How to Survive UMD’s New Buffet Style Dining Plan

By: Emma  Slattery, ’18, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator

First day on campus, you walk into the dining hall and are overwhelmed. Not by the weird new hand scanner that replaced swipe cards, but by the trays and trays of enticing food that are now serve yourself, and all-you-care-to-eat style.

Naturally you head to the nearest station, grab a plate, and pile it high with food. Before you know it you’re sitting with your friends, mindlessly eating everything on your plate and feeling stuffed. Despite feeling stuffed you go back for second or third servings because you can and it tastes so good!

It is incredibly common to overeat in a buffet style setting and the new Anytime Dining is essentially a buffet. However, there are strategies students can use to navigate and survive the new dining hall program without gaining unwanted weight or feeling like you need a nap after every meal!

  1. Think of what you want to eat and stick to your plan. Before you even step into the diner get an idea of what you want to eat. The food choices are overwhelming, especially if you are hungry, so if you decide on a burger beforehand, then it is easier to just take your burger and not whatever looks good in the moment.
  2. If you don’t know what you want, take a lap. By walking around the diner once, or even twice, before making a food choice you get to really see everything offered that day. You can make a more satisfying food choice that you’ll enjoy more than if you take the first thing you see.
  3. Begin with a starter.  Eating a small portion of salad, soup, or bowl of fruit before going back for your main meal will keep your hunger in control and allow you to make more nutritious choices.
  4. Follow the MyPlate guidelines. The MyPlate is a graphic model created by the my-plateUSDA on what a balanced meal looks like. Strive to build a plate that contains half fruits and veggies, a quarter grains, and a quarter protein. Balancing your food groups will make meals that keep you full longer and provide adequate nutrition.
  5. Take a smaller portion. The diner is all you can eat, so take a small portion of food, eat it slowly and mindfully, and if you still want more you can always go back for more.
  6. When choosing sweets, eat them at the end of the meal. Eating dessert at the end of a meal helps with portion control. Since you already have a meal’s worth of food in your stomach to satiate you, you are able to be satisfied with less.

Using these tips will help you to make nutritious choices in the dining hall as well as keep you from being overwhelmed by the abundance of delicious food! To learn more strategies to eat well on campus, take advantage of the free Nutrition Coaching Service at the University Health Center. To reserve your session, call 301-314-5664 or email

Posted in Nutrition, Physical Wellness | 5 Comments

Rediscover the Joy of Being Outdoors

By Diana Curtis, University Recreation & Wellness Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer


Hey you! Yes you! That person with their head stuck in a book. When was the last time you went outside? And no, I don’t mean to walk to your next class. I mean when was the last time you took a breath of fresh air, enjoyed nature, or felt the breeze in your hair – and not because you were running late. When did you last let your mind carelessly wander into unknown places? Can’t remember? That is probably because we forget how much joy simply being outdoors can bring us.

Just a few minutes spent outside is enough for me to feel rejuvenated.

When I step out into those brisk mornings that are quickly coming upon us, the splash of fresh air makes me ready to take on the day. But if you you hate mornings, no problem! Take time to feel the sun on your face in the afternoon. Take a weekend trip and get lost in the woods or on a lake. Try something new and don’t be afraid to get dirty!

I’ve found that the closer I am to nature, the happier I tend to be.

It’s easy with school just starting and all your extracurricular activities piling up to say that you don’t have enough time to just stop and smell the roses, but making time for ourselves is essential. Being outdoors is a remedy that can cure even the worst cases of stress. And who can’t think of an activity they love to do in perfect fall weather?

Think back to when you were a kid. Before all of these phones and computers, we were jumping in piles of leaves, digging in the dirt, and scraping up our knees. We were learning what it was like to make our own adventures.

We were proving that the happiness that comes from being outdoors is only limited by the amount of time we are willing to leave the indoors.

Still not convinced to put down that book? Then grab a friend! You may just be saving them from the same stress that is building inside of you. The possibilities are endless; and by the time you make your way back to the books, chances are, you will be surprised at how much happier and content you feel. Maybe that problem you have been stuck on or that paper that doesn’t have one word written yet will suddenly flow from your fingertips like a waterfall onto the page. Or maybe you will tell someone about your adventures and inspire them.

Let’s all rediscover the joy that comes from spending time outside and unplugged.

And maybe you will walk into your classroom one day and realize everyone is a little happier and maybe a little more sunburnt (wear that SPF, y’all!).

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5 Healthy Habits for Healthy Terps!

By: Jocelyn Jaye, University Recreation & Wellness Group Fitness Instructor

College is a great time to start building healthy habits we’ll carry with us long after graduation. Here are 5 simple healthy habits that have made a difference in my life that you might consider incorporating into yours. I think you’ll find they add up to make a big difference in your health and well-being!


  1. Wake up 20 minutes earlier. 

    Plan for the day! Giving yourself a few extra minutes in the early AM allows you to prepare for the day ahead. Maybe indulge in some meal prepping, savor that hot cup of coffee, or simply make sure that you have all your supplies for the day. The worst thing is arriving to your first class, only to realize that you forgot your calculator or laptop because you were rushing out the door.

    And, oh my gosh, please eat breakfast. If you do nothing else, eat some food in the morning. This still applies even if you had a midnight Slices run and you feel bloated and gross. Some OJ, a banana, or even a piece of toast with avocado are all light, healthy options to get your system moving.

    Statistics show that eating breakfast not only gives you energy for the day, but it can even boost your academic performance. A study conducted at Blinn College in Texas found that 72.7% of the students who passed their General Biology exam had eaten breakfast. Only 50.8% of students who had not eaten breakfast passed the exam (Phillips 2005). Get your brain and body ready for the day by firing up your digestion.

  1. Move before noon! 

    Wake up your body with some movement! My absolute favorite way to start the day is with a short jog somewhere nice. The world is quiet, the sun is rising, and Route One is not yet buzzing with morning commuter traffic. There is something so magical about being a part of the new day. If that seems a little too intense for our night owls, some simple stretches or even a few jumping jacks are a great way to get your blood flowing. Sun Salutations, anyone?

    Did you know that exercising in the morning can actually provide you with more energy throughout the day? This is because exercises stimulates the development of new mitochondria in your cells. Mitochondria work to produce ATP, or energy. Not only is mitochondria production increased in your muscles, but also in your brain (Steiner 2011)!

    Now, I love coffee as much as the next person and, though there are countless controversies over whether or not the sacred bean is actually good for us, anything in too large of quantities can be harmful. Before reaching for the coffee, try out some exercise! If you still feel like taking a nap afterwards, grab some café!

  1. Set a bedtime… and actually stick to it. 

    I know, I know … we aren’t 12 anymore and it sounds lame, but we are kind of adults now and it is our own responsibility to log off and get some sleep. It is SO easy to stay up until 2am every night watching Netflix, but Netflix is not going to drag your sorry booty to your 8am class the next day. Part of our college experience is developing a sense of responsibility, which means setting boundaries.

  1. Do NOT over schedule yourself!

    Speaking of boundaries, create some for your schedule! Yes, you could do everything… BUT you probably wouldn’t be feeling your best if you did. It is OK to say “no” to things that either (1.) you really do not want to do, or (2.) really do not fit in your schedule. Someone else will do these things. I promise. The world will go on. I promise. It doesn’t always have to be you. Your health and well-being is your number one priority. Always.

  1. Plan time for fun and relaxation. 

    You heard me right. TREAT YO-SELF. Okay, seriously though, you are going to need some sort of outlet from class, studying, your job, clubs, sports, etc. Instead of spending both weekend nights stuck in McKeldin, leave an hour earlier, take a hot bath, and listen to your favorite music. De-stressing is just as important for productivity as being stressed.

    If hot baths aren’t your thing, spend quality time with your friends! Go indulge in some dinner activities (or some post-dinner activities) with people you enjoy being around. Forget about your Microbio exam for a few hours and just enjoy yourself! After all, we are human beings, not robots, and we cannot work all the time. Work hard. Relax hard. You deserve it.

There you have it – 5 simply healthy habits to incorporate into your daily life. What healthy habit would you add to this list?


Posted in Emotional Wellness, Keep Calm and Stress Less | Leave a comment

An Open Letter to Depression

Just a note, this letter may be tough to read – especially if you feel like you could write your own letter to depression or know someone who could. If this resonates with you, don’t hesitate to reach out and seek help. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. And there are lots of resources on campus to help – including the Mental Health Service at the University Health Center and free therapy sessions at the Counseling Center. You can also call the HELP Center at 301-314-HELP – a hotline where you can talk to a trained peer counselor about whatever may be troubling you.

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Dear Depression,

I wish you would crawl in a hole and die. Because that’s what you make me feel like doing.

I wish you would show up on my skin like acne does so that people would know you are real and not an excuse I am making up so I don’t have to get out of bed in the morning.

You too, Anxiety, stop being so invisible and intangible so that people can understand why I have these conversations in my head and why I can’t fall asleep because you are making my heart beat mile a minute and making me fear and hold on to silly things that won’t really matter in a month.

And quit it with the negativity.

Stop making me feel inadequate; like I am failing now and will fail at everything I pursue in the future. Stop telling me I will flunk out of graduate school and that I don’t even deserve my acceptance.

Stop holding me back.

Maybe if you moved out of my brain as I have been asking you to for years there would be room for better study habits, for focus and an attention span that doesn’t get interrupted by the constant message of: “YOU CANNOT DO THIS.”

Just STOP. Stop telling me that everything is going wrong.

Stop telling me that I won’t make it to 30 because I have no purpose and I won’t be able to handle life when I leave the shelter of my university.

Why do you make looking into the future turn into a full blown anxiety attack? Stop making me downplay everything I accomplish with explanations that it was handed to me or that anyone can do it. Stop acting like a shield and deflecting any compliment I get as a lie or a nicety.

And for the love of god, leave my body alone. It is what is, stop trying to convince me that everyone is judging it, they really don’t care.

Get out of my eyes, making me cringe at my reflection and spend the day in self-loathing reflecting on my lack of will power, wishing I could be anorexic again.

I refuse to believe you that people only like me when I’m uncomfortably thin and wasting away.

And you know what, you can turn off the shower. Don’t expect me to get into it, sit on the floor and cry like before, wondering what the hell is wrong with me and why I feel so hopeless and  purposeless and so unwanted – even when on paper my life is pretty blessed.

We’re over. I’m turning you in. I’m going to stop blaming headaches, cramps, or being too busy on why I can’t leave the house or why I am just plain incapable of smiling today.

Why should I hide you? Why should anyone hide you?

You are a bully and life-wrecker. Why is it so stigmatized to rat you out. There are drugs and therapy to treat you.

You are REAL.

It’s out now. You’re depression. You’re anxiety. You’re a wrecked body image. You’re out in the open and …

I hope everyone sees you for what you are: a treatable mental health condition.

Good riddance,

Posted in Emotional Wellness | 1 Comment

4 Tips to Conquer the Nighttime Eating Frenzy

By: Dana Schulz, ’16, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator

You wake up in a panic- realizing your alarm never went off, throw on the first pair of clean clothes in sight, and sprint out the door to make your first class. Five hours go by, and all you’ve eaten is a bag of chips- that is, if you were lucky enough to have stopped by the convenience shop in the 10 minutes between English and Math class.

It’s no wonder that when you get back to your room, you keep eating until the second you fall asleep.

We’ve all been there, the dreaded nighttime eating frenzy, all too easy to fall into with our busy college lifestyles. What’s worse is that we beat ourselves up about it, cursing our weak willpower and vowing not to open up our fridge after 10 PM.

However, it’s not about willpower at all, our body is doing what it is supposed to do. After being deprived of fuel all day, we crave sugar and fat because they are the fastest and most efficient form of energy. This is why the foods we gravitate to after a long day of “starving” include cookies, ice cream, and deep-fried-anything instead of salads.

But don’t fret! Here are 4 tips to work with your body instead of against it:

  1. Timing is Key! Expecting ourselves to be able to properly control portions and make healthy food choices when we are in a starved state is near impossible. In order to set ourselves up for success, we must eat regularly throughout the day.
    • Tip: Try to think of your day in terms of 3 meals and 1-3 snacks. This will keep hunger managed, boost your energy, and reduce the sugar/fat trigger starvation can cause.
  2. Plan, Plan, Plan! Most of us plan every other aspect of our lives, so why not plan when and what we are going to eat?
    • Tip: For those rushed mornings, make sure you stock up on grab-and-go snacks, and always have an eating plan B. Live in a dorm? No problem! Check out these ten tips for a mini fridge makeover.
  3. Monitor Your Eating Environment. After a long day of class, it can be tempting to sit in front of the T.V and watch that new episode of your favorite show with a bag of chips. The distraction of the television makes it near impossible to practice mindful eating.
    • Tip: Surround yourself with a peaceful environment when eating to ensure you can pay attention to each handful or bite. You might find you feel satisfied with less than you think!
  4. Listen to Your Hunger/Full Signals. Each of us is born with an internal regulator that tells us when to start and stop eating, our hunger/full signals. However, as we grow up, our body begins to listen to external signals, such as the time of day.
    • Tip: Before and after each meal, rate your hunger and fullness on a scale of 1 to 10 to get back in touch with your signals.

To learn more about conquering the nighttime eating frenzy, reserve your session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664.

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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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