How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

By: Emily Hamric, University Recreation & Wellness group fitness instructor

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Eating healthy on a budget may not seem easy. Fruit is expensive, yet french fries are cheap. Chips cost very little, yet nuts seem to break the bank. And what’s worse — we’re students, so we’re already running on low funds.

I’ve always considered myself to be a healthy eater. Over the last few years I’ve tried to step it up and pay more attention to how I fuel my body. And little by little, the payoff has been better sleep, more energy, a fitter body, and a clearer mind.

Below are some tips that I use to help me eat healthy without spending my entire paycheck:

  • Buy in bulk. If you have a Costco/BJ’s/Sam’s Club membership- use it! If you don’t have one, find a friend or family member who does. I buy big boxes of granola bars, bags of almonds, oatmeal, tubs of Greek yogurt (they last a while), larger containers of berries, and boxes filled with several pouches of quinoa/brown rice mixes for far less than I would pay at a typical grocery store. Whole Foods has a great bulk section. You can bring your own reusable container and get as much or as little of each food that you want (they also have compostable bags available). You avoid paying for expensive packaging or buying more than you need of something, AND it’s good for the environment! They have beans, lots of grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, spices, trail mixes, and sweets.
  • Buy in season fruits and veggies. They’ll taste better and are more likely to be on sale. Here’s a handy guide illustrating when certain produce is in season in Maryland. You can also buy frozen fruits and veggies which are typically just as nutritious, are sold in larger quantities, and won’t go to waste since they’re already frozen.
  • Use coupons and watch for sales. Make sure you’re signed up to receive coupons with the grocery store that you visit most often. You probably have some version of a loyalty card, so register online with your email and they will email and mail coupons that will add up and tend to cater to what you buy most often. There are also great coupon apps for smartphones and other services that offer ways to save money by scanning items you’ve purchased, sending photos of your receipts to research agencies, etc.
  • Choose generic. Most grocery stores offer a generic version of popular items that are cheaper than the name brand option. Just check the ingredient list to compare and make sure you’re not getting any unwanted synthetic ingredients. Ethnic markets also tend to offer a wide variety of goods at cost effective prices.
  • Cook in larger portions and freeze your leftovers. You’ll appreciate that you’re not only saving money, but that you’ll also have a ready-made meal in the freezer for those days that you just don’t have time to cook.
  • Limit eating out. I think I can confidently say that one of the top expenses for young people our age comes from restaurants, fast food, and bars. It’s okay to get out every once in a while, but you are paying far more than you would to cook at home. Limit yourself — you’re also most likely consuming more calories than you would if you cooked at home!

The University Health Center offers free nutrition coaching where you can learn even more strategies for eating healthy on a budget.

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Reminder: YOU are a Priority

By: Diana Curtis ’17, University Recreation & Wellness personal trainer and group fitness instructor

218f9e6c-ae99-4ee1-853b-bf578688c314With the end of the semester quickly approaching, the stress inevitably begins to build. Projects, exams, and homework all accumulate in the final weeks and tend to drain all of the extra time out of your day.

Suddenly all of the social events that seemed so important no longer matter and “all-nighter” becomes the most commonly used word on campus. You hear everyone talking about the hours they spent at the library and the neglect they have taken towards themselves and their well-being.

In college, it may seem as though grades will make or break your life; as if your entire future depends on getting the perfect grade on every test and project you attempt. However, this is just simply not realistic.

When I came to college, I instantly realized that it was not an extension of high school. It was a completely different experience. The classes are more demanding, you are wholly in charge of your own time and the way you spend it, and there is a clear adjustment period that can have a huge impact on your confidence and health.

As we reach the most stressful time of the semester, it is important to remember that your health is a priority.

Just because you have a million demands on your schedule does not mean that your body adapts to unhealthy food, lack of sleep, and an absence of physical activity. It is still impacted in a negative way. You can become sick, even more stressed, and come out of it regretting how you treated yourself. To combat these negative side effects, here are some strategies that have helped me survive the madness:

  • Sleep. Getting a restful night of sleep is more important than staying up the extra hours and functioning on sugar and caffeine. The amount of sugar and caffeine that students consume in order to keep themselves awake is usually way beyond the healthy daily recommendation.
  • Move. Try and get in some physical activity even if you don’t feel like it. I know this one is extremely difficult for students, but it is one of the best ways to reduce stress and get your brain back on track for studying. If necessary, you can even take your notes with you and review while on a stationary bike.
  • Eat healthy. You may just want something greasy to eat late at night, but these types of food will actually make you feel more sluggish and will not give you the energy needed to complete your work.
  • Plan ahead. All of these recommendations take planning. Plan when you will exercise and when you will sleep. When choosing something to eat, start with the mindset that you will choose something fresh, not fried. Work out a schedule that gives you time to finish all of your work, but make sure it also gives you time to be human.

Don’t put your body through more stress and neglect than necessary. It is up to you to make choices that help keep yourself healthy and happy. If you realize you’re sacrificing everything in your life for one grade, take a step back and get back in tune with your body. You are more important than any grade you will ever receive.

And while your grades may be with you until you graduate, your body is with you for the rest of your life.

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Puppy Love

By: Priya Narang ’16, University of Maryland Health Center, Wellness Intern

Pup Collage
It’s that time of the semester again when students are flooded with assignments, projects, exams, and are really feeling the stress pile up. It’s moments like this I go looking for some stress relief, whether it be listening to music, hanging out with friends, or spending time in nature. It wasn’t until the Wags for Wellness program at the University Health Center (UHC) that I realized pet therapy visits could be just as stress relieving, if not more. The first time I met the golden beauties at the UHC, I knew it was going to be a good day. I felt more calm, relaxed, and happy- and I wasn’t the only one! Other students at the event came up to me to say how much better they felt, and how excited they were for the upcoming visits.

So what about pet therapy makes it so effective? Oxytocin, commonly known as the love hormone, is what’s behind all the happiness you feel when you’re with those adorable fluff-balls. If you’re like me, you can’t help but smile when you’re with a dog. I automatically feel happier and more relaxed. The increased levels of oxytocin provide anti-stress effects and tons of other benefits (including pain-relief!).

Here are just a few of the benefits of pet therapy visits:

  1. Promotes relaxation. Just by petting a dog, your body has an automatic relaxation response. There are a bunch of hormones (serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin) that may help elevate your mood and make you feel more at ease!
  2. May reduce feelings of anxiety. Levels of epinephrine, a hormone made when you’re feeling stressed, are lower during pet therapy visits. The decrease in anxiety can also be because you can shift your attention to a positive and tangible focus, which increases comfort.
  3. May lessens feelings of depression. Pet visits can help to form an environment that is safe, reassuring, and comfortable. This type of environment may be able to help lower feelings of depression such as loneliness, hopelessness, and withdrawal.
  4. Enhances social wellness. Animals help to provide a sense of companionship, which is a great way to further your social wellness. You can also gain a sense of community by connecting with fellow Terps who are sharing in a similar experience.

Looking for pet therapy visits on campus? Check out the University Health Center’s program Wags for Wellness! Come to the ground floor of the Health Center to make some furry friends from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm on the last Monday of every month!

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Give up Your Cheat Day, Not Your Favorite Foods

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

Cheat Day
With over 1.2 millions posts to this Instagram hashtag, you have probably heard about the concept of cheat days. This is the day (once a week or once a month) that you allow yourself to “cheat” on your diet and feast on whatever indulgences you choose. I love that this idea celebrates our favorite foods. What I don’t love is the mindset that can result from it. Let’s take a bite out of this hashtag and learn how to incorporate your favorite treats in a healthy diet.

The Good:

I see the point! Let’s not forget that fueling our bodies is not food’s only purpose; food also brings us enjoyment. When we try to deny ourselves of that enjoyment, we are destined for failure. That is why diets often fail. They are too restrictive and not sustainable for a lifetime.

The Bad:

Cheat Days have the potential to get a little out of hand. When we stick to a restrictive diet 6 days out of the week, we make it very easy to overeat fun foods on the seventh day. You may find that you are eating foods that you may not love, just because it is your cheat day and anything goes!

The Better:

Enjoy the foods that you love throughout your week in moderation. In the nutrition world, we call this the 80-20 Rule: If 80% of the foods that you eat fulfill your nutrition needs, 20% of what you eat can be the fun foods that you love.

Instead of overindulging on your cheat day, we challenge you to try these techniques, from the authors of Intuitive Eating:

  1. Think about what you really want to eat. Do you actually want the doughnut because you like the taste, or because it is one of your forbidden foods?
  2. If the answer to question number 1 is “YES! I love the taste of doughnuts!” then enjoy but try a smaller portion, eating it slowly and thinking about how it tastes. If you hear that voice in your head asking for the other half, remind yourself of the 80-20 rule; that means fun foods have a happy home in your diet and you can enjoy that doughnut whenever you want. This may make it easier to practice restraint.
  3. Remember to honor your health and your hunger signals. Put the foods that meet your nutritional needs first! If having your fun food after you are already full will make you feel uncomfortably full, then it probably isn’t necessary to indulge in that today.

Remember “The Good?” Celebrating food enjoyment! There are plenty of additional hints to eating the foods you enjoy in a healthful way. Can you think of any hashtags that embrace an overall healthy diet? We would love to see your ideas in the comments below!

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

Posted in Nutrition, Physical Wellness, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How I Broke Up With My Eating Disorder

By: Diana Curtis ’17, University Recreation & Wellness personal trainer and group fitness instructor
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Not letting a single event in your life define you is one of the hardest things you can accomplish. When you experience a great achievement or suffer a loss or failure, it seems as though that event is what makes you who you are.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that every event and experience, big or small, contributes to the person you are and the life you will live. However, as easy as it sounds to acknowledge this fact, the application of it is much more difficult. The story in this post will explain the journey I took to overcome this mindset and to allow myself to not just live in one moment or memory, but to seek out other aspects of life and find joy when it seems so far out of reach.

My relationship with ED started out like any other relationship begins. At first, we just saw each other in passing. Then, we became acquaintances, and then friends, and eventually, we were spending every day together.

Unlike many relationships though, my one with ED began to take over my life; he distanced me from friends and family and constantly made me feel like I wasn’t enough. He drained my energy and took away my confidence. It wasn’t until he almost stole my passion from me that I realized how toxic the relationship was.

ED is a nickname for eating disorder. He is the voice within a person’s head that distorts their view of reality and tells them that their worth is derived from the body he sees in the mirror and the number he sees on the scale.

My serious relationship with ED lasted about four months, which doesn’t seem long, but that was all it took for him to make a lasting impression. It was long enough to make me feel as though if I ever let go of ED, I was losing something that defined me. Within those four months, I lost about 30 pounds and no longer recognized myself; I was moody, tired, and the only thing I looked forward to was the next time ED would allow me to eat.

He was able to convince me everyday that I was fine; not eating breakfast was no big deal and running two times a day on 1,000 calories was acceptable and healthy. He had complete control and I did nothing to resist because if he could convince me I was OK and no one else was telling me something was wrong, why should I? Fortunately, the relationship did come to an end.

However, it was far from a clean break up. I had been close to ED since April and it was closing in on September, so when my mom finally approached me, there was a lot of denial that ED seemed to be commentating. Then, cross-country season arrived and my coach gave me an ultimatum: if you don’t eat more, you can’t run on the team. This awoke something inside me that hated ED more than I ever had in the four months previous. He threatened to steal from me what has given me confidence and made me stronger since the day I started; he was taking away my happiness.

From that day on, it has not been an easy journey. I have overcome many fears that developed without my knowledge and have had to learn to reclaim my voice and thoughts.

And although it has been a couple years now, I catch a glimpse of ED walking through the crowd every once in a while and I have to remind myself of how I want my life to be defined. Do I want to live with ED the rest of my life, in fear of losing a piece of myself if he is no longer present, no matter how damaged that part may be? Or, do I want to live by my own standards and let my accomplishments and experiences define me?

My memory of this time still makes me emotional and I know I will never be completely free of ED, but if you ever find yourself face-to-face with him, know that seeking help doesn’t make you weak; it makes you braver than I ever was.

If you’re currently struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, don’t hesitate to seek out help and support. The Counseling Center or Mental Health Services at the University Health Center are great places to start.

Originally published as Battles We Know Nothing About on Diana’s blog, Overjoyed Runner

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What’s the Buzz About Caffeine?

By: Erika Armetta, ‘16, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator

8 ways to fall in love with yourself
There’s no hiding the fact that college students love their coffee and tea. From late nights studying in the library, seemingly endless labs, and classes at the brink of dawn, I sometimes need a boost of caffeine to function throughout my day. With 54% of Americans over the age of 18 drinking coffee or tea daily, it’s no secret that we love our coffee.

There are so many myths going around about what is and isn’t healthy concerning coffee and tea. Here are the facts about some of your favorite caffeinated beverages:

    Coffee

    1. Where does it come from? Grown from the berries of an evergreen plant, coffea. The coffee “bean” is actually just the seed of the fruit from the coffee plant.
    2. How much caffeine is in a cup? There is 95 mg of caffeine in the typical, 8 oz cup of coffee. However, this differs between which types of berry or “bean” you get. The Arabica bean is generally the kind you have in your morning coffee and contributes to about 70% of the world’s coffee. The Robusta bean has almost twice as much caffeine as the Arabica bean and is commonly found in instant coffee.
    3. What are the benefits of coffee? There are numerous benefits to having a cup of joe in the morning. Properties of the coffea berry have been linked to decreasing many diseases including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer.

    Tea

    1. Where does it come from? Tea is brewed from a variety of plant leaves picked at differing times during their life cycle.
    2. What is the amount of caffeine in a cup? There are usually between 15-70 mgs of caffeine in a cup of tea.
    3. What are the benefits of tea? There are many types of tea with a big number of health benefits. The three most common teas and their various benefits are outlined below:
      • Black tea is the most popular of the teas. It has been linked to cancer prevention, and lowering risk of developing heart disease.
      • Green tea is packed with antioxidants, and can help improve cholesterol levels, prevent arterial clogging, and decrease risk of stroke. It has also been linked to preventing many types of cancers like lung, breast, and stomach.
      • White tea is made from young tealeaves and is unfermented. It packs the most antioxidants of the three teas.

How much is too much?
When you’re at McKeldin past your bedtime and cramming for that exam in 12 hours, remember to not exceed a daily total of 400 mg of caffeine (or about 4 cups of coffee) in one day.

What are the drawbacks of caffeine?
Despite what many people think, coffee and tea do not stunt your growth. But, there are some downsides to consuming too much caffeine. The most apparent is that it can create restlessness, insomnia and can increase anxiety levels. It can also increase blood pressure, cause headaches, and cause an uneven heart rhythm. Many college students take medications that can affect the central nervous system. Adding caffeine to the diet can cause unsafe cardiovascular side effects in these individuals.

Caution- drinks may be unhealthier than they appear.
Be wary of premade coffees and syrups from your favorite locations. Some seasonal favorites can pack more than 300 calories in a small cup (PSL’s, I’m looking at you)! You can still enjoy your coffee drinks, just be aware that they contribute to your overall caloric intake.

Some campus favorites of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts have their beverages’ nutritional information outlines on their websites. Often times just switching the milk from whole to skim or the syrup to the sugar free version or asking for “no-whip” can save you empty calories without sacrificing enjoyment. Give it a try!

Caffeine can be a quick pick-me-up for early mornings, drawn-out afternoons, or late nights, but as with anything, moderation is key! Caffeine can only give you a temporary boost of energy. However, adequate sleep and fueling your body consistently throughout the day will give you sustained energy all day long.

To learn more about how to get more energy to fuel your day, reserve your session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or UHC-Nutrition@umd.edu.

Posted in Nutrition, Physical Wellness | 3 Comments

53 Thoughts Your Group Fitness Instructor is Thinking as Told by SpongeBob

By: Foluke Tuakli ’17, University Recreation & Wellness group fitness instructor

It may be easy to think of fitness instructors as “fitness gods,” but the truth is we’re human, too! We experience the excitement, anxiety, and self-doubt of group fitness classes just like our participants.

Don’t believe me? I talked to my fellow group fitness instructors and here’s a sampling of what’s going through our heads at any given moment during class. Let SpongeBob help paint you a picture …

  1. I hope I remember what I’m doing.
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  2. Wow, I do not know how I’m going to get through this class after the day I had.
    200-12
  3. Can’t forget to put on my RecWell shirt and name badge and look professional.
  4. I wonder if they can tell I haven’t washed this shirt in a week.
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  5. Please, nobody die. I’m CPR trained and certified, but …
  6. Alright, smile for the participants.
    Smile
  7. No need to hover near the door. Come on in!
  8. Shout out to the regulars holding the class down.
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  9. Wow, there are male participants today!
    200-3
  10. This mic is so loud.
  11. Does my voice really sound like this?
  12. It’s only the warm-up and I’m sweating already.
  13. I should have worn different underwear.
  14. Are they bored or slowly dying?
    class
  15. I should ask a question.
  16. I should tell a joke.
  17. No answer? OK, I’ll just yell excitedly.
    200-9
  18. Did that just come out of my mouth?
    200-8
  19. Why are they looking at my so closely?
    movies
  20. Is it too soon for another joke?
  21. Should I push them harder or let them live?
  22. Eh, they’ll thank me later.
    200
  23. LEVEL UP!
    200-10
  24. Oops. LOL, it’s okay. No one saw that.
  25. Just [insert any word]-it-out.
  26. I wonder if that improv was convincing.
    200-6
  27. I’m going to need you to believe in yourself as much as I believe in you.
  28. Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t worry about everyone else.
    200-7
  29. Don’t give up.
  30. They know I can see them, right?
  31. Keep that butt down. Tighten up.
    butt
  32. Do you even squat?
  33. Less talking – more sweating.
    bs
  34. I am getting such a good workout.
  35. Seriously, who needs drugs when you have ENDORPHINS? #wellness
    200-2
  36. Don’t forget to check on the participants. This is for them, remember.
  37. Ah, I want to turn back to face the mirror. What is left? Where is right?
    unnamed
  38. Someone is making a request? They know my stuff?
    200_s
  39. Am I famous?
  40. It takes a lot of energy to be this entertaining, funny, and fit.
  41. Can I make it to the end?
  42. WATER! WATER! I neeeed it …
    200-14
  43. The amplification of my breathing in this microphone is terrifying.
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  44. I feel good because they feel good. It’s so rewarding to see participants accomplish new things.
  45. Cool down already? Let’s do more!
  46. Are they applauding or is it in my head?
    200-13
  47. Please clean up. No one wants to frolic in your bacteria.
  48. Give me feedback. COME TALK TO ME.
    im ready
  49. Stay. Read the board. Let’s chat. Let’s stay forever.
  50. Get out. GET OUT! Another class is coming!
    getout
  51. I hope they come back next week.
  52. I love my job.
    happy
  53. What now?
    200-5

So just remember, next time you’re in a group fitness class, your instructor is likely having just as many distracting and self-doubting thoughts as you are – but the important thing is that you and your instructor are both there being active and living well!

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