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Opinion | How college changed my relationship with food

Living on my own and providing for myself has changed my relationship with food significantly. If healthy food was more affordable and advocated for college students, the fear of gaining weight wouldn’t be so prevalen

by Tunae

Universities need to do a better job advocating for students to adopt healthy, affordable eating lifestyles.

I always had a healthy relationship with food growing up. I ate when I wanted to and when I was hungry. I was lucky enough to have parents who cooked for me, supplied a pantry full of food, and ultimately taught me how to eat right. When I arrived at college, all of that changed.

Now, I have a strange, distorted relationship with food that I am unsure how to make right again.

Through the lens of my college experience at the University of Iowa, my relationship with food has declined since I started living on my own.

I will often find myself “too busy” to eat, which sounds crazy on paper but makes sense to me. Doing an assignment, finishing a quiz, or joining a quick Zoom call with a professor are all tasks that seem to outweigh the importance of food. During the school week, sometimes I rarely think about food, let alone have time to eat enough of it.

I vowed never to take part in the “Freshman 15,” which is a concept many are familiar with, where new college students gain 15 pounds during their first year. This concept, as well as my day-to-day schedule, ultimately changed my entire perspective of what I put into my body, as well as how much.

I do not think there is a problem with gaining weight in any way; every person is beautiful when they are comfortable in their own skin.

For me, I have never been comfortable with who I am because of this underlying fear. I started to wonder if others also feared this as well or if my ideology was disparate.

According to a National Library of Medicine study, found that gaining the Freshman 15 was among the biggest stressors in some college women’s lives. This fear causes extreme dieting and weight control among college-aged women.

Gaining weight has been my biggest fear since entering college. I know I can make an effort to eat the right food in the right portions and be healthy. However, eating healthy costs significantly more money than options like fast food: something my broke college self doesn’t want to think much about.

If I could buy healthy, organic food at a reasonable price, I would put my diet at a higher priority.

However, because of my insecurities about gaining weight, I continue to ignore my hunger and tell myself I am “too busy” to eat.

In reality, I’m lying: I am not “too busy.” I am scared, and I don’t want others to feel the same way.

Nutrition in Iowa is already an issue, healthy food or not.

According to FeedingAmerica, “In Iowa, 238,290 people are facing hunger — and of them 68,990 are children.” It is time for Iowans to take account of these issues and make more affordable, healthy food options for not just students, but everyone.

The UI has many campus programs that supply healthy food for students at little to no cost.

The issue is that most are unfamiliar with these resources. I know I was. One little-known program that is available to all college students is the student garden.

This garden provides food grown without pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilizers.

Although they are beneficial and cater to students who are in need of food due to insufficient funds, they do not necessarily focus on nutrition and take into account healthy diets.

These programs must be advertised more to students, so there is a decrease in body image disorders or the fear of gaining weight.

Those who wish to eat healthy, organic food should not be limited because of the high financial burden of college expenses and the lack of knowledge on the resources that are offered.

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