Peer Educator talks healthy eating

Photo by Mary-Ellen Davis/ The Towerlight

Healthy eating is a concept often practiced to maintain a healthy lifestyle and mindset. Towson University’s Body Image Peer Educator Staff Coordinator Jaime Kaplan sat down with The Towerlight to discuss healthy eating and its ties to body image. This has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: How long have you been in the field of Body Image Peer Education, and what got you interested in the field?

I have been in the field for over 10 years. I have an interest in body image education because it is so important to counteract the negative stereotypes we see in the media.  In addition to the thin ideal for women (or muscle ideal for men), there are many negative portrayals of eating disorders and eating disorder treatment.

I also hear about incorrect nutrition and exercise tips that students learn from other students or from social media, which they believe to be true.

My goal in educating others is to provide people with healthy ways to take care of themselves and their bodies, and to promote healthy body awareness that focuses on aspects other than appearance.  For example, focus on what their body can do rather than on what it looks like.

Q: In your view, how do body image and healthy eating partner with each other?

People with poor body image can sometimes go to extremes to try and change what they see in the mirror.  They may think that they are eating healthier, but eating less and cutting out entire food groups is actually quite unhealthy.  The problem, however, does not lie in the mirror but rather in the mind of the person. So even if they lose or gain weight, it is never enough.  I try to help individuals change how they see themselves rather than what they see.

Q: Do you feel as though healthy eating is realistic on college campuses, despite popular opinion?

Absolutely!  Healthy eating is multifaceted. It consists of eating enough for one’s body and stopping when one is full.  It also consists of eating a variety of different types of food, which includes carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

We often encourage people to eat three meals with some snacks in between.  So yes, healthy eating is absolutely realistic on college campuses. I think this type of thinking becomes distorted because people think of healthy eating as only eating fruits and vegetables.  

Both are readily available on college campuses and while fruits and vegetables are healthy, only eating from these food groups is not healthy eating.  Furthermore, the stereotype for college is free pizza at every event. Eating pizza does not make you unhealthy. Eating pizza for every meal everyday is unhealthy but simply eating it once in a while is fine.  Health is in balance and variety.

Q: From what you’ve seen, do you think that there are enough viable healthy eating options on Towson University’s campus?

Yes. The dining halls and restaurants on campus all offer a variety of food options.

Q: What advice would you give to those who want to begin eating healthy, but aren’t sure how to start?

I would remind people that restricting entire food groups is never smart and that making a lifestyle change is much healthier than going on a diet.  Going on a diet implies that you will eventually go off of it because it is not sustainable.

For example, if someone goes on a diet that only involves eating vegetables, they will not get all of the required nutrients they need and will eventually go off this diet, with a likelihood of overeating.  Changing a lifestyle, however, is done in small changes and includes sustainable goals. For example, eating more fruit and less baked goods throughout the day.

However, I would never tell someone not to eat the baked goods!  Not allowing yourself to eat certain foods will only make you crave it more.  I would also encourage people to become more aware of serving sizes and less about counting calories.  Listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.  It takes about 20-30 minutes to digest your food.  Try not to go too long between eating.

-Compiled by Ave’on Laine

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