teaching nutrition - Ice Cream Assassin
Jul. 6th, 2011
03:51 pm - teaching nutrition
I'm teaching a new class this quarter - human nutrition - and it's difficult. Not only is this new material for me to learn as well as teach, but the subject of nutrition brings out strong opinions. A few of my students are really struggling with their weight as well as with body image issues. Every time we look at HHS nutrition guidelines and something mentions obesity as the 2nd biggest risk factor for preventable deaths, or see an emphasis on weight control rather than simple good health, I cringe a little.
The good thing is that my students are pretty vocal. A couple of them debated for a few minutes in class today about whether it's okay to feed McDonalds food to children. The "no" side thought it was morally wrong to feed children junk food if it's having obvious effects on their bodies - i.e. they're getting fat. The "yes" side was giving examples of kids who had fast metabolisms and could eat anything without changing their weight. I think it's interesting that people think it's okay to judge peoples' food choices if it's having an obvious effect on their appearance, but no one calls anyone else immoral for feeding their skinny kid ice cream, even though skinny people get heart disease and arterial hardening too. I'm trying to emphasize in my teaching that nutrition is not simply a matter of telling people how to eat, they become able and motivated to eat that way, and they look like a fitness model. There are lots of factors that play into what we eat and why.
I think I'm going to try to incorporate some Health at Every Size stuff into this class. I really feel for my students- one of them was telling me he had gastric bypass surgery 4 years ago, and now his stomach is so small that he has to eat 5 small meals a day and take supplements, as it's impossible for him to get all his nutrient requirements from food because he can't eat enough. He's still got severe body image issues and eats very unhealthy food, partially because he feels bad about his body and how he looks. In class today, he said "They did a bypass on my stomach, not my brain." Another student volunteered his info when I was showing them how to find personal calorie and food group recommendations on the MyPlate (replacement for MyPyramid) website. It popped up with a message that said something like "You are outside the weight recommendations for your height. To see recommendations for a healthy person of your height, click to continue." I don't think anyone who is seriously overweight in the United States doesn't realize that they are outside the weight recommendations. I don't think that guilt tripping people or simply giving them nutrition facts is going to help them improve their health. I feel for my students. This is going to be a tough class to teach.