Mindful Eating for the Holidays

Katelyn Jordan ’16, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator
Mindful Eating - Holidays

Modified image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Charles Smith.

Fall is in full swing, bringing visions of beautiful leaves, cozy sweaters, and pumpkin spice everything! One of the best parts though, is the food and the opportunity to enjoy all of the holiday feast favorites. Moderation is especially important at this time of year. However, there’s no reason to sacrifice your favorite foods in order to make your holidays a little healthier. Instead, eating mindfully allows your body the sustenance it requires and allows you to enjoy your food guilt-free.

The following are some easy habits you can practice to help you consciously enjoy your meal and not feel as stuffed as the turkey afterwards.

Listen to your Hunger/Fullness Signals

While people often listen to external signals for when and how much to eat (such as the time of day, portion size, or what the people around them are eating), your body provides internal signals to tell you what it wants and needs. It’s important to take a moment to focus on how your body feels and what it is telling you. For example:

  • When you seek out food, are you just a bit hungry? Or light-headed and starving?
  • After a meal, do you feel pleasantly satisfied? Or uncomfortably full?

Asking these questions is a good habit that will help you get acquainted with your body’s needs before and after eating. Before each eating occurrence, rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, (1 being starved and 10 being stuffed). An optimal time to eat is when you feel you are between a 3 and 4, and stop eating around a 6 or 7.

Know your Options Before Filling your Plate

If you make your own plate during the holidays, be sure to scope out all of the different options before you start serving yourself. It’s easy to fill your plate with foods that you like before seeing the big platter of something you love! Knowing what the options are ahead of time allows you to prioritize your favorites, which can help you avoid overeating.

Focus on your Food

When you eat, be sure to pay attention to your food. Look at your plate, and pay conscious attention to the taste, texture, colors, and how the food makes you feel. It’s very easy to finish a huge plate of food while watching the football game without even remembering most of what you just ate! Mindless munching can lead to overeating and feeling uncomfortably full. Don’t forget those hunger/fullness signals!

If you’d like more ideas and guidance in improving your overall diet, take advantage of the free Nutrition Coaching Service at the University Health Center. To reserve your session, call 301-314-5664 or email UHC-Nutrition@umd.edu.

Posted in Nutrition, Physical Wellness, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Four Fitness Tools to Rock Your Body

By: Jennifer Macko, University Health Center, Peer Educator; University Recreation & Wellness, Fitness Instructor

Have you ever wondered how “in shape” you are? Fitness can be hard to measure because there are so many different measurement strategies out there. I am going to introduce you to four dimensions of physical fitness measurement:  body composition, cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility.


bod pod

It might look like some sort of spacecraft, but it’s actually the BOD POD – a very accurate way to measure your body composition.

Body composition is the percentage of fat, bone, water, and muscle in your body. BMI (Body Mass Index) is an indirect way to measure body composition.

What is BMI?

BMI is a measure of relative weight based on mass and height.

For both gender and age, there are guidelines for what is underweight, healthy, and overweight. Both ends of the spectrum are associated with negative health consequences. For those in the underweight category, eating disorders, bone loss, and hormone imbalances can be found. On the other end of the spectrum, having a BMI over 30 kg/m makes a person more susceptible to conditions such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart attack, and stroke.

BMI                                                                                   Weight Status

Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 Normal
25.0 – 29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese

Source: CDC

How do I find my BMI?

Calculate it yourself:

Use the equation:

BMI = weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703

Use RecWell:

We have a state of the art “BodPod” to measure body composition using “air densitometry”.

    • Set up an appointment with RecWell Member Services.
    • For $33, RecWell members can have a full fitness assessment, including resting heart rate, blood pressure, body composition, muscular strength, and flexibility.

A side note on BMI: It does not account for body type. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his prime, would have a BMI within the obese range, even though his body fat was most likely in the single digits.

If you are very muscular, take your BMI calculation with a grain of salt OR sign up for a BodPod test. Using your volume, mass, and a very long equation, the BodPod estimates your percentage of body fat and lean body mass (fat free mass).


Cardiovascular fitness refers to how well your heart, blood cells, and lungs supply oxygen-rich blood to your muscles when you move. It is also how well your muscles are able to use this oxygen to produce energy for movement.

Use RecWell:

Once again, RecWell offers fitness testing to members, including a test for cardiovascular fitness:

  • On a “cycle ergometer” (aka a stationary bike), a personal trainer will run you through a “submaximal VO2 test”
  • This test is a reflection of how efficiently your body is able to use oxygen. Generally, the higher your cardiovascular fitness, the higher your VO2, and the greater your capacity to do aerobic activities.

The submaximal exercise test can give you a general picture about your cardiovascular health. Though it may not be as accurate as an absolute VO2max test, you can get an idea of how aerobically fit you are.

On your own:

Use an online calculator following the “Rockport Walking Test” to estimate your VO2max.

  • This test is less accurate and not ideal for people under 26 years of age who are typically of high cardiovascular fitness.

To work on your aerobic fitness, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week for heart health and fitness maintenance. If you are not quite there, try to add 15 minutes to your weekly routine, little by little.



Strength is a little less cut and dry than aerobic ability when it comes to analyzing your fitness. This is because you can train with three different purposes:

  1. Endurance– how many times/how long you can repeat the exercise
  2. Strength– how much you can lift
  3. Hypertrophy– muscle growth, an increase in size (muscle fiber diameter)

1 Rep Max:

  • A great way to build your weightlifting routine is to figure out your 1 rep max, the largest amount of weight you can lift in one repetition
  • To do this: choose a weight you can lift 1-12 times, and lift it until you can repeat no more.
  • Find out your 1RM based on the number of repetitions you can complete:
    • 1 = 100% of your 1RM, 2 = 95%, 3 = 90%, 4 = 88%, 5 = 86%, 6 = 83%, 7 = 80%, 9 = 76%, 10 = 75%, 11 = 72%, 12 = 70%
    • Example: I lift 6 repetitions of 100 pounds. 6 reps = 83%
    • 100 pounds is 83% of my 1RM, so 100% of my 1RM is 100/.83 = 120.5 pounds
  • Use your calculated 1RM to build your training plan:
  • For Endurance Training:
    • Lift less than 50% of your calculated 1RM, do 15-20 repetitions, and complete 1-2 sets
  • For Strength and Hypertrophy:
    • Lift 60-80% of your calculated 1 RM, do 8-12 repetitions, and complete 2-4 sets



Flexibility is one of the more ignored aspects of fitness, but it is extremely important for injury prevention and joint health. Stretch after hard workouts to reduce muscular soreness and improve recovery as well as to improve your range of motion.

Not only does stretching do wonders for your joints, muscles, and posture in general, but it can be a great stress reliever. If you have trouble stretching on your own, stop by Functional Training Studio and try out the foam rollers or take a yoga class.

Try out these three stretches and see where you currently are with your flexibility.

  1. Sit and reach
  2. Trunk rotation
  3. Groin flexibility

Why should you test and work on your flexibility?

  1. Decrease your muscle stiffness and increase range of motion
  2. Reduce your risk of injury
  3. Help relieve post-exercise aches and pains
  4. Improve your posture
  5. Reduce or manage your stress
  6. Reduce muscular tension and enhance muscular relaxation
  7. Improve mechanical efficiency and overall functional performance
  8. Prepare your body for stress of exercise
  9. Promote circulation
  10. Decrease your risk of lower-back pain

Source: ACE Fitness

Whether you’re trying to make a change in your exercise routine, form a brand new fitness plan, or just assess your fitness, consider using some of these tried-and-true fitness measurements to assess and track your progress!

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5 Easy Ways To Include More Variety in Your Diet

By: Emily Tolino ’16, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator

8 Nutrition Hacks
A freshman enters the University’s dining hall for the first time. An upperclassman, fresh off moving into their first apartment, enters the grocery store armed with their allotted food budget for the month. In both of these scenarios, the bright colors and enticing aromas excite first time shoppers. The world (may it be the dining hall or grocery store), is their oyster. For the first time, food choices becomes an independent decision. Why then, do most students fall into the trap of choosing the same foods each and every week?

Entering the dining hall or grocery store “rut” is a very common occurrence for college students. When the semester starts picking up, classes, exams, projects, and extra-curricular activities can become very overwhelming! As busy as students get, food seems to take the backseat. It’s easy to enter the dining hall or grocery store and just grab what you know you like and what’s the most convenient.

Humans need a varied diet to ensure optimal health. In fact, eating a variety of foods has been the #1 recommendation set forth by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for decades! By choosing a variety of foods, we are obtaining a variety of nutrients! Each nutrient serves our body differently and we need all of the nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals) to keep our bodies and minds operating as efficiently as possible!

Here are 5 easy ways to include more variety in your diet:

  1. Get out of the chicken rut! Protein is an all-important nutrient. It is responsible for providing the building blocks for our bodies (muscles, skin, etc.). This food group is also a fantastic source of crucial nutrients such as iron (needed to transport oxygen in the body) and zinc (needed to protect your immune system!). Most students consume plenty of protein – but varying the sources of protein offers a wider array of nutrients. Protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, nuts, beans, and seeds.

Challenge: This week, try one new protein source! Examples include a tuna fish salad sandwich, roast beef, peanut butter on your morning toast, or a scoop of beans in your lunchtime salad!

  1. Check the colors! Next time you visit the salad bar or farmer’s market, check out the rainbow of fruits and vegetables available! Each color of fruit or vegetable provides a different profile of nutrients.

Challenge: Try to include at least three different colors in your day. For example, include an apple (red) with breakfast, a banana (yellow) with lunch, and broccoli (green) with dinner!

Double Challenge: Once you’ve mastered this, try to include a red/yellow/orange vegetable in your day (such as carrots or bell peppers!).

  1. Healthy fats are essential! There are some nutrients that the body cannot make on its own so it is essential to obtain them from our diet. Essential fatty acids are an example of a nutrient that we must get from the foods we eat. By consuming a variety of healthy fats, we provide our bodies with the variety of resources it needs to function optimally.

Challenge: Try to include olive oil, nuts, seeds, or avocado in your meals this week! Since each one offers a different array of essential fatty acids, try new ones as often as you can.

  1. Go one food group at a time! Don’t feel overwhelmed by the large number of food possibilities! Make a goal to try one new food each day.

Challenge: At the grocery store, try buying a new kind of fruit or vegetable. In the dining hall, check out the Chef’s Feature Meal; it’s on a rotating schedule so you can ensure different foods each day!

  1. Make a new meal or snack! Look online for ideas about how to combine foods to make a new meal or snack! Combine familiar foods with new ones and see how you like it! Examples of healthy snacks include apples and peanut butter, oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts, or a yogurt parfait! Keep trying new snacks each week.

Remember that variety is the spice of life! To learn more about how to include additional variety in your diet, reserve your session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or UHC-Nutrition@umd.edu.

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Textual Health: Three Reasons Why Our Smartphone Society is Getting out of Hand

By: Jennifer Macko, University Health Center, Peer Educator; University Recreation & Wellness, Fitness Instructor

smart phones

Smartphones are great. You can navigate a road trip, discover the best Thai cuisine in town, answer urgent work emails, check the weather before getting dressed, and consult Next Bus. The convenience is undeniable.

However, nowadays we push a fine line between appreciation and addiction to our phones. We can’t leave the house without them, we say we feel “naked without them”, we even get ghost vibrations, thinking our phone is notifying us even when it’s not.

Smartphone addiction is getting ridiculous. Here’s why:

The anxiety from texting is real.

We’ve all spent ten minutes crafting a text, worried about conveying our message with just the right amount of exclamation points and emojis, when it would have taken one minute to pick up the phone and call.

We use it to replace face to face interactions.

Our smartphone society tells us it’s okay to get to know a romantic interest over text rather than over dinner, or to text a friend to get the scoop on her new job rather than meeting up. When we have what probably should have been a face-to-face conversation over text we lose out on moments to really connect with friends old and new.

It’s hard to interpret meaning and tone over text.

“He put a period at the end of the message instead of an exclamation point. Do you think he’s mad at me?” Sound familiar? Miscommunications and hurt feelings happen unnecessarily when we misinterpret the tone of a text.

WE NEED AN INTERVENTION!! I went without my phone for a whole month. Here’s what I learned:

  1. The sun is shining and I appreciate it so much more when it isn’t just a glare on my screen that makes me turn up my brightness.
  2. Food tastes just as good even if I don’t Instagram it.
  3. You discover a whole new side of your city when you’re not using Google Maps.
  4. It doesn’t matter if Snapchat knows I’m having fun, as long as I am.
  5. All those times my mom said, “put it away” at the dinner table… she had the right idea.
  6. You walk taller, smile brighter, and avoid collisions when you’re not staring down into your hands.
  7. Having the World Wide Web in your hands can make you forget about the amazing world around you.
  8. But I did really missed silly texts from my mom…

The key is balance!

You don’t have to give up your phone completely like I did, but do consider how you can use your smartphone without missing out on real life. Now is the time to ask… Do I need to put this entire concert on Snapchat? Am I actually feeling the music? Will 20 Instagram likes make this sushi more real? Did I just miss half of this lecture checking my Facebook feed? Why are my thumbs twitching? Am I living my life through my smartphone?

I challenge you to make small changes in your smartphone use. Can you call instead of texting a friend this weekend to make plans? Can you leave your phone in your backpack for the whole lecture? It might be hard to break the addiction, but when we improve our textual health our whole lives benefit.

Need some more inspiration to put down the phone? Check out this video:

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Social Care Package

By: Deborah Wu ’17, University Health Center HEALTH Works Peer Educator

College is a stressful time for many of us. Often times we feel alone in our struggles. We know that others are having a hard time too, but somehow it just feels like we’re each fighting our respective battles on our own.

Although the majority of students understand the importance of social support and its benefits in our lives, when we become stressed or start feeling overwhelmed, our social lives are often the first to go. We cancel hangouts, dinners, and activities… and start spending all of our time alone in a study room.

Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with an old, far away friend. It was the start of the year and I felt completely burnt out and lonely. I emailed him all of my stress, fears, and frustrations. In my head, he was so far away it was like I was journaling.

A few days passed, I didn’t receive a reply. I almost forgot all about it until one evening I received a call from my mother who told me I had a package by priority mail from Georgia. The note that came with this package said, “Hello Friend! I just read your email. Sorry to hear you’ve been having a hard time but you’re strong and not alone! Share these with your fellow struggling peers.”


To my struggling peers, let me share my care package with you so that you may benefit from it as well!

  • Company. Studying alone late at night can feel like you’re the only person awake on the planet. Grab a friend! Although studying in a group may not be for everyone, having someone next to you is both comforting and reassuring. Plus, if you start dozing off, you now have someone who can wake you up!
  • Encouragement. Sometimes just knowing your friends are a call or a text away is simply the most comforting feeling. Take a moment and send a friend an uplifting message. You never know – you may just make their day, and all it took was a few seconds of your time.
  • Gifts. Who doesn’t love a gift? Drop a little note, a small treat, maybe a nice warm cup of tea and watch the reaction. It’ll make both the recipient and the giver feel absolutely wonderful.
  • Mental Health Break. Take a moment and walk away from all of your work. It may feel like you’re procrastinating or wasting time, but I promise you that the benefits of those couple minutes away are completely worth it. Remember, life is so much greater than that exam, project, or paper. Catch up with a friend, do something silly together, or go out for a walk together. Refresh. Recharge.
  • Listening Ear. A lot of times, our sense of loneliness stems from our inability to release all of the thoughts and stressors in our mind. Don’t do that to yourself! Reach out to a friend. Letting out all of your fears and emotions is like putting down a heavy backpack. The items don’t go away, just as our stressors don’t necessarily disappear, but the weight is lifted! A friend’s listening ear generates a sense of acceptance, support, and empowerment.

What does your social care package look like? I encourage you to take a moment and reflect on these.

While this worked for me, it may not work for everyone. At the University of Maryland College Park, we also have incredibly wonderful resources available to us on campus such as the Counseling Center and the Mental Health Services at the University Health Center. To make an appointment call the Counseling Center at (301) 314-7651 or Mental Health Services at (301) 314-8106.

Look at all the people and resources watching out for you. You can do it!

Posted in Emotional Wellness, Social Wellness, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Dangers of Calorie Counting Apps

By: Hannah Dentry ’17, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator

The dangers of calorie counting apps 2
“I didn’t realize how many calories I was supposed to have to lose weight. My calorie counting app is a way for me to not go above that set number”

“When I count my calories, I am less likely to mindlessly eat. I am more accountable”

These were the most popular responses to why my classmates use calorie-counting applications. The quotes above seem very positive, right? It’s true that being conscious of your diet is a great way to manage your weight; however, with these very restrictive apps we run the risk of damaging our relationship with food and setting unrealistic and inaccurate nutrient goals for ourselves.

Let’s look more closely at each of these seemingly innocent comment:

“When I count my calories, I am less likely to mindlessly eat. I am more accountable”

DANGER: Damaging Relationship with food
While mindless eating can certainly lead to overindulgence, meticulously tracking everything that you put into your mouth is no way to live. Our relationship with food is a very important aspect of our overall wellness. When we stop enjoying food and start seeing it as the enemy, something as simple as deciding what to have for dinner can become an all out war with yourself. Experts believe that this damaged relationship with food even has the potential to spiral into disordered eating.

Try This:
We are born with brilliant internal mechanisms to signal our hunger and fullness. As we grow, we lose sight of these internal signals and begin listening to external signals like time of day, emotions and social pressure. By checking in with your hunger levels before and after you eat, you can empower yourself to eat when you body is telling you to eat and stop when it is telling you to stop.

“I didn’t realize how many calories I was supposed to have to lose weight. My calorie counting app is a way for me to not go above that set number”

DANGER: Inaccurate Calories Goals
Your body, like you, is completely unique! Your calorie counting app doesn’t know you or your metabolism. When I asked students with different body types and weight management goals, they all informed me that their calorie counting app set their daily caloric limit between 1200 and 1300. To maintain a healthy weight, The Dietary Guidelines of Americans estimates that college aged young adults, will need more calories than this. A great online tool to track your diet that takes your uniqueness into consideration is the USDA’s SuperTracker.

Try This:
There is so much more to weight management than counting calories! If we limit our calories to the point where we feel famished and deprived, we will inevitably overeat those foods that we were denying ourselves. In order to make sure your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and energized and to keep yourself from feeling ravenous, you should consume a variety of foods. Try to mix as many food groups into each of your meals as possible.

Being conscious of what you eat is a great way to manage your weight. You can do this in a way that makes you feel empowered to eat the foods you enjoy while still consuming a balanced diet where all food groups are represented. MyPlate can help you build your meals to get the most nutrients from your food and feel satisfied. If you feel that you would benefit from keeping track of your meals, keep a food journal where you write down what kinds of foods you are eating; this is a way for you to make sure that you are eating all of the required servings from each food group.

Apps on our phones are great for streamlining so many tedious processes but when it comes to nourishing our bodies and enjoying our food, streamlining might not be the best! Let’s take our eyes off the screen and back onto our plates and enjoy!

Bon appetite!

To learn more about maintaining a healthy weight, reserve your session with a  Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or emailing UHC-Nutrition@umd.edu.

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5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Doctor’s Appointments

By: Ryan Daigle ’17 University Health Center Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) President

SHAC 3 QuestionsPoster Draft 3If you go into a doctor’s appointment with a stubbed toe, and come out with a prescription for beta blockers, you may have just experienced poor doctor-patient communication. One of the best ways to maximize the benefits of your next Health Center appointment is by working to enhance communication with your care provider. Here are 5 easy ways to make sure you leave your next appointment feeling more informed about your health.

1. Be Prepared

Preparing for your appointment is a simple but powerful way to reduce anxiety about your visit. Sometimes, making a list about your concerns and thinking about how you want to address them can make your visit easier and allow you to get the most helpful information from your provider. If applicable, make sure you know the names of your past medications and contact information of previous providers that might be related to the reason of your visit. Also, try to get there about 15-20 minutes before your appointment so that you can budget some time for the check-in process and still make it to your appointment on time.

2. Be Honest

When talking to your provider, it is important to give them as much information as possible about your medical history. While it can sometimes be embarrassing to talk about personal stuff, it may be really important to share with your doctor. This information can give your provider a full picture of your health and help them make better recommendations and treatment plans! Also, if you are worried about your confidentiality, all providers are HIPAA certified, meaning they are legally prohibited from sharing your information without your consent.

3. Ask Questions

Ask ask ask! It is important to understand what your provider is telling you about your own health. Don’t be afraid to ask, “What does that mean?” if what they’re saying sounds too technical.

4. Follow Up

After meeting with your provider, follow all of their instructions to keep yourself healthy, especially if your provider orders lab work or prescribes medication. Your provider may also request a follow up visit, which is important to schedule as soon as possible. Be sure to contact your provider if you have side effects to medication or if your health condition worsens.

5. Take Our Survey!

After your visit to the Health Center, you will receive a Quality of Care Survey through email which will ask you to give feedback on your visit and your provider. These surveys are very important to the Student Health Advisory Committee, as we use them to see how the students feel and what issues should be addressed. We appreciate your response and want to make your experience at the Health Center as stress-free and helpful as possible!
By following these tips, your next appointment at the UHC will surely be a much more pleasant and informative experience!

This wellness blog entry was brought to you by the Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) – The student voice to the Health Center.
For more information about the University Health Center, visit http://www.health.umd.edu/.

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