Pizza, ice cream, unlimited dining hall food, late night fast food delivered to our dorm. Every day we are faced with choices. Some are more tempting than others. But often times we let our emotions, hunger, or stomach, dictate our decisions without any second thought of the consequences. Besides, whats the worst that can happen?
Unfortunately, we live in a society where if something does not give us immediate gratification we decide its not important, worth our effort, or money. In fact, humans are the only species who eat for pleasure. This is why it’s so easy for us to choose a cookie over a salad. The cookie satisfies our tastebuds right away whereas the salad will nourish our body with essential vitamins and minerals which we are not likely to notice the effects of immediately. When making these choices we need to remember that food is actually meant to fuel and nourish our bodies so that they can function properly.
If we are engaging in eating habits such as binging on food late at the dining hall or constantly ordering fast food, skipping meals, although our bodies may not seem to be drastically changing from this, these can quickly become habits that will carry on with us through adulthood when our metabolism will slow down making us gain weight that we could otherwise get away with in college.
To most people gaining weight might seem like the scariest consequence of unhealthy eating. Seeing the number go up on the scale can be a nightmare. But the real nightmare are the changes going on in your body that you can’t see. The leading causes of death are cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease, all which can help be prevented by proper nutrition and fueled by weight gain. If we do not take care of our bodies by fueling them with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and eat less sugar, sodium, and saturated fats, we are essentially putting ourselves at risk. Many people argue that healthier foods are more expensive, I argue that the medications you will be paying for later on in life to treat your disease will be.
At the college age it may seem like our bodies have stopped growing but our bone density and muscle mass doesn’t reach it’s peak until ages 25-30. According to my nutrition professor, who is a registered dietician, some of us won’t even reach our full height and growth until age 21. This means we need to be eating foods high in calcium and Vitamin D. And if we don’t pay attention to this, we can develop diseases such as osteoporosis.
To those of you who plan on having kids, (in the very very distant future…maybe) did you know that your nutrition status can determine your ability to conceive, and be able to have a healthy baby? Your diet has the power to determine your own children’s lives. Registered dietitians work with pregnant women to make sure their diets are suitable for conceiving healthy children and preventing things such as Spina bifida. If that’s not enough motivation to monitor your eating habits, keep reading.
Now it may seem a little ridiculous to picture yourself in old age, but ask yourself do you want to be active and walking around at home or wheelchair bound in a nursing home? It is true that your health as an elder is a result of your cumulative dietary habits throughout your life span. So yes, the doughnut you eat every morning could influence whether you will be able to walk in 40 years.
Now don’t get me wrong eating healthy does not cure cancer or give you life long immunity. Genetic, social, and environmental factors all contribute to your over all well being, nutrition is just a significant part of the puzzle. Health is a gamble. So ask yourself, is eating unhealthy worth doubling your odds?