This is in response to First-Year Fifteen Can it be avoided?. I just want the reader (and others at Columbia) to know that when I was at CU, I...
Nutrition & Physical Activity
Dear Hopelessly hungry,
It's true that some students put on weight when they first come to college, however this is not a universal event, nor a foregone conclusion. For many first year students, it's their first time away from home, making choices about what to eat, how much, and how often. On top of this, many college students eat in cafeterias, where meal options are abundant and portion control can be a daunting task. Students may also be facing new challenges and situations that lead them to eat for reasons other than hunger — such as coping with stress, loneliness, or even hanging out and having fun late at night with friends.
You can, however, make good food choices. Here are some general tips for finding healthier options:
All in all, you want to aim for a varied diet with enough whole grains, lean protein, and fruits and vegetables and minimal fatty and sugary foods. For more tips about working in healthier foods, check out the Optimal Nutrition section of the Go Ask Alice! archive, learn more about the tools from Columbia's Get Balanced initiative, or visit Choosemyplate.gov. You can also call your school's health service and make an appointment with, or get a referral for, a nutritionist to create an appropriate food plan for your individual needs. At Columbia, use Open Communicator or call x4-2284 to make an appointment.
There are often different culprits outside of the dining hall. During the first year at college, some students consume much more alcohol than in the past. Although there is no fat in alcohol, calories from alcohol are unusual in that they can't be stored or converted to energy for later use. Meaning that calories from alcohol are used first by the body, while calories from food that would otherwise be burned are stored, potentially contributing to weight gain.
Additionally, many first-year students might not think about exercising or may have trouble finding the time. Eating balanced meals and participating in regular physical activity are both major factors in losing or maintaining weight. If your concern is avoiding weight gain, keep physical activity in mind as a key ingredient. It may help to work out with a friend or schedule your exercise — Columbia students, faculty, and alumni can connect with CU Move to access tools and support for choosing strategies that support being physically active.
Gaining a few pounds may feel like the worst thing that can happen to you; however, it's important to learn how to take care of yourself, stay healthy, listen to your body, and eat because you're hungry — not because you don't want to study, you just got in a fight with your roommate, or you think you might have flunked a test. Check out the related questions and tips below to think about what you can do to maintain a healthy eating routine, and have a great first year.
Eat varied and well-balanced meals at your school's eateries. Besides what you choose to eat, watch how much you eat as well, because calories count and can add up quickly.
This is in response to First-Year Fifteen Can it be avoided?. I just want the reader (and others at Columbia) to know that when I was at CU, I...
This is in response to First-Year Fifteen Can it be avoided?. I just want the reader (and others at Columbia) to know that when I was at CU, I visited the nutritionist and found the experience to be incredibly helpful. I'm not sure if the same nutritionist is still there (this was several years ago), but she was kind, non-judgmental, and full of good advice.
Dear New to the City,
Welcome to New York City, one of the greatest cities for walking, running, and many other indoor and outdoor physical activities. Yes, the Alice! Health Promotion, part of Columbia Health, manages CU Move, a physical activity initiative open to all Columbia students, faculty, alumni, and staff. CU Move encourages members of the Columbia community to engage in active lives that include regular physical activity. The program provides participants with motivation and incentives to be active throughout the year. Actually, CU Move encourages all types of exercise, not just running. You can participate whether you like to work out alone or in a group. One of the goals of the program is to encourage members to exercise at least 100 minutes per week.
To join register for the e-mail list online at CU Move. You'll also program features, inspirational reasons to participate, and links to other physical activity resources.
CU Move has some outstanding features, including:
Participating in CU Move is a great way for both runners and other exercise enthusiasts to set goals and track fitness progress over time. The program will also provide opportunities for you to connect with other fitness-related programs on campus, such as Dodge Fitness Center and other special campus and community events.
So, whether you are an avid exerciser or just beginning to think about starting a regular exercise program, we'd love to CU Move!
Dear Where's my hair?
You can expect to normally lose between 100-200 strands of hair each day. If your hair is coming out by the handfuls however, you do have cause to worry and should see a physician for a complete medical workup. A large loss of hair can indicate more serious bodily malfunctions. Stress can also be implicated as a cause of hair loss, and if things have been extra stressful for you lately, you might want to see a counselor to help you reduce your stress levels.
If your hair loss is more moderate, you are right that your nutrition and diet have a lot to do with it. Zinc is an important mineral for your hair, and a deficiency would probably show up as excessive hair loss, lack of sheen, and difficulty with control. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for zinc in adult men is 11 mg, and for adult women the RDA is 8 mg. A zinc supplement might help you here, but consult your health provider before starting one. Zinc is found naturally in beans, seeds and nuts, legumes, milk, and wheat bran and germ. Also, in terms of your vegetarianism, you might very well be taking in insufficient levels of vitamin B-12. This is somewhat common among vegetarians, and the results of a deficiency include dandruff, scaling, and hair loss. Most of the naturally occurring B-12 is in animal products, but can also be found in nutritional yeast and sometimes in fermented soy products (i.e. tempeh). For adult women, the RDA for B-12 is 2.4 mcg. For adult men, the RDA is 2.4 mcg. Read Vegetarian — B-12 deficient for more information on vegetarians and B-12 deficiencies.
If updates to your eating plan don't seem to help, perhaps a visit with your health care provider is the next step. S/he can run some tests to check for a number of other possible options. If you are a Columbia student, you may consider a visit with a Registered Dietitian. Never fear, hope is not lost. Happy eating and a speedy solution to your concerns.
Dear Out of Synch,
Injuries can happen even to the most careful physically active person. Though annoying, most injuries are neither serious nor permanent. However, an injury that isn't cared for properly (such as a stress fracture) can escalate into a chronic problem, occasionally serious enough to curtail the activity permanently.
Stress fractures are small cracks (fractures) in a bone that are usually caused by repetitive forces, such as those that result from running. Weakened bone unable to withstand the force arising from everyday activities can also lead to stress fractures (a problem for people with low bone mineral density or who have osteoporosis).
Have you consulted a health care provider about your stress fracture? If not, it is a good idea to seek medical attention to prevent further complications, including a full on broken bone. Your provider will probably ask you some questions, check out the area in pain, and order an X-ray, MRI, and/or CT scan. Depending on your particular case, stress fractures may require between two to twelve (or more) weeks to heal, and you’ll probably have to avoid non-weight bearing activities for some time. Your provider will be able to give you a better idea of how long you’ll have to stay on the sidelines. S/he may also suggest physical therapy.
In addition to seeing a health care provider, here is a four-stage process to keep in mind that can help you rehabilitate your body after a minor athletic injury:
Reduce the initial inflammation using the RICE principle. - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
Restore normal joint motion. - Normal joint motion means being able to move a healed body part with full range of motion.
Restore normal strength and endurance. - During the rehabilitation process, your body will feel weaker and more fatigued because it's working hard to heal. Rest is imperative for successful healing, because as you slowly reintroduce movement and exercise, your body is working to rebuild strength and endurance.
Restore functional capacity. - Restoring functional capacity involves gradually reintroducing the stress of your regular physical activity (in this case, jogging), until you are capable of returning to your full intensity. Before jogging full speed ahead, however, you need to have complete range of motion in your joints; normal strength and balance among your muscles; normal coordinated patterns of movement; no injury compensation movements, such as limping; and little or no pain.
Initially, you’ll likely need to find ways to move your body with minimal impact. Athletic trainers and other sports medicine professionals often prescribe pool work, such as swimming or pool running. Other suggestions might include yoga, Pilates, or a stretch class, depending on your health care provider’s advice.
During recovery it is key that you pay attention to your pain. Pain is your body telling you to stop. Once you're pain-free, you can consider stepping up your activity to biking or using an elliptical trainer.
As you mentioned, stress plays a large role in healing. Tending to your mind as well as to your body is important, so increase your level of mental self-care. Check out the Stressbusters Support Network and the Stressbust Yourself Toolkit for tips and strategies to help reduce and prevent stress (from this injury and in general).
To prevent injuries in the future, follow a few basic guidelines when physically active:
It's important not to return to your normal exercise program until after athletic injuries have healed completely. As soon as you can move freely with no pain, and when advised by your health care provider, you can give yourself the green light to go.
What you're describing sounds like the beginnings of a case of shin splints. Walking on pavement increases the stress on your joints and connective tissue. Shin splints are an inflammation of the muscle and/or tendons of the lower leg caused by repetitive walking or running on a hard surface. The symptoms are pain on the inner side of the shinbone (tibia) in the front part of the leg. Sometimes, it comes on very slowly and eventually becomes quite severe. Shin splints rarely result in permanent damage.
The best cure is to rest. Try taking the bus or train to school for a week. Wearing good shoes when you walk, and stretching your legs in an effective flexibility program before your walks, can help prevent the problem from getting worse or recurring. When choosing shoes, don't hesitate to spend a few extra dollars -- you spend more time than you think every day walking back and forth to campus. Because you're walking on pavement, make sure the shoes have adequate cushioning. The shape of the shoe should correspond to the shape of your foot, without areas of pressure or pain, or a feeling of binding. Solicit advice from friends and from a few specialty stores about what brands and styles are best.
Flexibility exercises help to reduce muscle soreness and the chance of injury. Examples of simple exercises are the sitting heel-cord stretch, where you sit on the floor with one leg extended and the opposite leg bent with the foot against the inside of the thigh. Hook a towel around the ball of the foot and pull the toes towards the knee. Keep your knee straight, and repeat ten times for each leg. Or, try the lying knee-pull, where you lie on your back with your legs extended and bring your left knee to your chest, grabbing just under your knee with both hands. Pull until you feel the stretch, and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat for each side.
Before you start the exercises, take some time off from your regular pavement walking, allow your shins to rest, buy some good shoes, and then get into a reasonable exercise routine. Although walking sometimes seems innocuous, it actually is excellent aerobic exercise, and utilizes and strengthens your muscles. Therefore, you also need to treat your walks as you would any other form of exercise, and use proper equipment and stretch before and/or after.
Dear Simple Tastes,
Actually, your diet does sound fairly healthy...for one day, once in a while! What it's missing is variety — you need to vary your foods in order to cover all your vitamin and mineral, or micronutrient, requirements (and not get bored with your food!). Also, it turns out you have good, caring friends who are giving you helpful advice!
Back to varying your diet — luckily, variety doesn't always require lots of time or effort. You can get your micronutrients by quickly including vegetables in the foods you're already eating. Start by adding lettuce, tomato, and/or red pepper slices to your whole grain bread and cheese combo. You can buy the veggies pre-washed and sliced at many grocery stores and delis. Snacking on mini-carrots that come pre-washed and peeled or enhancing your meals with frozen vegetables can also help provide necessary nutrients. What about adding a veggie to your soft-boiled eggs at breakfast? Frozen spinach would taste great and is also quick to prepare.
Next, throw in some additional fruits. Varying by color helps to insure a wide variety of nutrients. So, what about apples? You can choose from a variety of types (e.g., Granny Smith, Empire, and Macintosh) and they are fairly inexpensive. Canned foods are great to have around. Pick up some canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, or peaches. Try to purchase canned fruit in their own juice instead of in heavy syrup — this cuts down on the sugar. What about slicing a banana in your canned pineapple? Easy breezy.
Your body also needs minerals to stay healthy. Some of these minerals include calcium, iron, sodium, manganese, copper, iodine, and magnesium. Since dietary guidelines are different from one person to the next, check out ChooseMyPlate.gov for an extensive breakdown based on daily calorie intake and age. Here are a few of the overall messages:
Some other ways to spice up your diet, even when you're in a rush, can also include:
Columbia students on the Morningside campus should check out Get Balanced! for specific information related to eating healthy at Columbia. Students can also make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian at Medical Services. Remember, in order for all your hard working efforts to be fruitful, it can only help if your diet is fruit-filled and balanced, too!
Dear Want to help,
It can be difficult to hear someone you care about constantly putting her or himself down. Your best friend's constant remarks about weight indicate that she feels uneasy about herself. She may be looking for validation to feel better about her body, at least temporarily. Unfortunately, you may not be able to change the way your best friend sees herself, regardless of how many times you tell her she's not fat. You can, however, provide support in several different ways. This may help your friend on her path to seeing herself in a better light. Here are some suggestions:
Remember, your friend's issues likely go much deeper than the surface. The way a person views her or his body affects self-esteem. A person with high self-esteem has high self-worth and a positive self-image. People with low self-esteem are very critical about themselves. Low self-esteem can have a whole host of negative consequences, including being more at risk of developing eating disorders. Those with severe body image issues may benefit from using antidepressants or cognitive behavior therapy.
Overall, your willingness to help and active seeking out of information is a great start. While your friend's constant questioning may seem pesky, she may be dealing with much greater issues. So equip yourself with knowledge and a positive attitude — she may follow in your footsteps!
What a better way to show your support than to become educated! Celiac disease leads to malabsorption of nutrients and abnormal immune reactions to gluten (a protein in wheat, rye, and barley). Celiac disease works by damaging or destroying villi when gluten is consumed or used in a product. Celiac disease is genetic, meaning it runs in families. Therefore, people who have Celiac disease in their family may want to get tested. The disease affects approximately 1 out of every 133 people.
The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. In other words, a person with celiac disease should not eat most grains, pasta, cereal, and many processed foods. Gluten is also used in some medications, vitamins, and even lip balm. Therefore, it is important that people with Celiac speak with a pharmacist to see if prescribed medications contain wheat. Even if a person doesn’t have symptoms, s/he should still completely avoid gluten in order to prevent damage to the intestines and long-term problems.
It is highly important to diagnose this disease because without treatment, people with Celiac can develop complications such as osteoporosis, anemia, and cancer. Although Celiac disease may affect people in different ways, common symptoms of Celiac disease in adults include:
So what’s for dinner? A gluten-free diet could include potato, rice, soy, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, or bean flour instead of wheat flour. There are also gluten-free breads, pastas, and other products that are labeled "gluten-free." Corn tortillas, rice cake, popcorn, crackers made of rice or corn, rice, pasta made from rice, flax, quinoa, buckwheat are also fine. While oats may not be harmful for most Celiacs, it is best to avoid oat products as they are frequently contaminated with wheat. Also, most gluten-free grain products aren't supplemented with vitamins, so it is important for Celiacs to take a vitamin supplement. Speaking with a registered dietitian can help you and your lady friend come up with delicious and suitable meals. There are also a variety of cookbooks and blogs that cater to a gluten-free lifestyle.
Creating a supportive environment can definitely make life easier for a person with Celiac disease. Here are some tips for you to help your girlfriend manage her health:
For more information, you may want to check out Celiac Disease Foundation and the related questions below. Here’s to health and happiness — for both of you!
Dear For future reference,
Living with someone who has an eating disorder can be incredibly stressful. It is certain that others, similar to yourself, notice unusual eating patterns among friends, loved ones, roommates, partners, etc. that they later learned were signs of an eating disorder. Eating disorders affect people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and sexual orientations.
Your helping strategies depend on whether or not this is an emergency situation. If this were an emergency situation, for instance, the person is blacking out, losing significant amounts of weight, sleeping all day, and/or expressing suicidal thoughts or attempts, then do not try to deal with the situation politely or gently. Tell your resident advisor (RA), residence hall director (GA), or someone else who can help to get the assistance and support you need to intervene. If you are at Columbia on the Morningside campus, you can call Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) at 212-854-2878 or Medical Services at 212-854-2284 for an appointment. CUMC students can contact the Mental Health Service or Medical Services at 212-305-3400. Morningside students can also use Open Communicator to make a primary care appointment. If this were an extreme emergency, you would need to call your campus's volunteer ambulance service, if there is one at your school, which should come with security. If you are at Columbia, you can call CU-EMS, Columbia University's Emergency Medical Service, at 212-854-5555.
If this were not an emergency situation, a good roommate or friend may be the best person to express concern and get her to help. You can choose to speak with your roommate directly, or you can do things that are less direct — such as place pamphlets about eating disorders around the common living areas; you can attend a seminar or workshop on eating disorders, body image, or healthy eating and invite your roommate to come with you; or, set up an appointment with a mental health provider to discuss ways to help your roommate.
If you choose to speak with your roommate directly, pick a time to talk when you are feeling calm and both of you have plenty of time. Choose a time and place where you will not be interrupted. Start off by keeping your observations away from food or her body, and on her non-appearance oriented traits — such as what a good roommate or person she is and/or how much you care about her. Focus on expressing your concern by conveying your observations about her health or behaviors. Tell her that you are worried. Make sure she knows you value her and highlight for her the qualities in her you appreciate.
If your roommate seems receptive to your thoughts, you can mention the following things in your conversation:
What you would like to see happen: Make sure that your goals for the conversation are attainable. Your goal is NOT to stop her from bingeing, purging, or starving. You would most likely end up in an ineffective control battle. A realistic goal is simply to open the door to talk, either now or in the future, and to encourage her to take steps to get the help she needs and deserves.
This may be a difficult conversation, and you can try to keep it from becoming an argument. For example, if you become upset, ask if you can continue the conversation at another time. Also realize that your roommate may need to hear your worry several times before she's willing to have a conversation with you about it.
Remember, regardless of her reaction, you can know that you've tried to help her. She's lucky to have you as a roomie.
Dear Weight conscious,
Feeling like life is passing you by or “putting off” your life can be a discouraging feeling for anyone. Here’s something to consider: If you lose all the weight you want to lose, what would your life look like? What would you be doing that you aren’t currently doing? Can you begin to do some of these things now? Following your heart and doing things you truly love today may help you feel better about tomorrow. And, that just might provide you with more motivation to accomplish your weight loss goals.
Now, let’s talk more about your specific question. Unfortunately, free weight loss camps are hard to come by, and may not even exist. However, if you're willing to think outside the box a little, you may be able to find a short-term physically active job that can help get you moving. For example, you could look into a program such as WWOOF, which places people who want to volunteer on organic farms with small organic farmers around the world. In addition to requiring volunteers to contribute physical labor, many of these opportunities provide one or more meals per day of healthy, farm-fresh foods for their working volunteers. And besides being a great work out, these programs offer a great opportunity for adventure!
Now back to the more traditional residential weight loss programs. Some are helpful, whereas others are simply moneymaking ventures. A sound weight loss program addresses three key issues: controlling calorie intake, changing problematic food habits, and increasing physical activity. Specifically, look for the following characteristics in a weight loss program:
You can also make changes on your own to incorporate physical activity and healthier eating into your everyday life. Some tips are:
For more tips on exercise and healthier eating, check out the Nutrition and Physical Activity section in the Go Ask Alice! archives. You may want to speak with a nutritionist (if you're at Columbia, login to Open Communicator or call x4-2284 to make an appointment); or, contact a registered dietitian in your area for a weight loss camp or program recommendation that will work for you. These providers can help you find affordable, convenient suggestions for successful weight loss.
Another option that you might check into would be hiking/backpacking/bicycling trips in national parks, or other such trips sponsored by outdoorsy groups (Sierra Club, National...
Another option that you might check into would be hiking/backpacking/bicycling trips in national parks, or other such trips sponsored by outdoorsy groups (Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, American Wheelmen, etc., if I remember correctly). Try an on-line search for some of these websites. I'm sure some of their trips last for a couple weeks, and maybe you could do them back-to-back, or figure out something creative. I don`t know if they are cheap or not, but it's worth checking out, or contact them stating your needs and they might have further suggestions.
Go Ask Alice! is not an emergency or instant response service. If you are in an urgent situation, please visit our Emergency page to view a list of 24 hour support services and hotlines.
All materials on this website are copyrighted. Copyright 2005-2014 by The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. All rights reserved.