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Spring Break brings out dieters

The sun is out, birds are chirping, the bees are humming--students are more restless in class and midterms are soon to be over. Spring Break 2004 is here.

Most rate the prospect of a week-long break either pleasurable or absolutely necessary or both, whether they are cruising to the Bahamas or flying back home to relax and catch up with old friends. But some find themselves faced with the prospect of wearing a bathing suit for five straight days, and then the dread and panic starts to seep in.

Out go the greasy burgers and non-diet sodas. In come the salads and the ellipticals.

Freshman Brandi Feemster, who is heading down to St. Augustine, Fla., with some dorm mates this coming week, claimed that "pretty much the whole group" has clamped down on fried foods in preparation for Spring Break.

"We've been trying to be healthy and eat salads," she said, holding up a plastic container of vegetables. "No fries and anything like that. We've been working out a lot more--not a whole lot more, just more than we do on a regular basis."

While she and most of her friends chose the regular eat-healthy-and-exercise routine, a few have opted to try alternative diets, such as a liquid diet and the popular Atkins diet.

"The official one, not just low-carbs," Feemster clarified, referring to Atkins. "[My friend] is actually following the real diet, the book and everything."

Eight students from Craven Quad signed an agreement two weeks ago, pledging to go to the gym for at least one hour everyday and abstaining from alcohol until tomorrow at midnight, when the agreement ends.

"Every day you didn't go to the gym, you had to put down $5," said sophomore Claudio Debarros, one of the students involved. "And for every day you consumed alcohol, you had to pay $5."

An "impartial" person who had not signed the agreement was in charge of collecting the penalty money, which would later be spent on buying alcohol.

So, has this honor system worked?

"I think it's worked," said Debarros. "It's worked for me, at least."

While some have focused on trimming down or toning their bodies, others say 'prepping' for Spring Break never really entered their minds. Seniors Vanessa Goldenberg and Sumit Shah were both surprised when they heard that students were preparing for Spring Break by dieting and exercising.

"Just for Spring Break?" Shah asked. "Really?"

"Wow," said Goldenberg.

Stephen Cox, a freshman, does not know anybody who is dieting for Spring Break, but thinks the idea sounds silly. "I think it's more of a joke that people are like, 'It's not-eat-week,' because Spring Break is coming up."

The Atkins-friendly menu that Subway put out in February was met with some positive response, according to Steve Lewis, the Great Hall manager. But he attributes it mostly to the novelty of the food, not to a great number of consumers following Atkins diets.

"When you roll out something new, it's typical that, during the first month, it will be popular--just because it's new," Lewis said. "The volume has been steady since then. People are still eating, you know, regular sandwiches with bread."

Student Health Dietician Franca Alphin said she met very few students this year who even mentioned Spring Break.

"I've seen tons of students, not because of Spring Break, but because of midterms and stress," she said. "I cannot recall one student who brought [Spring Break dieting] up."

She noted that it was interesting there was a decrease this year. "It varies from year to year. Last year, some students said something about fitting into bathing suits. But this year, I've had none."

Alphin does not recommend diets. She helps students to change their eating patterns and offers information to those inquiring about diets such as Atkins or South Beach. She did say, however, that to achieve anything substantial, starting in advance is wise.

"Spring Break is, what, two days away?" she said. "There's nothing much you can do now. You have to start way back, like around January."

To students who are about to embark on Spring Break, however, Alphin does offer one last minute piece of advice: "Be safe and have fun."

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