What Studying Nutrition Taught Me About Body Image

From: Jane Doe , Posted Date: Jul 7th, 2017

Danica D’Souza is a final year BSc student (Nutrition and Physiology) from Sydney, Australia. She   plans to study further for her Masters in Dietetics with a view to becoming an Accredited Practising Dietician.  In her spare time she enjoys cooking, playing the piano and guitar, reading classic novels (she is currently reading Anna Karenina) and occasionally dabbling in the world of blogging https://apieceofshortcake.wordpress.com.

I’ve always loved cooking and became interested in healthy eating after completing a ninth-grade  assignment. We had to record what we ate over seven days and analyse whether it met nutritional guidelines. According to my teacher, my seven-day food diary wasn’t as good as it could have been. I immediately became interested in learning about what nutritious food actually was, and began preparing healthy lunches to take to school. So, when I had to decide what to study at university, choosing a degree in nutrition was a no-brainer.

However, as someone who was never the ‘skinny girl’, I’d often worry that I was not thin enough to be a nutritionist. Currently, I’m at a healthy weight range and BMI for my age and height, but like most women, I’ve struggled with body image in the past. However, from studying nutrition, I’ve learnt a few facts about developing a healthy body image.

Do I Look Healthy vs. Do I Feel Healthy?

A common misconception is that nutrition is just about weight loss. Wrong! It’s much more than that. During the summer, I worked with a dietician and observed his patient consultations. Besides patients who wanted to lose weight, there were several others —of all shapes and sizes --  who needed nutrition information for a variety of reasons; whether it be managing diabetes, being deficient in certain nutrients or dealing with digestive issues. Some of these people were at a good weight and looked healthy externally. But, clearly, the fact that they needed to see a dietician meant they weren’t necessarily healthy internally. It just goes to show that looks can be deceiving. So instead of focusing on our external appearance and trying to meet society’s  unrealistic expectations, we should focus on how healthy we feel on the inside and whether we have any serious health issues which need to be addressed.

Love Your Body for What It Does For You NOT for Just How it Looks

After a year of studying biology, a year of studying biochemistry and another year of studying physiology as part of my degree, it’s fair to say I’ve learnt quite a bit about the human body over the past three- and- a- half years. I’m always amazed by the complex pathways and intricate chemical reactions the body undergoes in order to do even the simplest of tasks such as eating an apple. Let’s face it —our bodies do more than we give it credit for! We should respect our body by looking after it, not tearing it down with insults. It is more important to eat nutritious food and exercise regularly than to stress over fad diets in order to look like our favourite celebrity.

Everything In Moderation!

Yes I know we’ve all heard this one before, but part of developing a healthy body image is also developing a healthy relationship with food. Eating should be enjoyable and certain foods shouldn’t be demonised. Of course, it’s important to limit foods which are high in saturated fats, sugar and salt, but if we acknowledge that these foods are ‘sometimes’ foods and shouldn’t make up a major part of our diet, but an occasional indulgence,  do we really need to feel guilty about that one piece of birthday cake we ate last night? Not really.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The content of this article covers generalised body image issues based on the author’s own experiencesand does not deal with more complex issues such as body dysmorphia or eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. If you or someone you know, could be struggling with these issues, please seek medical advice.