6 Rules To Stay Healthy In 2016
Thomas G. Plante
Portion control is out of control in America. With a third of the American population considered obese (with body mass index scores at 30 or above), two-thirds considered overweight (with body mass index scores of 25 and above), doing the right thing for your body is important. This means eating less and exercising more, of course, this is much easier said than done.
Santa Clara University scores very high on polls as one of the fittest campuses in America. Having great weather year round in Northern California helps as well as having modern fitness facilities and a campus culture that supports healthy habits.
However, even young, healthy, and smart college students can develop poor health habits. In my Health Psychology class (Psychology 117), I ask students to work at changing a problematic health habit. As expected, diet and exercise often are selected. Students get used to conveniences that result in minimal exercise and low cost "all you can eat" establishments around campus can be appealing to students on a tight budget. Late night eating is a problem, too. Among other things, I encourage them to keep a few rules in mind:
- Don't eat anything larger than your head.
We often eat enormous size meals that can be larger than our heads. By being mindful of this rule they are more attentive to portion control in general.
- Don't go to bed without getting 10,000 steps.
I'm a big fan of pedometers that measure step count. In order to encourage exercise, I ask student to wear a pedometer and not go to bed until they reach 10,000 steps per day. Of course iPhones and Fitbits are high tech versions of these step counters that are very popular now. Getting the immediate and ongoing feedback provided by a pedometer reminds them to move their bodies.
- Don't snack after dinner.
Late night eating is a problem for many, especially college students who often study late into the night (at least I hope they are studying). I encourage them to not eat anything after dinner and suggest that they brush their teeth soon after dinner signifying that they are done eating for the day.
- Don't eat anything out of the container.
I love Costco but the down side of shopping at places like Costco means having large containers of food around. I encourage students to be careful not to eat anything out of a large container (e.g., ice cream, chips, nuts, cookies), but to select how much they want to eat and put that portion in a small bag or bowl and put the rest away.
- Don't eat in front of any electronic devices (e.g., TV, laptop, cell phone).
Eating must be mindful, not mindless. Eating in front of anything that is electronic encourages one to eat too much. I tell them to not eat in front of anything that was invented after the 19th century.
- Watch the alcohol.
People tend to eat more and make bad food choices when they have alcohol on board. Of course students aren't legally able to drink until they are 21-years-old, but of course many do drink alcohol prior to that age. Research suggests that 40 percent of American college students are binge drinkers (i.e., drinking five or more drinks at a time), which is not only a problem in and of itself but contributes to problematic eating and sexual activity as well.
*A version of this article was originally published by Psychology Today on May 23, 2010.