Twice a year we award an exemplary student the iVein® Health and Wellness Scholarship. Students must write an essay that promotes a practical approach to a healthy lifestyle in college and how these habits can be sustained over a lifetime.

Here is the Fall 2021 winning essay:

In season 2, episode 15b titled “Band Geeks,” of the hit TV series SpongeBob SquarePants Patrick Star uttered the now-infamous line, “Is mayonnaise an instrument.” Unfortunately, and much to his demise, mayonnaise is not an instrument, as Squidward numbly pointed out. Squidward’s profound analysis of mayonnaise is correct in the episode’s context because the only real sound mayonnaise can make a ‘macaroni in a pot’ type sound, a sound not quite wanted for an orchestra playing at the Bubble Bowl. However, looking at mayonnaise as a whole, it is, in fact, an instrument for a healthy balanced diet.

Mayonnaise, a cold-served dressing composed of a mixture of a neutral plant oil, eggs, lemon juice, vinegar, and a pinch of salt, has had a bad reputation for many years. In the nutrition industry, a widespread fat hysteria is caused by mommy bloggers, TV personalities, nutritionists, and doctors recommending people to cut back foods with fat. Fats were noted to cause inflammation, increase blood cholesterol levels, and cause excess weight gain. However, these publications and programs did not make a distinction between the types of fats. It’s a diet full of saturated fats that have disadvantages to overall health, but a diet with mono- and poly-unsaturated fats has a beneficial effect on health. Not only do mono- and poly-unsaturated fats support the absorption of the four fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin A, D, E, and K, these healthy fats help the gut microbiome and overall gut health and aid in hormone production. Omega-3 fatty acids are currently being looked at in treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other gut and intestinal-related illnesses. Misinformation and panic are caused by a misrepresentation of research as well as insufficient research at large. Even now, groups of people call for boycotts on all carbs and promote a paleo diet, and others claim that everything except veganism is wrong for
one’s health.

With so many opinions of what diet is the best, it’s tough for people to figure out what they should eat. It’s especially pressing for college students because they have complete control over when and what they eat. They are also limited to what they have access to. For example, some students may have a kitchen in their dorm/ apartment to cook their food, while others only have the dining halls. Not only is their diet put into question, but also their physical health. Many college students see college as a place to reinvent themselves, which often focuses on weight and
weight loss. There is immense stress for college students having to fend for themselves and worrying about their weight.

From an aspiring dietitian student to all of my peers, I, with the greatest sincerity, offer the advice that it’s okay to feel lost. It’s okay to feel confused. It’s okay to make mistakes. There are no right or wrong answers to what defines a healthy diet or a healthy lifestyle for YOU. Living a healthy lifestyle ultimately depends on many factors such as the ability to afford healthy foods at a grocery store or dining hall passes, accessibility of grocery stores or dining halls, and ultimately time, all play a factor in what someone can do to lead a healthier lifestyle. Work within your means and set expectations to follow. You have somewhere between the next two to four, and sometimes more, years to make slight modifications to your diet and lifestyle.

There are three main things all college students need to know to make their current lifestyle and diet healthier and to be sustainable well into the future:

First, no diet is perfect for everyone. Some diets are too restrictive in allowed foods, and others are just not feasible given your budget or lifestyle. IF you want to experiment with a diet, take the time to research both sides of the diet and make a pros and cons list for YOU and YOUR current living situation and dietary preferences. If you do get overwhelmed or stuck, remember the most straightforward thing that everyone can do is take their current diet of foods they love and make a few modifications to make their diet healthier. These modifications include: incorporating more whole-wheat or whole-grain bread/pastas, using skim milk instead of whole or 2%, consuming less fatty meats like beef and more lean meats like chicken or turkey, adding fruits and vegetables, and limiting soda and sweets. Small changes like these will eventually become a habit and will be unconscious choices because you are still eating the foods you love. It ensures that these changes will be sustainable and can continue even outside of college.

Second, don’t be afraid to experiment with cuisine different from your own. Because most college students ate what their parents cooked/ wanted to eat, they have limited experience with a
wide array of foods. Many colleges are located in bigger cities that tend to be more diverse, with restaurants and specialty markets that serve authentic, or authentic inspired, foods from these other cultures. One of the best things about people’s diets is diversity in what you eat. It ensures that you can avoid vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and it’s a great way to learn new flavors and new philosophies around food.

Third, no matter what dietary and lifestyle path you choose, please let your philosophy be for your overall physical and mental health and not for weight loss. Focusing on weight loss is a slippery slope to poor dietary choices and often leads to mental distress when a certain number on the scale is not met. Even if the weight loss goals are met through dieting and exercise, it tends to be done in a way that is not sustainable and cannot overpower the body’s natural hormonal desire to regain most of that weight back. Instead, shifting your focus on achieving physical strength, increased flexibility, or a more environmentally friendly diet will allow you to make conscious decisions that go with the flow of your daily life and not be bound by numbers.