Nutrition and Body Image


College can be a challenging time to engage in healthy nutrition for many reasons including but not limited to the following: being new to residential settings and dining hall experiences; an unfamiliarity with American or mid-Atlantic food traditions; academic related stress; time management; generalized stress; physical illness; food allergies or specific dietary needs; or previous eating/ food issues. It is normal to struggle with figuring out to eat healthy and nutritious foods during college. 

The Healthy Eating Plate, a nutrition guide created by the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, was designed to provide "detailed guidance, in a simple format, to help people make the best eating choices." 

Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical College Healthy Eating Plate

Body Image

Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. It includes:

  • What you believe about your own appearance (including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations).
  • How you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight.
  • How you sense and control your body as you move, and how you feel in your body, not just about your body. 
We all may have days when we feel awkward or uncomfortable in our bodies. In order to develop a positive body image, we must learn how to recognize and respect our natural shape; how to overcome negative thoughts and feelings; and how to focus on body positive and affirming thoughts. 

Negative body image is a distorted perception of your shape--you perceive parts of your body unlike they really are. You are convinced that only other people are attractive and that your body size or shape is a sign of personal failure. You may feel ashamed, self-conscious, and anxious about your body. You may also feel uncomfortable and awkward in your body.

Positive body image is a clear, true perception of your shape--you see the various parts of your body as they really are. You celebrate and appreciate your natural body shape, and you understand that a person’s physical appearance says very little about their character and value as a person. You feel proud and accepting of your unique body and refuse to spend an unreasonable amount of time worrying about food, weight, and calories. You feel comfortable and confident in your body.

Body Image and Eating Disorders
People with negative body image have a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder and are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and obsessions with weight loss. 

If you want more information about eating disorders or how to help yourself or a friend, connect with National Eating Disorders Association or contact any of the people listed below.

Adapted from What is Body Image? | National Eating Disorders Association. (n.d.). Retrieved January 15, 2016, from