Mammoth muffins at the coffee stand, supersize fries at Burger King, gigantic Jamba smoothies that pack 500+ calories.

Let’s not try to disseminate the information about dieting, exercise, carbohydrates, body fat or body type. Lets just say one thing: it is difficult to establish normalized eating at the University of Miami.

Miami’s materialism extends to food: like cars, it is quite clear that less is definitely not more. Take a typical Chartwell’s cafeteria buffet, which is mandatory for students to face anywhere from 8 to 20 times per week depending on their class status and living arrangements. A salad bar 15 feet long, a “cold bar” similar in length with everything from pudding to peanut butter, a sandwich station, a hot meal entree, two types of soup, a pasta bar, pizza stand, grill and stir-fry line. Then you can choose from three or four baked desserts, if you don’t go for the frozen yogurt in any one of four flavors.

It is unnatural for anyone to be faced with that much food on a daily basis. How can students not eat too much?

The lifestyle of Miami students contributes to the problem as well. Weekend parties are designed to pack you with as much calorie-rich alcohol as possible; you go out to restaurants where a parade of appetizers, bread baskets, oversized entrees, drinks and desserts is the norm; you go for ice cream at Cold Stone and you get enough for three people instead of one.

It’s no wonder that on Thursday our government told us we’re getting fatter. Based on the statistics from a recent survey, women eat 335 more calories compared to what they ate in 1971, and men 168 more calories. Who cares that the survey also said people are becoming more active: 25 percent instead of 30 percent of people don’t exercise regularly, but the difference is negligible if everyone is eating more.

Its not just the freshman 15 we’re worried about. It’s the host of other physical and psychological problems that come from a warped relationship with food. Most pressing is the body image battle fought in the minds of Miami females. Up to eight percent of all females suffer from an eating disorder at one time in their lives, and 19 percent of all college-aged women are bulimic. In the land of bare skin, it isn’t unreasonable to assume that these statistics are significantly higher around our campus.

Looking good is much higher up on most people’s priority list than maintaining a healthy diet. Too many students skip a healthy meal and choose to go out and get drunk off their calories instead. Too many students skip the salad bar for a side of fries. And too many students think a calorie is only that – a calorie, and not a source of nutrition.

But students are also faced with food choices that lead to no other end than abnormal eating habits. Just take a look at the colossal slices of cheesecake from the famous Cheesecake Factory, or the average number of beers at a typical Saturday night party. What needs to happen is not just a revamped attitude towards food and drinks, but an all-out alteration in the portion sizes and offerings from our sources of food on and off campus. Jamba should jack down its juices, and UM’s mandatory meal plan should be optional.

Maybe this will help reverse the statistics the government published Thursday: obesity rates went from 14.5 percent of American adults in 1971 to 30.9 percent in 2000. Most importantly, maybe this will help students start thinking about eating in normalized terms.