International No Diet Day event to promote healthy body image
By Julia Raven
May 6, 2015 1:19 a.m.
Students can pledge to love their bodies and learn more about healthy eating and exercise habits at an event on the Hill Wednesday as part of International No Diet Day.
Two committees in the Undergraduate Students Association Council Student Wellness Commission – Student Health Advocates and the Body Image Task Force – are hosting the International No Diet Day event outside Bruin Cafe to teach students about the possible negative effects of dieting and overexercise.
Eve Lahijani, a dietician and nutrition health educator on the Hill, said dieting tends to backfire more than it works, and it can cause students to overeat or become obsessed with food.
“We are so bombarded by dieting messages,” Lahijani said. “Even when you open a magazine, people don’t realize the photo you’re looking at isn’t real. It isn’t real and isn’t healthy.”
The UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, Counseling and Psychological Services, FITWELL and other wellness groups will host tables on the Hill where students can learn more about healthy lifestyles, said Sally Kim, a fourth-year political science student and event organizer.
The tables will be interactive and have projects such as making T-shirts. Students will be able to pledge to accept themselves the way they are and to feed themselves when they are hungry, among other positive statements, Kim said. Other tables will have experts who will teach students about establishing healthy eating habits and exercising with the goal of being happy, rather than just losing weight.
Kim said she thinks it is important for first- and second-year students to become aware of dieting dangers because individuals may pick up extreme habits in the first two years of college.
“(There are) billboards of the perfect body everywhere,” Kim said. “It’s important to remind students that it’s honestly just accepting your own body and loving yourself that is the best thing.”
Some Hill residents said they support the event because they think it is easy to become obsessed with dieting and exercise in a Los Angeles culture that emphasizes the ideal body.
Sean Bouchard, a first-year undeclared student, said he thinks there is a pressure to have a model-like body, but that people forget eating well can make people look and feel better than they would on a diet.
As a UCLA baseball player, Bouchard said he knows the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle so he can compete effectively.
Other students said they think the pressure for an ideal body can come from peers on campus.
“Everyone here seems so fit and are always in workout clothes,” said Marilyn Perez, a first-year human biology and society student. “Even at the gym we are pushed with signs (saying) ‘Tips to Avoid the Freshman 15.'”
Perez said she thinks dieting and extreme eating habits are not limited to men or women, and she knows people who eat 20 pieces of chicken in the dining hall after lifting weights just to gain muscle.
When students focus too much on what and how much they are eating, Lahijani said she thinks they lose their positive relationship with food.
“Food is supposed to be enjoyable, but for many it is becoming the enemy,” Lahijani said. “We need to start listening to the body instead of judging it.”