This past Thursday, the UCSB Department of Health & Wellness put on an exciting and brand-new workshop called “Self Care Through Sustenance” at San Nicolas Hall. It was just one night of the campus-wide “Love Your Body Week” put on by the Women’s Center, which provided a variety of free workshops and classes for students all promoting healthy living. I was lucky enough to get a firsthand witness of this event, which included a guided presentation, free food and a live food demonstration.
Valeryee Jimenez, a fellow UCSB student and Women’s Center programmer, created and organized this event herself based on her passion for helping people form a healthy relationship with their food. She defined the phrase “self care through sustenance” as eating mindfully and making a “bond” with our food without feeling guilty about it.
“Not eating is so casual nowadays. I see people who go 12 hours without eating and not even think about it, when that’s actually really concerning,” she told me. “This happens when people are not connected to what they’re eating or what it means to give themselves sustenance. Actively thinking to yourself ‘I’m gonna go out and make sure I get at least three meals today’ is such an important part of self-care.”
Valeryee opened the event by leading a short presentation during which she touched on the toxicity of diet culture and how it teaches society to achieve the “ideal” body type. She went into great detail describing how dangerous these trends can be, considering they make us restrictive and promote a misconception that all healthy bodies are thin. In other words, you don’t have to be super skinny to be happy or have a fulfilled life! She even shared her own personal struggle with stress-induced binge-eating and said, “I would get really down on myself for indulging, but that’s only because of society’s beauty standards. Instead, it’s important to listen to your body and let yourself have something if you want it.” Her advice was simple, but it was refreshing to hear this be defined as a common struggle. Her openness also allowed everyone to feel comfortable in accepting their own experiences with food. As she finished speaking, she asked if anyone would like to share something they connected with in her presentation, making the topic collaborative and open.
Perhaps the most pleasantly surprising part I found in her presentation was the information she gave us about the many resources available on campus for cooking or eating on the go. One resource that really stood out to me was the ability to use your student ACCESS card at the front desks of any residence hall to temporarily check out cooking equipment such as pots, pans, cooking trays, strainers, serving bowls, cooking spray, sugar, salt, as well as any plastic utensils, cups, plates or bowls! Cooking at home can be such a great way to eat healthy and save money or even avoid using your dwindling dining hall swipes. She even handed out a list to everyone with all of the food resources at UCSB for students who may be struggling to afford three meals a day. These included the A.S. Food Bank, CalFresh, Emergency Funds and the Swipe Out Hunger Organization, along with instructions on how to contact them.
Everyone was also able to help themselves to a variety of free food, which included options for people with special eating restrictions. Pizza was the main course of the night, with three different kinds provided, ranging from pepperoni all the way to Woodstock’s famous vegan pizza. Other snacks provided included chips and guacamole, a variety of different cookies, Rice Krispies treats and refreshments. But the happy indulging didn’t stop there! Immediately following Valeryee’s presentation, everyone shifted their attention to the back of the room where a Food Nutrition and Basic Skills intern from the Health & Wellness department led us in an interactive cooking demonstration. She explained that she works to teach other students how to eat and cook healthy food on a college budget. One of her favorite hacks that saves money, time and resources (while still being nutritious and sustainable) is cooking a sweet potato using a microwave. She led us in a demonstration with the following instructions:
- Scrub the sweet potato in water.
- Use a knife or fork to stab it 5-6 times.
- Put the sweet potato on a microwavable plate.
- Cook in microwave for 5 minutes and switch it to the other side halfway through.
Once the potato was cooked, she laid out a variety of toppings on the table. One of the topping stations was for a savory route, including feta cheese, spinach, broccoli and dill; while the other station was more geared to those with a sweet tooth, including foods like pecans, pumpkin spice, honey and marshmallows (which she suggested putting on prior to microwaving in order to let them melt on top). However, everyone was able to mix and match whichever options they wanted when making their own sweet potato creation. This interactive component of the event was probably the most exciting and it definitely gave me a new idea to take with me to my dorm.
Don’t be bummed if you missed this great workshop because Valeryee from the Women’s Center assures that there is so much more to come on this topic. She encourages all of you to stop by the Women’s Center on Wednesdays, when there will be a weekly discussion space on topics like body positivity. It will be a great space for people to voice their experiences regarding healthy and mindful living through food as well as hear from others. There will even be tea and cookies provided!
It truly was refreshing, as someone who tries to eat healthy (at least the majority of the time), to hear a realistic message about self-love through this workshop. Healthy living and eating habits not only affect our physical well-being but also our mental health. It is so important for students to continue these habits and mindsets for both the short and long term. At the end of the day, we only have one body, and we might as well love it enough to give it the proper fuel!