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Gym Culture on Campus

Bill Landefeld

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When you look at a banana, what do you think? Do you think, “Man, that banana looks really tasty. I think I am going to eat it”? Or do you think, “Man, that 100-calorie banana with 27 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of which are sugars, loaded with potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C, will be a great snack right before I run because it is high on the glycemic index”? Personally, I think about the latter.

While some people on the Whitman College campus believe that Whitman students stress about “dieting” and working out, I think that taking nutrition and exercise choices seriously is a good thing.

First, I would like to explain why I have put “dieting” in quotation marks. The reason for this is that I think that many people confuse dieting with healthy choices. People who are dieting are purposely restricting their caloric intake and/or only eating certain kinds of food in order to lose weight, whereas people who are making healthy choices are making conscious (or subconscious after they develop a healthy eating habit) decisions of what foods are better for them in order to maintain their weight and eat a healthy, balanced meal.

Sometimes, dieting to attain a goal can be a good thing, such as when somebody is overweight or gluten-intolerant; however, dieting to the point of lowering your body fat levels below healthy standards and not eating balanced meals (such as not eating fruits or vegetables) is not healthy, but rather destructive to the body. Healthy choices, such as eating preservative-free whole-wheat sandwiches versus preservative-packed white bread sandwiches with high-fructose corn syrup, might be interpreted as “dieting” by the greater part of society, but just because somebody is making healthy choices does not necessarily mean that they are over-obsessed with putting unhealthy chemicals, artery clogging fats and energy-lacking foods into their bodies. Not to mention, what you eat directly funds the company or person who grew or made your food. Would you rather fund Monsanto or your local organic farmer?

I believe that the infamous calorie log is a valuable lesson for everybody. What kind of food did you eat today? How many calories were from fats, how many from proteins, how many from carbs and what kinds (yes, there is a lot more to these three  simplified categories)? Did I only eat processed foods, or did I eat organic, nutritious meals? How was I feeling on the days that I ate certain foods? By keeping a log and re-evaluating your eating habits, you can not only set a benchmark for the kinds of healthy choices –– as many organic and wholesome foods as you can manage on your broke college-student budget –– you should make, but also help you understand what exactly you are putting into your body. Educate yourself on food, but be realistic about it. I can guarantee you that after you keep a calorie log, you will have second thoughts about eating an Ultimate Cheeseburger with a large curly fry and large chocolate shake –– hold the cream and cherry (can you tell what I like to call my “cheat meals”?).

Life is all about moderation, isn’t it? I agree with this generalization to a certain extent; however, I don’t think that you will ever be able to find the point of moderation unless you push yourself past your comfort zone. This goes with food as well as exercise. Ask any serious athlete on campus if their intense training for their sport helped them realize that they can accomplish anything if they put their minds to it –– athletic feats as well as other aspects of life. While they may not strive to maintain their dedicated state of fitness their whole life, their physical feats have developed them into the hard-working, dedicated individuals who they are today. Some see it as an unrealistic expectation of what one’s body should look like, but I see it as life-long skills that they are developing.

Just because society does not accept munching on a bag of spinach as much as a bag of chips or taking a work break to do push-ups rather than smoke a cigarette does not mean that we should settle with what is accepted. Rather, we should maintain a healthy consciousness about what we put into our bodies and how we use them. Moderation is a wonderful thing, but going over the top helps you reach the point of moderation that is right for you.

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Gym Culture on Campus