Move over 7-day abs and juice diets! The new (school) year’s resolution of choice, according to dietary professionals, is to quit the extremes and work towards being healthy...ish.
On Friday, September 15th, the Office of Health Promotion kicked off their “Let’s Talk Health” campaign: a series of events and challenges to encourage healthy behaviors on campus. The first speaker of the series was Derek Flanzraich, the founder of Greatist.
Greatist is a media startup company that began in 2011, focused on fitness, health, and overall well-being. The word “greatist,” for anyone who thinks this is a typo, is modeled after the word “artist.” An artist is someone who works on art; a greatist is someone who strives to be their greatest self.
The website covers a wide variety of topics, from new workouts to how much water you should be consuming, to skin care, to scenic hiking trails to try out this fall. The site also investigates popular trends and diets, such as the Whole30 diet, to examine their effectiveness. The articles are written in a casual, easy-to-read tone but are heavily supported by science.
The overall message of the company is to strive to be “Healthyish.” It’s not about being perfect; it’s not about eating a salad for every meal; it’s not about getting a six pack. In fact, Flanzraich tried one of the six pack in six weeks regimens and said he was incredibly miserable the entire time.
Being Healthyish is about making healthy, balanced choices but also cutting yourself some slack. Furthermore, being Healthyish isn’t just about focusing on fitness or just focusing on food, it’s looking at the full picture of your health.
“I think Healthyish is more of a balanced approach to health and wellness,” said Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist Kate Sweeney, who works for both the Office of Health Promotion and BC Dining. “It’s not just about [doing] one thing and perfecting it.”
The Healthyish approach includes all aspects of health, including nutrition, exercise, sleeping, meditation, and relationships. Furthermore, it emphasizes choice. Flanzraich stressed that wellness is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Finding a way to be healthy involves trying out a bunch of different healthy behaviors until you find the ones that really stick with you.
He emphasized that if you don’t like a behavior, you won’t keep doing it. In other words, if you don’t like salads, don’t force yourself to eat them, and if you don’t like running, stop trying to run! If you hate a healthy behavior, you’ll stop doing it and fall back on unhealthy behaviors that you already know you like. To be consistent, you can’t be miserable.
“We were excited to kick of the Let’s Talk Health campaign with him because his message is very much about making your own choices that feel good to you,” Sweeney said. She called this method a more “intuitive” approach than doing what others are telling you to do.
As part of the talk, Flanzraich also discussed how overall “diets” are not the most effective healthy behaviors. He pointed out that probably very few people in the audience knew of someone who went on a diet that worked as a long term solution. They tend to restrict people in the short term, without making any long term changes.
Sweeney strongly agreed with the idea that overall diets are not very effective. She pointed to research that shows that roughly 90% of people who go on diets gain the weight back and then some, and that diets tend to make people miserable, cranky, hungry, and socially isolated. Furthermore, they may play a role in triggering eating disorders, particularly among college students.
In addition to the various useful, achievable healthy goals and behaviors that Greatist sets forward, Sweeney was able to offer some tips of her own, including some that are specific to the BC environment. Her philosophy regarding nutrition has four parts: moderation, variety, adequacy, and the idea that weight is not worth.
The first point is moderation. Sweeney believes it is important to give yourself full permission to eat whatever you want, which allows for moderate eating. Without full permission, we are at higher risk to over or under eat, or just feel guilty after eating.
An important part of this is taking food out of categories, i.e. no longer calling foods “good” or “bad.” Removing these labels takes away some of what she calls the emotional charge on food, which allows you to clue into your own body to determine what you truly want to eat. Removing these labels is one of the most important aspects of healthy eating.
The second tenet of the philosophy is variety. This means trying out different foods, trying to bring various colors into your diet, and trying out all the different dining halls.
“I think there are plenty of options BC Dining offers and I think sometimes students...because of convenience and time and things like that kind of end up choosing some of the same things,” Sweeney says. If you always stick to what you know, however, you won’t develop tastes or be able to bring as much variety into your diet. “You have to be open to eating everything.”
The third aspect of healthy eating is adequacy. Most college students should be eating three meals a day and three snacks a day for optimal functioning. One of the biggest health mistakes she sees BC students make is skipping meals due to time constraints or stress. Skipping meals not only impairs your immediate function, but can also cause you to overeat later, deregulate your eating cycle, impact your ability to exercise, and negatively affect your sleep.
Of course, it matters what you eat during those three meals and snacks. Sweeney says that one of the biggest myths she sees out there is that carbs are bad. In fact, your brain runs on carbohydrates.
“I can’t even stress enough how carbs fuel your brain," she says, "and without enough you will not be functioning a hundred percent.”
The final point of the healthy eating approach is that your weight is not your worth. Our society perpetuates the idea that being in a larger body is unhealthy, but Sweeney calls this idea both unhelpful and untrue. Health is about decisions and behaviors, not numbers.
The Office of Health Promotion and Greatist have combined to put forward a sort of buffet of healthy recommendations. It is up to the individual students to try all the options to find a Healthyish regimen that works for them.