In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (Feb. 26-March 2), I am asking fellow UCSB students to reconsider their dieting behaviors.

Curious about commercial weight loss gimmicks? Don’t be. They’re frauds and the diet industry makes over $40 billion annually on suckers who buy that crap. Yes, even Metabolife is ineffective and dangerous for your body. There is no easy miracle way to lose weight, contrary to what all the emerging diet products preach. Don’t believe the hype.

I advise others to avoid any diets that limit or prohibit food intake from any category of the food pyramid – for example, no carbohydrates. Your body needs nutrients from every category, and it is unhealthy to rob your body of that. Here are some crazy dieting statistics: currently 90-99 percent of diets fail, 50 percent of American women are on a diet at any one time, 50 percent of American 9-year-old girls have dieted, and 80 percent of 10-year-olds.

I am a nutrition and eating disorder peer sponsored by Student Health. UCSB has an outrageously high percentage of the student body that suffers from some sort of disordered eating; approximately one in every four female students here would be diagnosed as suffering from an eating disorder, and one in every 10 men (according to a 1995 random survey). And these are the people who were honest about their disordered eating habits. Just imagine how many more there could be out there. Disordered eating ranges from dieting to over-exercising to a distorted body image to anorexia and bulimia.

For those of you who are interested in losing weight, the only healthy and effective way is to exercise three to four times a week for at least 45 minutes and to establish healthy eating patterns. This means following the food pyramid approximately 80 percent of the time. You’ll find that following this routine will give you more energy and reduce your stress level. If you already do these things and want to lose weight, you can slowly increase exercise, and slightly decrease your food intake. If you do not have a food pyramid, you can pick one up at Student Health. In fact, Student Health also employs a registered dietician that any UCSB student can see for free, unlike the real world where an appointment would probably be $100/hour. She can give you advice on how to lose weight, how to eat healthily, or give you the low-down on supplements and fad diets. The number to call to see Chantal, the dietician, or to talk to anyone else at Student Health about nutrition or disordered eating, is 893-3371. And remember, it is perfectly okay to seek advice about a friend who you may be concerned about.

Flynne Hustein is a senior law and society major.