UC San Diego’s Newest Wellness Warrior

Miriam Jirari
It’s time to stop obsessing over how many calories are in that single slice of pepperoni and sausage pizza, or what that tempting white chocolate macadamia cookie will do to your flat belly. According to UC San Diego’s new Housing, Dining and Hospitality Wellness Dietitian, Miriam Jirari, guilt and dieting is out, and intuitive, mindful eating is in.

“You will never hear me say ‘don’t eat that’ or ‘you need to lose weight,” Jirari says. “I’m about body acceptance and honoring its innate wisdom.”

Jirari advocates for an intuitive and mindful-based eating approach rather than the popular regimented diet approach. Intuitive and mindful eating addresses both the “when” and “how” of eating. Based on physical signs of hunger, intuitive eating encourages individuals to listen to their bodies. Put simply, eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are full. On the other hand, mindful eating focuses on how to eat. Instead of feeling overwhelming guilt and obsession over skewed statistics that plague the Internet, mindful eating encourages one to trust their body and how they feel.

“The body is smart—it will tell you, through cravings and hunger pangs, what you need, and when. Some days this certainly might be a kale salad with tons of veggies and lentils; another day, it might be a burger and fries. And that’s okay.”

You heard right—that In-N-Out meal you’ve been craving is acceptable. Jirari’s personal favorite? Chips. But Jirari hadn’t always known about an intuitive and mindful eating approach. She adds, “I had to navigate through many pitfalls before I landed on what my body is truthfully asking for.”

Jirari’s nutrition journey began the moment she learned an important lesson from her physician father: lifestyle diseases are avoidable. Despite her father’s hereditary heart disease, Jirari says he manages to live a healthy life with intuitive and mindful eating. “Learning that we can affect our physiology in such a powerful way, it lit me up.” It was this moment that prompted Jirari to make a personal pact to positively change her lifestyle, and the lifestyles of many others.

As the university’s Wellness Dietitian, Jirari plans to help faculty, staff and students connect with their body’s signals and improve their relationship with food. Additionally, Jirari plans to bring more awareness toward the university’s onsite and local resources to better assist people with their personal wellness goals.

The Wellness Fair, to be held on Wednesday, March 23, will be the first endeavor to kick off these plans. The fair is open to all, and will have internal and external vendors highlighting resources that enable one to be well. UC San Diego Dining will be providing free healthy food tastings that will showcase cuisine from all over campus, including samplings from the marketplace. Event attendees can also expect to enjoy a live acro-yoga performance, a DJ and a series of 30-minute classes about running, fitness, mindfulness and nutrition.

“Everyone needs to discover what works for them. Eating right is relative!” Jirari emphasizes. But no matter what, Jirari stresses individuals to never follow fad diets. “None of them are tailored to what’s uniquely you. You need a new plan. It’s not you, it’s them.”