Nading: Eat well to be well, not skinny.

Mackenzie Nading

Being overweight isn’t desirable.

Fashion magazines tell us, television tells us, and our health professionals shove that fact down our throats. The mantra about leading a healthy lifestyle to help kick obesity is becoming so overworked and overheard that it’s quickly becoming null and ineffective. Personally, I cringe at any talk of eating healthy and most of all, exercising. But I’m also lucky enough to have inherited genes that include a high metabolism.

I stand at 5 feet 10 inches and only 130 pounds, and most importantly the Big Mac is my favorite food. Because of the lucky combination of above average height and a hard working metabolism, I have, for better or worse, learned to tune out all the fuss about eating healthy because I didn’t think I needed to hear it.

Until recently.

When first deciding to write a column about losing weight and eating right, I was going to express how hard it is for college students to reach those goals. There were plenty arguments that came to mind: The “all you care to eat” dining centers with that delectable alfredo sauce that is 720 calories per ladle (if you didn’t already know that, you will now come to despise that awesome sauce), the dozens of cafes and our very own Caribou Coffee that serve piping hot and calorie-loaded caffeinated drinks. Finally, of course, there’s all the stress that college classes bring in general.

All of these seemed like really solid reasons and I was ready to argue away, but then I talked to Janelle Stephens.

Janelle works at Mary Greeley in Ames as a Patient Care Technician. Working in a hospital setting exposed her to many of the health complications that come with being overweight and not living a healthy lifestyle. It was Janelle’s sister who first encouraged her to change her own unhealthy way of living.

“My sister started first on the Take Shape For Life Program and as we noticed her success, six other family members also began this journey,” Stephens said, “As a group we have reduced 400 plus pounds.”

Take Shape For Life is a weight loss program that combines clinically proven portion controlled nutrition of Medifast Meals, as well as a personal health coach who will guide you as you lose weight.

Janelle was inspired to try a healthy lifestyle by her family, and together they have been able to lose weight and become one another’s support system. 

“The added joy is that so many in my family are on this same journey with me,” she said.

But she isn’t just happy about her slimming waistline; she’s also seen other benefits to her smarter eating choices.  

“[N]ot eating junk food like candy, chips and desserts has been the added blessing of having energy, blood work within normal ranges and not having to take blood pressure medication,” she said.

Janelle’s personal goal is to reach a healthy body mass index and to reach out to as many other people who are struggling to keep a healthy lifestyle and lose weight.  “I made the decision to become healthy, and thanks to Take Shape For Life, I have a way to achieve my goal to be healthy, happy and energetic,” said Stephens. “I am having fun as a health coach encouraging others to reach their goals.”

I couldn’t help but perk my ears at Janelle’s story, but I was still planning to continue with my original angle of complaining about the challenges college students face along the road to being healthy. Somewhere along the way, however, my subconscious got the best of me. After hearing Janelle’s story, my mind shifted without me even realizing it. I was suddenly being much more aware of the things I was choosing to eat, and I found it pretty easy to find healthy choices wherever I went.

I work on campus, so even in the summer I’m faced with the dining centers’ tempting choices as a challenge, but before I knew it I was steering away from the pasta line up and over to the salad bar. I learned the low-fat blueberry muffins are just as good as the regular ones, and most astonishing of all, I learned I can in fact live without my medium iced turtle mocha with whipped cream from Caribou.

And the result? I feel so much better, and I don’t mean just in a self-esteem way.

While I do not struggle with weight, I do have a family medical history full of heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol that scared me into paying more attention to my eating habits.  Diabetes, heart disease, cancer: They’re all real diseases consuming our society, and all are linked to eating the wrong kinds of things.

And as I’ve learned from attempting to eat better around campus, it’s really not that hard to pick the better choices. I’m not talking about lettuce and fruit every single day, but doing so every once in a while can do you a world of good. I have more energy, I don’t want to eat every second of every day, and I’ve discovered some really delicious foods that are also healthy.

Eating right means being healthy, not just losing weight; weight comes off easier for some than others, and some, like me, don’t even have any to begin with. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore what’s happening on the inside of our bodies. 

Being a college student and eating healthy are not as in conflict with one another as I originally assumed. You just have to be conscious of your choices and willing to try new things. Salad bars aren’t that scary, and we might as well put those outrageous student fees to good use and use State Gym now that it’s available to us.

No more excuses, fellow Iowa Staters: It’s time to buck up and be healthy.  Our lives are seriously depending on it.