Healthier choices for a happier summer

By Hannah Amante

Summer is approaching quickly and one glance at the calendar could make anyone panic. Are a few weeks enough time to work toward your goal of getting that ideal summer-ready body with diet and exercise?

Three experts on campus know the answer, and it may not be what one would expect.

Carla Jackson, who has her master’s degree in public health, is a health educator at the Cal Poly Pomona Wellness Center.

“The best thing students can do to prepare for a summer body?” said Jackson. “Well, they can learn to accept their body as it is.”

Fernando Diaz, another health educator at the Wellness Center, has a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and approached the question with the same spirit.

“I would say people have their summer body now,” he said. “I think a lot of stigma gets placed on, oh, if you’re overweight you shouldn’t take your shirt off, you shouldn’t wear a bikini.”

Both Jackson and Diaz provide nutrition and exercise counseling at The Wellness Center and believe that there is no one diet or exercise plan that fits all, but there are a few guidelines everyone can follow.

Jeannette Hand is a registered dietician who is working toward her master’s degree in nutrition science at CPP. She said the best way to prepare for a summer body is to take care of yourself all year long.

“All adults need to be concentrating on getting at least 30 minutes of exercise in every day and mixing that up between cardio and weightlifting three times a week,” said Hand. “Obviously, try to eat a healthful diet every single day, which includes, of course, a lot of fruits and vegetables.”

Hand also recommended the “healthy plate method,” where you fill up half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of it with grains and another quarter with lean meats.

She and Diaz recommended students check out the website, where anyone can enter in their information, such as age and frequency of physical activity, to get an estimate of what and how much of a certain food group he or she should eat daily.

All three experts gave their opinions on what they considered healthy snacks.

“I like the pairing of a protein with a carbohydrate because it’s good for your blood sugar level,” said Hand.

Her suggestions included an apple with string cheese and a banana with a handful of raw nuts. She also recommended cut up raw vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli and bell peppers, all of which can be quickly packed in a Ziploc bag with an ice pack or in a tiny cooler for portability.

Diaz recommended foods that are high in nutrients and low in calories.

“It’s kind of a cost and benefit thing,” said Diaz, “Ask yourself, how are you benefiting from this food, how many vitamins and minerals does it have and how many calories are you spending on that?”

Jackson suggested yogurt, string cheese, turkey roll-ups, fruits and nuts.

“Fruit and nuts can give good energy because you have some sugars from the fruit that are quick energy,” she said. “You also have some fiber that gives you sustained energy because the sugar dumps more slowly in the bloodstream.”

Hand, Diaz and Jackson all said junk food should be limited, but no food is really off-limits if it is consumed moderately.

“We never want to tell anyone, ‘You can never eat something again,'” said Hand. “So it depends on what your diet is, what your conditions are; but if you’re a normal, healthy person, eating a pizza or having a burger once a week, or whatever else people would classify as junk food, is fine.”

Jackson said “there is room for foods you really like,” as long as you eat a healthy diet most of the time.

“You can eat junk food as often as you’d like,” she said. “It just might not make you feel very good.”

Diaz and Jackson both believe time is often an impediment for college students, when it comes to healthy eating.

“People think that eating healthy is going to be very time consuming and it doesn’t have to be,” said Jackson. “It’s just a matter of making some slow and gradual changes and learning how to prepare those foods that will make a difference.”

Diaz recommended planning ahead and making the time for one’s health, which can mean making it a priority to go grocery shopping on the weekends, knowing what one will have the next day and waking up early to pack a healthy snack.

“It’s more of a lifestyle change,” Diaz said.

Hand tackled the issue of overeating and comfort eating.

“Food is surrounded by so many emotions, so it’s very difficult,” Hand said. She said foods are often associated with the fond memories of childhood or holidays. Endorphins and dopamines are immediately produced during comfort eating, but the guilty feeling inevitably comes about a half hour later.

In order to combat comfort eating, Hand recommends that the person first find the trigger, such as anxiety over a fight with a significant other or an upcoming exam, and then try other coping mechanisms, such as having a cup of tea or going for a walk.

Some other tips included eating a healthy, small breakfast daily and limiting caffeine, which is dehydrating.

Jackson recommended cutting back on soda and energy drinks and turning instead to a few cups of coffee or tea, which studies have shown to have health-enhancing properties.

Students who want to know more about healthy eating can make an appointment at the Wellness Center, take a few assessments and work out a food plan tailored to their body types.

“Your appearance is not set in stone,” said Jackson. “It’s going to change over the course of your lifetime. So the more you work at accepting how you look and just try to be as healthy as you can, the better off you’re going to be from a mental health perspective.”

Healthier choices for a happier summer

Photo Illustration by Delanie Dunne / The Poly Post

Healthier choices for a happier summer

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