Healthy eating more than just a simple goal for one student

Story posted June 28, 2013 in News by Meredith Katkovcin

            The typical college student probably has a diet that includes fast food, take out, and quick snacks between classes—but Brooke Finney is anything but a typical college student.

            Finney, a sophomore elementary education major who is rarely seen in anything other than gym clothes and sneakers, goes to great lengths to ensure her diet consists of only all natural substances that are “good for her body,” she said.

            Finney attributes her particular need to eat healthy and constantly exercise to her mother, Anne’s, death.  Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Finney was only 2 years old, and she lost her battle nine years later.

Finney, standing at 5 feet 11 inches tall, is extremely thin and toned and was a member of Penn State’s Club Volleyball team until multiple ankle sprains forced her to leave the team.

            She now begins her day with sugarless oatmeal and fresh fruit or a homemade smoothie consisting of fresh berries, bananas, oats, and special protein powder meant to hold off hunger.  Even with her 18-credit class schedule, she finds time to eat a small salad at the HUB for lunch.

            In her small apartment shared with four other young women, Finney’s shelf of the refrigerator is full of asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprout, onions, three different types of tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, organic almond milk, mushrooms, seitan (a wheat protein and meat substitute), and organically grown apples.  The shelves of her roommates are a bit different; leftover mac n cheese, whole milk, pasta, white bread, mayonnaise, sodas, and even hot dogs take up the remainder of the fridge space.

            “I don’t judge [my roommates] by what they eat.  I do encourage them to try whatever I’m cooking though.  And, wouldn’t you know, most times they actually like it!” Finney said enthusiastically.

            She says sometimes it’s tempting to try unhealthy foods she sees her friends eating, but in the end she was brought up in an extremely healthy environment, and “old habits die hard,” she said.

            Finney says she was always very close to her brother Bobby and her sister Carrie, despite their nine year age gap. The three siblings were raised in Pittsburgh, Pa. by their father, Robert, a successful business man and health fanatic.

            After their mother was diagnosed with cancer, “everything was different,” Finney said.  “Not just different… [It was] horrible actually.  But I think after all these years I’ve taken it more as a learning experience.  I saw firsthand how short life can be,” she said.

Her father’s belief that eating processed, inorganic, and unhealthy foods will eventually lead to cancer became even more prevalent after her mother’s death.

            Robert Finney also taught his children the practice of taking vitamins and natural supplements to better their lives since they were very young.  In the bedroom of Finney’s State College apartment, she has an entire drawer filled with more than 20 different vitamin bottles.  She files around eight pills into each different box of her daily pill organizer (which are normally used by the elderly to keep track of their multiple medications).

            “This is probably what my friends would say is the weirdest thing I do,” Finney joked as she looked at the pill organizer.  She takes raspberry ketones, vitamin C, green tea extract, fish oil, a multivitamin, and biotin daily. These vitamins are said to do anything from strengthen bones, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and you guessed it—fight cancer.

            Her dad’s healthy ways have obviously stuck with her over the years even when he is not there for moral support.  At school Finney shops only at Wegman’s, mostly in the organic section, or Trader Joe’s.

            Best friend and future roommate Kimmy Ashmead said, “It’s an ongoing joke (in our friend group) about how weird she eats.  Sometimes I’m convinced her goal is to come out of the grocery store with the weirdest and most random healthy or organic thing she can find.”

            Another life lesson Finney’s dad lives by is that “everyone should sweat for at least 30 minutes a day.”  She takes his lesson to a whole new level to say the least.

            Finney goes to the gym six days a week.  She has a membership to all on-campus gyms, but prefers to work out at Rec Hall. Once there, she spends a grueling hour on the treadmill, pushing herself until she physically cannot run anymore.  Next she does strength training for 30 minutes.  This includes lunges, dumbbells, and pushups. 

            One day at the gym, despite looking faint after an unremitting hour and ten minutes running on the treadmill, Finney continued to pick up the 10-pound dumbbells.  “I came all the way here, I might as well finish strong!” she said when a friend asked if she needed a break.  Even after an intense afternoon workout Finney is adamant that the bus is not an option.  She proceeds to walk the mile and a half back to her off-campus apartment despite the chilly weather.

            Her current roommates are surprised to see her in anything that isn’t workout clothing, they joked.  “We see her for one meal a day, and other than that she’s either doing laundry or going to the gym!” roommate Alayna Letteri said.

            Finney says she will continue to push herself to ensure she remains as healthy as she is right now.  “I control my life.  I do what I do so I remain in control of it...  I feel like in a way I’m continuing to fight my mom’s battle every day, only I do it through being as healthy as I can be.  I do it for her,” she said.