About thirteen semesters ago, when I was working at a college, I decided to see if I could put my finger on the pulse of the food attitudes of emerging adults. I figured what better group to study than those who were sitting in that precious space between carefree existence and burgeoning responsibility–and whose habits would markedly define the next generation of health and eating. As I had only newly forged my way into being the first nutritionist on the campus, I was also eager to see what the possibilities were for my work there.
So, I designed a little questionnaire and managed to have it distributed to a subset of different types of students–150 in total. I made sure to include freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors; male and female athletes; and, dance, exercise science, business, chemistry and of course, some token English majors. I found the first student I could who expressed to me an interest in the field of nutrition and together we collected and, in a totally unscientific manner, collated the data.
The results were fascinating, or well, somewhat interesting. However, not really being a researcher and without any tools for sophisticated analysis-and, because it was a while ago–I can’t describe what they were. Though the nature of the questions was probably pretty depressing for the young cohort, I recall being tickled pink to learn that in response to question #33, about 15% of students knew there was a nutritionist on campus. Well, at least the smart ones figured it out when they got my questionnaire. It must have been the English majors.
Recently, I came upon my modest tool of inquiry and wondered would it be interesting for others to ponder the questions I was probing then. So, here, in an altered, abridged and more grown-up version, I present the questionnaire, in my continued quest to see what may have relevance for the masses. Or, to perchance find the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything regarding how and why we feed ourselves. It may, in the fashion of Douglas Adams’, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, take 7 1/2 million years to find the answer, which might just as likely turn out to be 42. And, while the ultimate question may likely remain unknown, here is my little stab at it. Ready?
1. How much do you think about your food choices?
2. If your diet was a class project, what grade would you give it?
3. What do you believe are your best/worst eating/food habits?
4. Does nutrition information interest you, confuse you or bore you to tears?
5. Do you think that eating better could improve your well-being or prevent certain health conditions? What might inspire or motivate you to change?
6. Do you follow any special or defined diet?
7. What health issues are present in your nuclear and extended family?
8. Do you think that you have any health issues that may be related to your diet?
9. Do you think your eating habits might catch up with you someday?
10. What motivates or affects your eating behaviors? Health, weight, performance, pleasure, convenience, finances, cooking skills, boredom, stress, emotional issues?
11. Do you believe that you have or are sensitive to any of the following addictions? Caffeine/Nicotine/Alcohol/Drugs/Sugar/Food
12. Have your parents influenced your food and eating habits? Positively or negatively? Which parent most influenced your eating habits?
13. If you have children, or if you may someday, do you think ideas about good nutrition affect how you do or will feed them?
14. Does anyone else in your life influence or affect your eating habits? Who? Positively or negatively?
15. Do you feel bad about how you eat? Are you at peace with how you eat?
16. Do you wish you would care more or care less about food and eating matters?
17. What do you hunger for? What food(s) is most important to you?
18. Have you consciously or unconsciously made small or large changes in your approach to eating? How has your eating changed through the years?
19. If you knew then, what you know now, would you have approached feeding/eating differently?
20. Do you know what kale is? If yes, have you ever eaten it?
33. Do you know there is a nutritionist asking you these questions?
So, if any of these questions have provoked in you anything new or meaningful, let me know. What else might we be asking? As always, sharings are greatly welcomed.
By the way, it turned out that many students–perhaps inspired by my survey–did take advantage of the opportunity to meet with me–and working with them was a real pleasure. They came to discuss their own issues or to explore nutrition topics in conjunction with a class project or campus activity. They possessed a lovely blend of personal insight, intellectual curiosity, and social and environmental awareness–all necessary and exquisite ingredients in this continued exploration of nourishment–and the future of eating.
In fact, the student who helped me in that little endeavor has already gone on to establish herself quite strongly in the health and nutrition firmament. Check out the incredible work of Sara Eddison. There is hope.
In health, Elyn
My Plate Haiku