takes a long time to be replenished.  Also, the soymilk dispenser is often empty.  I wish there were higher quality, whole grain breads (as opposed to just sandwich bread), in addition to other whole grains like whole-wheat pasta and brown rice more often.” Student @Upenn

“All of the cereals are so sugary!! I wish they had more organic, gluten free, and natural cereals. Also, I wish that they had nuts and dried fruits!” Student @Tufts

“I like that there are a lot of options, especially the salad bar and the grill. I feel like I can eat relatively healthy all the time because I can eat off the salad bar, order egg whites from the grill, snack on baby carrots and hummus, get Greek yogurt as dessert, etc. I would love it if there were even more healthy options to choose from, especially in the hot food line.” Student @Harvard

Show us what your dining hall has to offer you, whether good, bad, or ugly. Get our attention by using #campusfoodbonapp on Instagram and interacting with us via our CFI Facebook page.  For more information check out our earlier blog that illustrates Bon’App’s Dream Dining Hall.

Interested in becoming a Bon’App Campus Ambassador? Reach out to us at:
bon.app.team@gmail.com.