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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Letter to the Editor: Response misses the point

Published: November 17, 2006
Section: Opinions

In last weeks issue, Gabby List wrote a letter to the editor (“Dieting should not be a primary concern,” Nov. 10) claiming my recent article on eating had offended her. List claims that my article was condescending, uninformed, and proposed ridiculous suggestions.

Having grown up in a household where my mother was a dietitian and knowing a great deal about nutrition and weight loss, I feel as though my article was perfectly valid in its points. This is true, of course, only when read in the vein intended. This is where List seems to have gone wrong.

My first point is quite simple: List should have taken a closer look at the title of the article. How to not get fat does not signify an article that is specifically about eating healthy. It is, quite literally, about not getting fat. The article was not about dieting. The complexities of nutritional daily values and servings of protein arent the topic. While those are crucial to controlled and monitored weight loss, thats not what were dealing with. Were all in college;

we dont have time to weigh out portions and count bites. But we do have time to look at the basics.

There is plenty of information about good eating readily available, not only online and in books, but right here on campus with brochures and in person via campus nutritionist Laura OGara. For this reason, my article was not about telling people what makes up healthy eating. The information is out there already. In the spirit of being at college, I wanted to give students something from a classmates perspective. As helpful as all of the aforementioned material can be, sometimes we just need a few major bullet points to refer to quick and broad tips that can really make a difference. Sometimes weight loss and the maintenance of a healthy weight is not all about what to do, but about what not to do.

Unfortunately, List entirely missed the point. The article was about avoiding the freshman 15-staying away from the extra weight that most of us probably dont need or want. For instance, take the example of giving the extra cookie to your skinny roommate. Apparently List cant take some light humor mixed in with her daily reading. If the girl is tiny and can eat what she wants, hey, she can have the cookie. Why not? If you are lucky enough to have one of those naturally slim bodies, enjoy it! The tips are for those out there who, like me, are not as lucky.

Regarding the hit to my advice to try skipping a meal to see how long it takes to get hungry again: this is not an article about eating disorders, and the idea that playing without concept of food and hunger could lead to anorexia is a bit dramatic. Horror of horrors! I have asked students to consider not eating dinner till their stomach tells them it is empty and ready for food? The point is that we tend to develop a psychological connection with having to eat at certain times of the day, even if our body isnt signaling that we need to. Waiting an extra 45 minutes to an hour to head for that faint grumble in your stomach can be a good way to reconnect with your bodys true needs. In fact, an email of nutrition hints sent out by OGara just this past week supported this idea. OGara suggests that playing with your metabolism can help to jump start weight loss if youve reached a plateau. Eat earlier in the day, she suggests, and try skipping dinner once or twice a week. If she said it, then I suppose my advice couldnt have been too far off-base. In addition, OGara sent me a personal e-mail upon reading my article in which she says she couldnt have written it any better herself. I think that is pretty strong support.

In conclusion, I believe that Lists response to my article was simply misguided under the pretense that I was writing on an entirely different subject. The article was targeted to people who are interested in staying slim and avoiding college weight gain. Those who have better things to do dont have to read it! My article was not a soul-searching piece about finding happiness in your life and learning to love yourself and your body as it is. Hey, that stuff is great, but it wasnt what I was writing about. Some people, many in fact, do care. Excessive weight gain in college is something that can follow you around for the rest of your life, and many of us dont want that weighing us down. It isnt about five little pounds, it is about overall trends to make sure that five doesnt turn into 15, 20 or more. Most people have the insight and the frame of mind to read my articles in the spirit they are intended as informative, yet grounded and straight-talking, with just a hint of sarcasm. So, Ms. List, you can eat both cookies. But Im just going to eat one.