Contrary to popular belief, getting skinny might not mean getting healthy — and some students who try to cut calories may be depriving themselves of essential energy.
Tim Wierman, who has a master’s in nutrition education and has participated in over 60 triathlons since 1986, focused on debunking some common beliefs surrounding calories, fats and carbohydrates. Wierman, the president of Nutrition Education Services and creator of the Eat to Compete program, spoke on Wednesday about the importance of nutrition in athletics, academics and the workforce.
He dismissed the notion that the same nutritional rules work for everyone and said that it is important to understand an individual’s needs rather than simply follow diet trends.
“Understanding yourself as an individual, male versus female, young versus old, active or less active, how much fuel your body requires each day to maintain a healthy body weight,” Wierman said. “And many of us don’t have a clue as to what our needs are.”
Wierman stressed that calorie needs differ from person-to-person and that calories are not the only things that affect healthy weight.
“I try to get people to recognize that calories are our friends. We often look at calories as a bad thing,” Wierman said. “Calories are the gasoline of the working muscles, calories are the gasoline of the brain.”
He added that society places too much importance on achieving a “healthy” weight.
“In my opinion, a healthy body weight is one that allows you to be productive, whether it’s in athletics, your job, the classroom and feel relatively good about yourself,” Wierman said.
Wierman has presented his Eat to Compete program at over 300 high schools, colleges and universities around the country. He began the program in 1993 after noticing that there was a lack in nutrition education for student-athletes.
During the presentation, he broke down the different components that make up a person’s weight, such as muscle mass, body fat and water retention, noting that thinness does not mean healthiness.
“You don’t have to be thin to be fit, you just have to find your healthy body weight,” Wierman said.
Wierman said people often focus on the wrong things when making food choices.
“I think there are a lot bigger problems when it comes to our diets than whether we should be consuming white bread versus wheat,” Wierman said.
Jenna Laufer-Gesser, a senior majoring in biology, said she enjoyed the lecture.
“He focused a lot on pro-athletes and I can’t really relate to that, but it’s still really interesting and informative,” Laufer-Gesser said.
Zachary Zeller, a student representative on the Eating Awareness Committee and a junior majoring in bioengineering, said that the program was a foundation to build more knowledge about nutrition and health.
“I thought it was very thorough and a very good for general nutrition,” Zeller said. “It’s a very good guideline and a good place to start.”
Zeller said that he found the presentation especially important for college students because of the prevalence of eating and dietary issues on college campuses.
“A lot of people on college campuses tend to under-eat, and a lot of health complications are more due to under-eating than overeating,” Zeller said. “I think it’s really important to know how many calories you need to get.”
Wierman said that he hoped people left the lecture armed with the knowledge to make proper nutritional decisions.
“My hope is that those who attended walked away with two or three pieces of good information that they can take home to their families, take back to their job site and make small changes each day that, over the length of a week or a month, will improve their health,” Wierman said.
Molly Linsky, a senior majoring in psychology and a health and wellness intern, said that she was excited to use what she learned from the presentation.
“I’m definitely going to take into account all the information he gave on counting calories and making sure you get enough and spread that information to other people,” Linsky said.