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Change the display of nutritional information around Simmons

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In response to what we as members of the Simmons College community see as food policing and body shaming (not specifically on the part of Simmons College, but as enabled by Simmons) we have formed a group we're calling Simmons Health at Every Size. The formation of our group is in direct response to the diverse health needs of Simmons students, among whom are students of every size, many of whom have, have had, or are the allies of people who have eating disorders or patterns of disordered eating.

We are modeling ourselves after Health at Every Size. Their three focal points are self-acceptance, physical activity, & normalized eating as they have defined below:

Affirmation and reinforcement of human beauty and worth irrespective of differences in weight, physical size and shape.

Support for increasing social, pleasure-based movement for enjoyment and enhanced quality of life.

Support for discarding externally-imposed rules and regimens for eating and attaining a more peaceful relationship with food by relearning to eat in response to physiological hunger and fullness cues.

We think that focusing on these things as ends in themselves as opposed to “diet culture” will help improve our overall well-being and help many of us break free from the cycles of restriction, anxiety, self-destruction, & low self-esteem that this culture can cause.

Currently, we are not satisfied with Simmons’ nutritional policies. Prominently displaying calorie counts can be triggering and enabling for those of us recovering from or currently in the depths of an eating disorder. Prescriptive, one-size-fits all posters about making healthy beverage choices are condescending, not informative, and food policing. We’re frustrated by signs that tell us how much we have to exercise to burn off the calories of the food we consume because we think health isn’t about burning calories but being active.

We believe that Simmons students can be empowered by nutritional information. One of the first steps Simmons College can take to help is to get rid of prominently displayed calorie counts & these traffic light beverage posters in favor of objective information that is not displayed in such a way as to be triggering for students. The next step Simmons can take so that we can make empowered decisions about our food is to display relevant information in an unobtrusive way.

We want to list the ingredients for food so we know whether it contains common allergens, additives, or is acceptable for a certain lifestyle we might lead (e.g. halal, kosher, vegetarian, vegan), and information about vitamin & mineral content so that students can meet their daily nutritional needs instead of focusing on eating to lose weight. Alternatively, or in addition, we think that if signs are displayed they should be in terms of positives, not negatives, such as “Excellent source of calcium & vitamin D.” Our ultimate goal is to create a database and then website of nutritional information at Simmons with the option to see or not see calories, but with the rest of this information readily available. If you're worried about the cost of such an endeavor, we assure you: Many of us are willing to come together to do this on our own if we get your support.

While we’re sure some may be skeptical of intuitive eating, we have the stats to back up the claim that this approach will improve the health of our students because the statistics show intuitive eating is better for health overall than dieting. For example, “In a 2006 study of 343 college students, igh intuitive eating scores were associated with fewer food anxieties, greater pleasure associated with BMI, diversification of diet, and eating breakfast. It did not compromise the nutritional quality of dietary choices.” (Smith & Hawks, 2006) While many doctors, scientists, and nutritionists now think BMI is a poor indicator of health, the point still stands. Additionally, another “Larger study on 1,300 college women showed that intuitive eaters were found to be more optimistic, have higher self-esteem, healthier BMI, and were less likely to internalize our culture’s thin ideal.” (Tylka, 2006)

Please consider our proposal for the overall health - physical, emotional, and mental - of your students. Thank you for your consideration.

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