Honored Graduating Student: Alexis Gardner (NDFS)
Growing up as the sixth of seven kids in her family, Alexis Gardner (‘21) often heard her older sisters talk about diets and health trends. Instead of joining in on the conversation, Gardner did her own research on diet and nutrition.
“As a kid I was always really into reading nutritional labels—which I’ve learned recently is not what every kid does,” she says. Even now that Gardner is graduating from BYU in nutritional science, she continues to read nutrition books for fun.
Gardner completed several projects with Professor James LeCheminant in the nutrition, dietetics and food science department, where they analyzed data on how caloric restriction affects body image and food cravings.
She was also involved in a lab with chemistry professor Richard Watt studying how an HIV drug can be repurposed to help with anemia. Her lab research involved using diabetic, obese, and arthritic rats to see if the drug helped with their anemia.
In her freshman year, when Gardner was wondering what she should major in, her friend suggested nutritional science because Gardner talked about it more than anyone else. “I think nutrition is an underappreciated field, and it’s under-researched,” Gardner explains. “There’s a lot of conflicting data, so it’s really good to be able to sort through it.”
Gardner’s favorite class was cell biology taught by Professor Jonathon Hill. “It was cool because it answered a lot of questions I didn’t even know I had,” she says.
Throughout her studies at BYU, Gardner found a passion for informing people and fighting the obesity epidemic. “It’s crazy to me how a lot of people will say things about obesity that aren’t true,” she says. Among those things, she has heard people say, “You just have to eat less,” without considering all the other factors at play in obesity.
Gardner has seen data supporting the fact that reducing obesity would also reduce the prevalence of a lot of other diseases. She wants to help people avoid the complications that come with obesity.
“I don’t like when we’re treating symptoms,” she says. “Let’s treat the cause in a right way and fix it.”
That attitude of treating the cause and getting to the point, leaks into other aspects of Gardner’s life. For example, she enjoys making homemade bread instead of buying it from the store. “If I’m going to eat something sweet or starchy,” she says. “I’m going to make it myself so it’ll taste good.”
Gardner’s nutritional sciences knowledge influences the way she eats, exercises, and treats her body. “I mostly care about the lifestyle factors that you can control,” she says. “If you are putting good into your body, it will do the best that it can do.” She emphasizes that a body is a gift and thus should be treated properly.
Gardner wants to help people love their bodies through nutritional science. “I influence the people I’m around by trying to get them to eat healthier. I explain to them why they want to eat that certain thing, and I hope it’s compelling.”