Marlborough girls flood into the East Atrium at break, where they expect a table laden with delicious baked goods and sugary drinks. But instead of glistening Krispy Kreme donuts and miniature muffins, they are shocked to see baskets of fruit.
“Why is all the food so… healthy?” a tenth grader asks in a tone filled with horror.
A parent volunteer turns around with a smile.
“We think it’s important that you eat less junk food,” she says.
The student turns back to her friends and whispers, “It’s because they think we’re fat.”
We at The UltraViolet think that it is important to remember that positive body image and healthy eating should be approached in such a way that neither undermines the other. This year, the Parents’ Association partnered with the administration to start a new initiative: bring healthier food for treats to encourage students to think about avoiding the unhealthy options that are so readily available. Together, parents and staff formatted guidelines for what foods should be brought for class treats and athletic events to ensure the availability of more nutritional options. We think that this is a great idea, and many students here agree. In a survey last year, girls and their parents ranked encouraging healthy eating habits as a top area in which Marlborough could improve.
However, since this change occurred concurrently with the Face-It VII retreat, which focused on appearance-related issues this year, we are concerned that the simultaneous discussion of health and appearance could lead to mixed messages.
Parents who talk about health with their daughters should remember that saying “I think you should eat more healthily” can easily be perceived as “You need to eat less junk so you don’t get fat / because you are fat.” Adults should be careful to use rhetoric related to health, not appearance, and be aware of the connotations of body criticism present in those conversations.
The School should always convey the message of feeling comfortable with your body so that being “body-positive” and thinking about healthy food choices do not seem mutually exclusive. After all, appreciating your body does not give you license to eat whatever you want, because eating healthy is ultimately not about appearance: if you love your body, you should take care of it, which requires ingesting more than just sugar and caffeine.
We would also like to urge students not to snub parent-provided snacks of yogurt and berries because they’d prefer Crumbs cupcakes or ice cream. Food without sugar will propel you through Doc’s G-period Ancient Civilizations class just as well as a chocolate bar and won’t cause you to go into sugar withdrawal in Spanish class and fall asleep. Besides, if you’re really craving something sweet, there are still cookies for sale at Café M.