April 10, 2001

Jane Brody Says…

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As she gets older, she gets healthier.

That’s what all the magazine biographies say of New York Times health and wellness writer Jane E. Brody ’62.

With a degree in biochemistry from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), Brody still makes frequent visits to campus. She was scheduled to speak in a panel at the Conference held by President’s Council of Cornell Women on the weekend of March 31, and she appeared in Ithaca last week for a CALS reception.

Brody has documented health and wellness concerns in both the professional and personal realms since her days on the Hill.

“When I was a student, my freshman year was the first time I was exposed to ‘family style’ — eating in an all-you-can-eat kind of atmosphere. In my house you ate your serving and that was it. When I got to college I gained 10 pounds!” she said.

Noting the quantity of offerings at all-you-can-eat style dining halls, Brody admitted the tendency of students to focus on the dessert table, often centered close to the entrance of most eating facilities.

“It’s the same concept as putting all the junk food around the checkout area at the supermarket — they know someone is going to stare at it long enough to buy it. At these cafeteria-style places the key is to survey the offerings before you get in line, to take the real meal first,” she said.

She emphasized eating fruit instead of keeping many different kinds of snack foods around.

“The dining halls let you take one piece of fruit? Well, take the biggest piece of fruit!” she said, sipping her orange juice and raising her eyebrows.

Brody acknowledged the growing health concerns in America, especially among college students “known for eating pizza and burgers,” keeping strange hours and a different social schedule, not eating breakfast, binge drinking (“that really worries me”), smoking cigarettes (“they make you stink!”) and living a lifestyle consumed by stress and anxiety.

Pinpointing eating disorders as one of the most volatile health issues plaguing college campuses nationwide, Brody noted the responsibility of parents to lead their children past accepting the conception of beauty offered by society.

“Society has introduced a body consciousness that is impractical for 99 percent of women — there’s only like one percent of women who are designed to be that skinny. Look at the Academy Awards! Some of the women are just absolutely cadaverous! They look like they’d blow over if a strong wind came along!”

An overly body conscious society, she said, leads to a more complex view of food as more than simply fuel for the body’s activities — women have become increasingly concerned with weight issues.

“And cosmetic surgery and liposuction! I saw a picture of a woman who had liposuction in the hip area, you know she had a little chunkiness