Stanford doesn’t have fat people. At least, it seems that way. If you’re looking around Arrillaga, you soon realize that between the pre-made salad, tofu, and Israeli couscous options, we don’t reflect the general statistics on American obesity. California is a land of yoga, kale and avocados, all of which contribute to a general emphasis on maintaining a sometimes-extreme healthy lifestyle.
Stanford’s dining halls offer an incredibly rich selection of both healthy and non-healthy options. Friends have said they have a more varied dining experience in dining halls than at home, and I can’t deny that an omelet and smoothie at Wilbur brunch leaves me pleasantly stuffed with good food. You can switch from Stern burritos to burrito bowls or salads, and there are a plethora of healthy options at any of the many dining halls on campus.
Not only do we have amazing, good-for-you food, but also, our student-athletes set an example for the rest of us by maintaining incredible bodies and dedicated fitness routines. Armed with free books and the flood of athletic gear otherwise known as Nike Christmas, our athletes are pretty uniformly good-looking individuals. I’ve been lucky to room with two Division I athletes since coming to Stanford: caring, smart girls who also happen to be some of the best lacrosse and field hockey players I’ve met. Seeing your roommate’s rocking body on a daily basis is a motivator to get to the gym. Given that they may be practicing three to four hours, I can probably bust thirty minutes on the elliptical machine.
I was reflecting over the weekend at a conference with other universities on why I chose Stanford over other similarly elite Northeastern universities. To be honest, a huge factor was the weather and a sighting of the men’s soccer team fountain hopping shirtless at Admit Weekend.
A friend at Harvard recently sent me an article published in their student newspaper about how Stanford is a better place to be, and our newest class of 2018 is officially the most exclusive group ever: its admit rate was 5.07 percent. We top the charts as America’s dream school; however, there’s also a darker side that’s not advertised in admissions material.
Like any college, Stanford is not immune to body image issues, and I’d argue we’re perhaps worse, in that diseases such as anorexia are highly correlated with high achievement. A friend studying abroad described an experience of one girl who had their group enter and then leave four different restaurants in the search for a ham sandwich, so she could just pick off the meat. Other universities may spend a substantial part of the year below freezing, requiring everybody to wear sweatshirts and multiple layers. At Stanford, as a friend once said, “When you’re wearing yoga pants and a tank top, we know what you look like.”
According to the Massachusetts Eating Disorders Association, 91 percent of college women have attempted to control their weight through dieting. One survey by the National Eating Disorders Association found that nearly 20 percent of a surveyed group of male and female college students indicated that they had or previously had eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia or binge-eating. They also noted that because so few students seek treatment, it’s difficult to say how serious the problem is on campuses. They also noted that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, and a suicide rate that is fifty times higher the general population.
There can be a negative side to our extreme achievement when it comes to body image. Every shape, every size and every one is beautiful. Eating and exercise are some of my favorite activities, but they shouldn’t be our shackles. If you’re a young Stanford student, it’s hard not to be conscious of how you look. At a school that strives for excellence, that pressure can sometime manifest itself in unhealthy ways.
I have a friend who used to be a great high school cross-country runner and now is rooming with an ex-Olympian track star. Your measure of talent in every area rises and readjusts, and it’s humbling. My friend’s roommate has encouraged him to develop Stanford’s Running Club, and as a leader he is able to provide competitive running options to non-varsity athletes. I have another politically minded friend whose rowing team roommate has encouraged him to go to the gym at midnight and take random jogs into Palo Alto. Stanford’s one of the best universities on earth, and it’s important we stay healthy healthily.
Contact McKenzie Andrews at [email protected]