Simple Changes Add Up to Better Health

Students demostrate medicine-ball exercises
Aure Fuentes, left, and Leland Moses, right, show a simple medicine-ball exercise for stronger bones.

With the holidays upon us, many of us have already begun the ritual of overindulging in eggnog, gingerbread, and sugarplums, whatever those are. Inevitably this will be followed by the ritual of making a New Year’s Resolution like, “I’ll do 100 power lunges every day and eat nothing but bean sprouts.”

Instead of feeling guilty and setting outrageous goals that you’ll never be able to achieve, I learned at a recent health fair on the Southeast Campus that making a few minor adjustments throughout your day could add up to a healthier lifestyle in the long run.

Students Team Up to Present Health Fair

The Southeast Campus has hosted health fairs before, but assistant professor of Health and Physical Education Melissa Evans told me that this particular fair was a first because it was entirely student-led. Students enrolled in wellness, culinary arts and dietetic programs combined forces to create the perfect storm of health tips and fitness demonstrations. Her students teamed up in groups to build displays and give presentations about making healthier choices when you eat, and Culinary Arts students pitched in by sharing some healthy recipes and free samples.

Make a Few Switches for Balance

Here’s some food for thought.  A Chop House Cheddar Burger, large fries and large Coca-Cola from your local Whataburger add up to about 2,220 calories in one meal, or 220 more than the average person should consume in an entire day. But a turkey wrap and a serving of chips washed down with a big glass of water packs a modest 450 calories, leaving you plenty of wiggle room later in the day — and eventually  some wiggle room in your waistband, too.

Of course you have to make some exceptions every once in a while, like when the McRib comes back for a limited time, or when studying for finals absolutely requires a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.  Dietetics students Elena Hannush and Laura Clark told me that it’s okay to indulge once in a while. You just need to balance it out with a better choice the next time. The more switches you make, the healthier your diet becomes.

Health Fair Video Screen Capture
Click image to view video.

Think About Your Building Materials

Christina Liew-Newville, director of the Dietetic Technician Program, explained diet like building a house. “Your body is made up of what you eat,” she said. “If you use poor building materials, then you end up with a poor-quality house.”  In other words, one bad nail won’t ruin your house, but if all of your nails are made of Strawberry Twizzlers and Mountain Dew, then that thing’s coming down eventually. Besides, it may shock you to learn that Strawberry Twizzlers don’t have any strawberries in them, and most Mountain Dew is bottled at a paltry 70 feet above sea level.

Plus, you can make sure what you put in is used more efficiently if you move around a little bit. Health and Physical Education students Leland Moses and Aure Fuentes, who paired up to create “Team Osteo” for the Health Fair, told me that exercising regularly not only builds muscle, but it also builds strong bones, helping to prevent osteoporosis in your later years.

Make it a Part of Everyday Life

So with just a few simple changes, like having a glass of water instead of your fifth soda of the day, or hoisting a medicine ball while you’re watching reruns of “The Family Guy,” you could ease yourself into a healthier way of life. If you missed out on the health fair this time, don’t worry. Evans told me that this fair was such a success that plans are already underway for another one this spring.