This is the second installment of a new series on campus wellness.
At the start of the fall athletic season, Brunswick nutritionist Dr. John Bagnulo spoke with several of the female varsity sports teams. Bagnulo gave a presentation last spring on his health and wellness philosophy that prompted members of the women’s rugby team to invite him back for small sessions in September.
Consulting with a nutritionist is not unprecedented, and coaches routinely run sessions on diet with their teams or work with the school’s dietician. However, some female athletes expressed unahppiness over the percieved unfeasibility of Bagnulo’s presentation. He advocated a simplified diet, closer to what Paleolithic humans consumed, commonly referred to as the “Paleo Diet.”
“The presentation seemed very pigeonholed, and not open to other [food] options,” said Taylor Vail ’14, women’s volleyball captain. “He did not seem too cognizant of what we have access to.”
Bagnulo’s Paleo Diet entails cutting down grain and processed foods and focusing on eating what he believes humans would naturally consume.
According to his website, Bagnulo’s ideal diet eliminates sugars and artificial ingredients, is high in fiber, and includes small fish, poultry and eggs. This philosophy is popular with diet specialists, and its basic tenets are actually fairly well received by Bowdoin students. The less positive portion of his talk, according to Vail, was the specificity of the foods he recommended for regular consumption.
While the health benefits of his approach may be convincing, students found it too inflexible—some foods, such as blackstrap molassas or tuna, are not easily available on campus.
Bagnulo said that these concerns were valid. He said that several students questioned the practicality of his recommendation that they eat sweet potatoes after workouts. However, Bagnulo said that he offered some reasonable alternatives.
Student said that more communication on what Bowdoin has available in the first place would have helped bridge the gap between Bagnulo’s philosophy and the resources at Bowdoin.
“If there had been more structure or communication with Bowdoin it might have been better,” said Amanda Montenegro ’14, women’s rugby captain.
Nevertheless, Montenegro had a positive outlook on the advice Bagnulo gave her team.
“While it may have seemed limiting, I think the goal of the presentation was how to add to your diet and improve it rather then cut things out necessarily,” she said.
Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan agreed.
“I think what we’re trying to do is provide as much information as possible to our students so that they can make informed decisions,” he said. “Certainly not looking to provide a be-all and end-all of nutrition information.”
Bagnulo also acknowledged the difficulties for people who don’t necessarily cook for themselves or control the options presented to them.
“I fully understand that there are limitations to what I recommend, especially to a student-athlete who is on campus eating dining hall food,” said Bagnulo. “I did try to make it as applicable as I could to student athletes at Bowdoin.”
Bagnulo also confirmed that strict adherence to his dietary plan is not the only solution. Though it might have been unclear at times in his presentation, he said that he feels strongly that moderation and small gains are hugely important, even if a 100 percent Paleolithic diet isn’t an option.