Nutrition & Physical Activity

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Food's travels through the body

Dear Union of Uranus,

From the way you signed your letter, your question is most likely related to the discharge of food from the colon and "your anus." In order to cover the ins and outs of the process (no puns intended) it’s best to start from the very beginning:

  1. The eater spots a delicious-looking bite to eat (amount of time depends how picky of an eater we’re dealing with).
  2. Food is chewed, lubricated, and partially digested by saliva in the mouth, and then the tongue moves it to the back of the throat. This process takes about one minute to complete.
  3. Chewed and partially digested food is travels through the pharynx and into the esophagus, where it takes about ten seconds to be propeled into the stomach.
  4. The stomach is a hollow, elastic sac where food is churned and mixed thoroughly with digestive juices secreted by the stomach lining. This process takes about two to four hours to complete, depending on the type of food and the amount of food eaten.
  5. Processed food is then released gradually into the small intestine. In the small intestine, digestive juices produced in the liver and pancreas convert carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into chemical mixtures used by the body. The broken down mixtures then pass through the wall of the small intestine into the bloodstream or lymph system if it is fat. This process takes around three to ten hours to complete.
  6. Water and undigested food are then passed into the large intestine, where the water can be absorbed. It takes between seven to sixteen hours for this process to be completed.
  7. The solid waste from the large intestine is then stored in the rectum for a variable period of time (between twelve and fourteen hours). The muscles then push the solid waste out of the anus as feces.

So, as you can see, there is a range of time, usually between 24 and 44 hours. Exactly how long it takes is up to the individual’s digestive system, not to mention what s/he eats. For example, eating fiber-rich foods helps speed up digestion, while eating animal proteins, like meat, poultry and seafood can slow it down.

Bon apetit!

Alice

Importance of eating breakfast

Dear Breakfast Boycotter,

Your brain (and central nervous system) run on glucose — that's the fuel you need to think, walk, talk, and carry on any and all activities. Let's say that the last time you eat something at night is at 10 or 11 PM (not optimal, just an example). The following day, you don't eat breakfast but wait until about noon or so to eat — you've gone thirteen or fourteen hours with nothing in your system. Your poor brain is surely deprived — and your body has to work extra hard to break down any stored carbohydrate or turn fat or protein into a usable form for your brain to function. That's a lot to ask for when you're sitting in a classroom, trying to concentrate on reading, or doing any other work. Eating breakfast has been proven (many times) to improve concentration, problem solving ability, mental performance, memory, and mood. You will certainly be at a disadvantage if your classmates have eaten breakfast and you've gone without. On average, they will think faster and clearer, and will have better recall than you. School or work can be tough enough without this extra added pressure.

Breakfast skippers also have a harder time fitting important nutrients into their diet. Many foods eaten at breakfast contain significant amounts of vitamins C and D, calcium, iron, and fiber.

Some people believe that skipping breakfast may help them lose weight. Not so! Skipping meals often leads to overeating later in the day. Becoming overhungry often leads to a lack of control and distorted satiety signals (meaning it's hard to determine when you're full). This can result in taking in more calories than if one had an appropriate breakfast. As a matter of fact, it's easier to control one's weight by eating smaller meals and snacks more frequently.

What if there's just no time in the morning to eat breakfast? There are plenty of items you can bring along with you to school or work. Carry a resealable bag of easy-to-eat whole grain cereal, or bring a yogurt or small box of skim milk, juice, or fruit. If you just can't stomach food in the morning, try to have a little something — such as some juice — and bring along a mid-morning snack. Other good portable items include: whole grain crackers, a hard boiled egg, cottage cheese, low-fat granola bars, or even a peanut butter sandwich. Single serving hot cereals, such as oatmeal, are handy — all you have to do is add hot water, available at most cafeterias or delis.

Whatever your choice, eat something. If you think you're doing fine with no breakfast, just try changing your tune for a week —you're likely to notice a difference. You will undoubtedly perform better with some fuel in your system, and, hopefully, become a breakfast believer.

Alice

Low protein diabetic (renal) diet

Dear Reader,

Great question! Diet is one of the most important ingredients for treating kidney, or renal, insufficiency. When a person has renal insufficiency, it means that some of the nephron function in the kidneys has been lost, and the fluid, protein, and electrolytes are not filtered as efficiently through the kidneys. In order to delay renal insufficiency and prevent it from worsening, it is important to limit the amount of electrolytes (i.e., sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium), fluids, and protein that one ingests.

Diabetes is the main cause of kidney insufficiency, which can eventually result in kidney failure. The reason for this is that increased blood sugar damages the capillaries and nerves that support kidney function. In addition to your low protein diabetic diet, you should also be sure that you are testing your blood sugar daily, exercising, and following your health care provider’s instructions.

Depending on the degree of your renal insufficiency, various protein restrictions would be necessary. At this point, you could plan a diet that balances your intake of phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. If you have fluid retention, decreased urinary output, and/or hypertension, it could be necessary for you to have a sodium and fluid restriction as well. In this case, you should speak with to your health care provider about how to restrict these nutrients.

When you eat large amounts of protein, extra stress is placed upon the kidneys. This is because they excrete waste products derived from protein. Since someone in your situation needs to eat a reduced amount of protein, the protein you eat should come from sources that are easily assimilated into body tissue. This type of protein is termed High Biological Value (HBV for short). The highest HBV protein is from an egg — other sources with slightly lower HBV protein include fish, beef, and poultry. In renal insufficiency, about 70 to 80% of your protein should come from these sources.

Various health care providers, such as a registered dietitian, can formulate an eating plan designed to meet your specific needs. If you are a Columbia student, this service is free for you at the Health Service. You can make an appointment with Medical Services through Open Communicator, or by calling x4-2284. You can also check out the American Dietetic Association to locate a Registered Dietitian in your area.

For more information on diabetes, you can try the following resources:

Alice

Ginkgo — what d'ya thinko?

Dear What D'Ya Thinko About Ginkgo,

Gingko (Latin name, Ginkgo biloba) has been part of Chinese traditional medicine for thousands of years. It is extracted from the leaves of the hardy ginkgo biloba tree and is available in a variety of forms, including teas and tablets. Proponents of ginkgo believe that consuming the leaves increases cerebral blood flow and prevents the lumping of platelets in brain tissue. They also believe that ginkgo has other health benefits, such as slowing memory loss, improving cognitive ability, and curing conditions such as asthma, PMS, multiple sclerosis, and sexual dysfunction. For one herb, that's quite a resume!

While some claims on the Ginkgo plant may have some merit, not all are backed by research. Some studies have found that ginkgo biloba has positive effects on cognitive ability, though others have found that this may not be true. Ginkgo has been found to have possible antioxidant properties, which means that it may help the body fight free radicals. Free radicals in the brain attack healthy cells, stealing the cells' electrons. As an antioxidant, ingested ginkgo provides a target for these hungry cells, allowing them to steal ginkgo's electrons rather than from the healthy cells. Ginkgo has been found to be helpful in some patients with claudication (painful legs due to clogged arteries) and dementia. Despite these findings, more research is needed to establish ginkgo as the panacea that it's believed to be.

So, let's say you decide to ginkgo. You may be wondering about the recommended dose. For adults 18 and older, common dosage is typically around 80 to 240 mg, and may be taken two to three times a day (depending on the reason for use). It’s recommended that if you’re just starting to take ginkgo, it’s best to not take any more than 120 mg per day to avoid some gastrointestinal upset. Ginkgo might be safe for children, but it's probably a good idea not to give it to them unless it's under the strict supervision of a health care provider.

Ginkgo, though it is natural, may cause side effects, such as bleeding, headache, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, and allergic reactions (some of which may be severe). Moreover, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate ginkgo or other supplements. As such, it's recommended you ask your health care provider, if you are considering taking ginkgo, especially if you have a bleeding disorder or if you are taking any other medications/supplements. For more information about ginkgo, you may want to check out the section on supplements and ergonenic aids in the Go Ask Alice! Nutrition & Physical Activity archives.

Doing your homework on complementary and alternative medicine is a wise step to take — be proud of yourself for learning more info before you gink-go or gink-no.

Alice

Back-strengthening and stretching exercises

Dear Reader,

The lower back is an area that's commonly ignored in strength training, despite the fact that it can be a painful area for many people. Strengthening exercises, as well as stretching, can help prevent injury and pain in the lower back. It is important to focus on the lower back muscles as well as those in areas that support the lower back. These include the stomach, hip flexors, and hamstrings (back of the thigh).

It is always recommended to seek the advice of a health care provider before beginning any physical activity program, including back-strengthening and stretching exercises. If you have a condition that could be affected by physical activity, it is especially important to speak with your health care provider in advance.

Here are a few lower-back exercises to start with:

Front lying chest lift:

  • This is a body weight exercise that involves no equipment at all!
  • Lying face down, place your hands (palms down on the floor) next to and even with your chest.
  • Keeping your hips and thighs on the floor, lift your chest off the floor. Assisted slightly by your arms as you lift, your lower back muscles should be contracting.
  • Make sure the back of your head is in even alignment with your spine and avoid tilting your head up or down.
  • Pause briefly when your arms are straight and then return to starting position.
  • Build up to three sets of eight to twelve repetitions, taking short breaks between each set.

Double knee to chest stretch:

  • Lie on your back with knees bent, and pull both knees off the floor toward your chest, holding your legs behind the knees on the bottom part of your hamstrings.
  • This stretch can be done with both legs together or one at a time.

Figure-4 stretch:

  • Lying on your back, with your head on the floor or mat and right knee bent, pull your right knee towards your chest.
  • Then draw your knee across your body towards your left shoulder. Try to keep both shoulders on the floor or mat.
  • Repeat with your left leg.

Cat/Cow stretch:

  • On your hands and knees, let your back sag (push your chest towards the floor) while lifting up your head.
  • Alternate the stretch by arching your back and keeping your head down.
  • Lean back onto your heels and hold, keeping your head down and arms extended.

Abdominal muscle-strengthening stretch:

  • Lie face up with your knees bent and your hands placed loosely behind your head.
  • Slowly curl your upper back off the floor while pressing your lower back against the floor. You should feel your abdominal muscles contracting.
  • Pause briefly before returning to starting position. Try your best not to put pressure on your hands, or pull your head with your hands.
  • Keep your breathing coordinated: exhale on the way up, inhale on the way down.
  • It is important that you don't rush this exercise.

Hip flexor stretch (a.k.a. Runner's stretch):

  • Stretching your hip flexors can help alleviate stress to the lower spine.
  • Assume a lunge position, making sure that your front knee is directly over your foot and ankle, and that your knee isn’t past your toes when you look down (your knee will be in the form of a right angle).
  • With your weight supported by both hands touching the floor, press your hips towards the floor.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Hamstring stretch (straight leg raise):

  • This exercise will also help reduce stress to the lower spine.
  • Lying on your back, bend your knees and keep both feet flat on the floor.
  • Raise and straighten your right leg without lifting your hips from the floor.
  • Support your leg and increase your range of motion by placing your hands below your knee, around the back of your leg, and gently drawing your leg towards your chest while keeping it straight.
  • Repeat with your left leg.

If you have access to a gym, the lower back machine allows you to increase resistance as you become stronger. Try the following resistance exercises two or three times per week on non-consecutive days:

  • Sit on the seat with your legs secured and upper back in contact with the roller pad.
  • Push the roller pad down towards the floor, contracting your lower back muscles (Your range of motion should be comfortable).
  • Pause briefly and return to starting position slowly. Keep your arms relaxed and your head in a neutral position.
  • Use a weight that allows you to complete two or three sets of eight to twelve repetitions.

You may stretch every day once you've warmed up your muscles. Stretch smoothly, as opposed to bouncing, which can cause injury. For maximum effectiveness, each stretch needs to be held for at least fifteen to thirty seconds. Some examples of lower back stretching exercises include:

You can also choose structured exercises for strengthening your back. Yoga, for instance, is an excellent form of back strengthening physical activity. Many of the suggested stretches listed above are a part of poses and movements performed during a yoga session. Swimming is another excellent exercise for your back, because the buoyancy of the water offers some support.

Also, take notice of your posture. What position do you spend most of your time in when you are sitting, standing, and walking? For example, are you sitting at a desk throughout the day? If so, be aware of your posture. Make sure the ergonomics of your work set up are optimal for your body. If you have freedom to play with your workspace, consider using a balance ball as a desk chair even for part of the day. Sitting on a ball demands your posture to be proper and many of your torso muscles to stay active.

Again, it is important that you speak with a health care provider before you begin a new physical activity regimen. If you are a Columbia student, you can make an appointment with Medical Services (Morningside) or the Student Health Service (CUMC).

Hope these exercises and stretches allow you to attain your physical activity goals!

Alice

August 20, 2012

515244
These exercises are perfect for ladies and gents, only they have to do it properly for at least three months to get a proper result . Then continue 4 days a week.
These exercises are perfect for ladies and gents, only they have to do it properly for at least three months to get a proper result . Then continue 4 days a week.

Achilles tendon injury

Dear Reader,

The Achilles tendon attaches to the calf muscle and to the heel bone. The calf muscles and the muscles along the shin are needed to protect against shock in high-impact exercises. This muscle group is very strong and is used constantly. Because of this, your Achilles tendon is put under a lot of pressure. The Achilles tendon handles forces that range from two to three times the body weight in walking, to four to six times the body weight in running and jumping. When it is overused, or if you continue to use it when it is injured, inflammation of the Achilles tendon could lead to local degeneration and recurrent injury, which may result in a partial, or even a complete, rupture. It was very wise of you to take a break before gradually resuming exercise.

As you get back into an exercise routine, make sure that you follow up with your health care provider and/or a physical therapist to be certain that you are not doing any more damage to your Achilles tendon. If you are a Columbia Student on the Morningside campus, you can call 212-854-2284 or log into Open Communicator to schedule an appointment. For students on the Medical Center campus, contact the Student Health Service by calling 212-305-3400.

Stretching and strengthening exercises can certainly play a role in taking care of your body. Remember that all stretching should be slow and static and that you should listen to your body — feel your muscles stretching, but stop if you feel pain. Specific to the Achilles tendon and surrounding muscles, consider the following:  

Stretch #1 — Calf Stretch

  1. Stand about a foot from a wall, extend one leg behind you, keeping both feet flat on the floor, toes pointed straight ahead, and your rear knee straight and your front knee bent.
  2. Move your hips forward, keeping your lower back flat.
  3. Lean into the wall until you feel tension in the calf muscle of the extended leg.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds, then stretch the other leg.
  5. Repeat at least two more times.

Stretch #2 — Calf Stretch

  1. Stand arm's-length distance from a wall (or tree, or lamppost — whatever is handy and gives you support).
  2. Put your hands on the wall, keep your back and your legs straight, and make sure your heels are flat on the floor.
  3. Bend your arms and lean forward, trying to touch your chest to the wall.
  4. Feel the stretch in your calf muscles.
  5. Hold it for a few seconds.
  6. Relax and repeat at least two more times.

Stretch #3 — Achilles Tendon Stretch

  1. Stand with one leg in front of you, slightly bent, and the other leg extended back.
  2. Lower your hips downward as you slightly bend the knee of the extended leg.
  3. Keep both heels flat on the floor and toes straight ahead.
  4. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, and then stretch the other leg.
  5. Repeat at least two more times.
    Note: This Achilles tendon stretch requires only a slight feeling of tension at the back of your ankle. Also, be sure that you do not bounce, and that you stretch gently and completely.

Besides jogging and running, the Achilles tendon can be injured from any activity that has an impact component. To help prevent injury to the Achilles tendon, consider exercises that put less stress on the Achilles tendon, such as bike riding and swimming. Also, abnormal pronation and muscle imbalances can be a problem for a recurring inflammation of the Achilles tendon. If you decide to get back into running, you need to have a physical therapist check out your running shoes to make sure they are not causing extra stress on your Achilles tendon and calf muscles. Be sure that you always wear running shoes that are not worn out, and try to avoid uneven or hard running surfaces. You may want to run on soft surfaces, such as running tracks, or soft trails without holes or ditches.

A reference to mythology seems unavoidable — stretch and allow your body to heal so your tendon doesn't become your Achilles heel. 

Alice

What can I eat after having my gallbladder removed?

Dear Reader,

How amazing is it that you can remove a part of the human body and it’ll still work like a well-oiled machine? The story of gallbladder removal (or cholecystectomy) is just one example of how adaptable bodies can be. The gallbladder, an organ near your liver, acts like a reservoir for bile to be stored and used to digest fats later when you need it. But, even once it’s removed, your body can still produce the bile just like before. In fact, your body can even adjust to store bile in the duct between the liver and small intestine, creating a kind of makeshift gallbladder for itself. Pretty impressive, eh? And, more to your line of questioning, some people may notice changes in digestion and need to alter their diets after a cholecystectomy either temporarily or permanently (no two patients are the same!). However, most people are able to return to business as usual with their diet within a few days or weeks. Even though fats sometimes get a bad rap, they are a key part of your body’s dietary needs, and fortunately, the gallbladder-less can still reap the benefits.

There are no universally recommended diets for those who’ve recently parted with their gallbladder. However, there are some general suggestions that dieticians have thought up to help get your digestive tract running as smoothly as possible after surgery:

  • Eat smaller, frequent meals, so that your digestive tract can work with smaller amounts of food at a time without its reservoir of bile.
  • Avoid high-fat foods right after surgery, to give your body has time to compensate and adjust to the decreased amount of bile.
  • Slowly increase fiber intake, which can help with diarrhea.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages, spicy foods, and dairy right after surgery, which might upset or irritate your digestive tract until it has a chance to bounce back.

List adapted from Mayo Clinic.

The newly gallbladder-less might also want to consider how other side effects from surgery can impact their lives. About 90 percent of gallbladder removals are done as laparoscopic surgeries, which involve a few small incisions to insert a small camera and instruments and remove it as noninvasively as possible. This is the “gold standard”: the risk of complications, such as infection, are low and pain usually decreases significantly after three days. For patients with abdominal scarring or other conditions, an open surgery might be done instead. This carries a slightly higher risk of complications (infection, bruising at the site, or urine retention), but is also a low-risk procedure. Gallbladder removals are very safe, but it’s probably good to be prepared for some pain and discomfort in the days following either type of surgery.

Gallbladder removal may leave you an organ lighter, but chances are you’ll hardly miss it. Maintaining a balanced diet with lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains, listening to your body’s signals, and keeping in touch with your health care provider about any concerns can help you carry on just as you did before, fats and all!

Alice

January 5, 2015

595544
I had my gall bladder removed around 25 years ago and your article was very information to ME! No doctor or nurse told me what you had written and I wish I had known before. You are right on the...
I had my gall bladder removed around 25 years ago and your article was very information to ME! No doctor or nurse told me what you had written and I wish I had known before. You are right on the money too. Thank you.

Best time of day to exercise?

Dear Early bird exerciser,

The best time to exercise is the time that's right for you. Morning workouts really get some people going, release endorphins, and enhance mood. If you enjoy starting your day with a workout, or find that it's the only time you can fit it into your schedule, stick with it. Others find afternoon or evening workouts productive and stress-relieving. When you wake up, your body temperature and blood sugar levels are low, so your muscles aren't as "loose" as later in the day. In a perfect world, your muscles are warmer and fueled by a few meals (hopefully) later, well after you awake.

There isn't really a "simple" answer to your second query. It will be helpful, though, to ask yourself the following questions: How hard do you work out (intensity)? How long are your sessions (duration)? What are your exercise activities? How soon after you awake do you begin exercising? Your answers will help determine what may enhance your performance.

For some people, exercising with no fuel (food) beforehand may cause lightheadedness, dizziness, and early fatigue. Research shows that eating before exercise, as opposed to exercising on an empty stomach, improves athletic performance. If you have three hours until your workout, have a normal breakfast. However, if you're going straight to a workout after waking up, here are a few suggestions:

  • If your exercise session is less than an hour, just snack on any foods that are easy to digest, such as bread, crackers, or a banana.
  • If your session is one hour or longer, get up a little earlier and have something small to eat — perhaps around 250 to 300 calories — such as toast and fruit or a small bowl of cereal and skim milk.
  • Drinking some water before and during exercise is important for hydration.

If you eat before exercising, make sure you allow your body some time to digest and absorb the food. During digestion, our bodies send blood to the stomach to help out with this process. When you exercise, your muscles need the blood flow, so your stomach becomes a second class citizen and digestion is slowed. If too much food is in the stomach while you're exercising, you may be uncomfortable.

Also take into account the type of food you eat and the activities you do. Some people tolerate liquids more easily because they leave the stomach more quickly than solid food. Some exercisers, such as runners, for example, would prefer not to have the internal "sloshing" around that liquids may cause.

General guidelines for eating before exercising are:

  • Three or four hours before exercising, a large meal is fine (500 calories or more).
  • Two or three hours beforehand, a smaller meal is suitable (400 to 500 calories).
  • One or two hours before, a liquid meal is appropriate (300 to 400 calories).
  • With less than one hour, a small snack will do (200 to 300 calories).

In addition, people tolerate foods differently, and the composition of the food matters. Fats stay in the stomach longest, followed by protein and high fiber carbohydrate, then low fiber complex carbohydrates, and finally simple sugars, which are absorbed fastest.

Sugary foods, such as sodas and candy, are absorbed quickly by the body and produce a sugar high within an hour of a workout. Along with a quick "sugar high" comes a quick "sugar low." People who eat sugar 15 to 30 minutes before exercising may experience a "low," with lightheadedness and fatigue, during their workout. If you feel that you absolutely must have juice or some sugary snack before exercising, have it only five or ten minutes before you begin. This way, there isn't enough time for your body to secrete insulin, a hormone which lowers blood sugar, causing fatiguing symptoms. Since everyone reacts differently, try various strategies to determine what helps you the most. No matter what, drink water before, during, and after exercise. And, have breakfast afterwards, especially if you haven't had anything to eat earlier, since this will replace glycogen stores and will keep you going all morning long.

Alice

November 14, 2014

591055
very helpful information...thank you
very helpful information...thank you

How can I eat well at college?

Dear Confused and College Bound,

You are not alone with your concerns. Going to college is a big step in a person's life involving major changes. You and those around you may be living on your own for the first time, making decisions on a buffet of issues, including what to eat.

Eating healthy at college is possible. Many college dining services are offering more healthy choices and are often quite receptive to students' concerns and dietary preferences. But, this is only part of the challenge. In an environment where time, friends, and finances may combine in new ways, having options available only solves some of the puzzle. It's important to experiment with what works best for you. For example, that traditional idea of three square meals a day has been updated with a more contemporary concept of eating five smaller meals spread throughout the day. Steer clear of diets or fads, especially those that drastically limit a particular nutrient. Remember, balance, moderation, and variety win out over trendy and extreme. For some practical tips, navigate through the many options on Choosemyplate.gov. Columbia students can also take advantage of the resources from the get balanced! initiative. Plan ahead when possible so you don't have to rely on vending machines when you're hungry; think of ways to incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains on a daily basis. Eating more of these will fill you up and possibly even enhance your already stellar brain power.

Making time for physical activity is important, too. Most college fitness centers have a variety of movement classes and options. When the weather is right, grab a friend and walk, run, bike, or blade outdoors. If you are Columbia affiliated, you can connect with the CU Move initiative.  CU Move encourages members of the Columbia community to engage in active lives that include regular physical activity. The program provides participants with motivation, incentives to be active throughout the year, and event calendars with access to plenty of free and low-cost physical activity options on campus and around NYC. 

Now, to address the second part of your question: an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, is less about food, eating, and body weight. It has more to do with mental health, emotional, physical, socio-cultural, and family issues. If this is a particular concern of yours, you might want to take a look at Eating disorders vs. normal eating. Additionally, if you are a Columbia student, you can make an appointment with a health care provider or a registered dietitian to discuss your concerns by contacting Medical Services (Morningside) or the Student Health Service (CUMC).

Give yourself some time to adjust to a new environment and ask for help when you need it. Everything in moderation, even moderation. 

Enjoy your time at college,

Alice

A healthy model is a model of health

Dear N,

Rather than prescribing you a "model's diet," as there are probably as many of them as there are models (both healthy and unhealthy), a better suggestion would be to follow the guidelines for a model diet — that is, start by resisting the urge to compare yourself to other models. Focusing on what's healthy for you is the healthiest runway to strut on.

You have already taken a step in the right direction by taking good care of yourself and your health:

Exercising regularly is fantastic for health and wellness. For a well-rounded exercise plan, be sure to include both cardio and weight training workouts. Current recommendations for a healthy dose of exercise for adults include 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week, plus muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days per week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest,  shoulders, and arms).

Meeting with a nutritionist or dietician can help you figure out a specific eating plan tailored for your energy and nutritional needs. According to the USDA’s 2011 MyPlate Plan, a healthy diet for a typical woman aged 19-30 includes 6 ounces of grains (with 3 ounces coming from whole grains), 2.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of dairy products, 5 1/2 ounces of protein (lean meats and beans) and up to 6 teaspoons from the oil group. Recommendations for a typical man aged 19-30 includes 8 ounces of grains, with at least 4 ounces coming from whole grains, 3 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of dairy products, 6 1/2 ounces of protein (lean meats and beans) and up to 7 teaspoons of foods from the oil group. With a balanced diet, men and women can eat still eat sweets and treats in moderation and maintain a healthy diet.

Getting your beauty sleep is important — both on and off the runway! While six solid hours can be enough for some people, others, especially people in their late teens and early 20s, need as many as nine or ten to be completely rested and alert. For sleep tips, you can check out the A!Sleep Site.  

Only your dietician can tell you how often you should meet with her/him in a given period of time. In addition, you might also meet with a health care provider at your university's health service for a physical or check-ups to make sure that your body stays healthy while you continue with your eating, exercise, and would-be modeling plans. Columbia students can make an appointment to discuss their nutritional concerns online through Open Communicator, or by calling x4-2284.

Good luck with your modeling debut. Following the above tips can help you make a lasting impression along your path to becoming a model of good health!

Alice

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