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August 23, 2006

-- Harvard Journal --

The dining hall diet

By Michel Lee

Turlock, Calif., Aug. 23, 2006 – The “freshman 15” is a myth.

Click Here   Michel Lee at Harvard

While I did gain an extra 30 pounds or so upon entering high school, when I weighed myself after getting home, I was surprised to find that I had actually lost weight while at Harvard.

Wait, not so quick. Though Harvard is Harvard, I can't say that the prestige and $18 billion endowment really made me shed a couple pounds. If anything, it was the bland, mass-produced food at Annenberg Hall that did it.

But what I really think is that for once I was left to make my own decisions about, well, everything. When should I go to sleep? Am I supposed to put two or three cups of detergent in the wash? And most importantly, what should I eat? Left to my own devices, I found that I actually make healthier choices about food than I do at home. (My brother, of course, is a different story. Doritos, anyone?)

That's not to say that we like to frequent our local MacDonald's here in Modesto. My mom can cook up a mean tofu and spinach lasagna and our entire family is generally very conscious about what we eat. It's the fact that we have lots of food in our pantry just begging to be eaten. Believe it or not, those calories in soy crisps and granola add up after one too many midnight snacks.

Being a frugal gal, I was quite reluctant to spend any money while at Harvard. I made a couple trips to CVS for a Swiffer, toothpaste, and floss, and to the Coop (bookstore) for a yoga mat. While I'm sure that my parents wouldn't have hesitated to stock up on a few dried apples and some trail mix, I thought it was best to eat in the dining hall with my meal plan.

I have no self-control when it comes to food, so while newfangled diets might encourage intermittent snacking and “mini-meals,” the unavailability of things to eat was in fact beneficial to my health. I ate more balanced meals at dinnertime and stymied the urge to dig into a tub of Ben and Jerry's by remembering to save money. That there were two gyms in close proximity to my dorm didn't hurt, either.

Who knows?  Maybe this habit will be a keeper, though those brown rice chips are looking awful tasty right now...

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