My eating habits didn’t start out so great, it wasn’t until a professor of mine called me out on it in college that I started to change my ways.
It must have been in my junior year of college when my fellow students and I were asked by our nutrition professor to write down what we ate for the week as an assignment. I didn’t think that would be tough at all, in fact it would help me to call to mind what I grabbed from the student union on the way to class, or helped myself to on the snack shelves at the pharmacy I worked at after school. And, I turned the menus in the following Monday.
Shortly thereafter, my professor approached my desk, and sternly asked me, “Well, was this a joke?!”
“Oh!” I said, “I can explain. This is not typical at all. I have been really busy at my job, and doing my stats project due this week.”
“So, instead you are eating from vending machines, drinking lots of soda, and the rest is, well, cookies and candy?” She also said, “You can’t be feeling very well?”
“Yes that’s true,” I explained, “until I get home at night, and have a fairly large dinner.”
“Yes,” she said, “I noticed that too. More than half your calories come after 6:00pm. Then you start all over again the next day. It is either feast or famine with you!”
And then the real bomb was dropped…
“You might want to think about whether or not you are going to be a good role model to the people you work with!”
OUCH! SHE WAS RIGHT!
These were the words that changed my life! Not overnight but for the years to come I realized that changes would need to be made, for myself, my family and for the people I would be working with for health and wellness. It wasn’t that I was such a bad eater it was that it had been more of a educational theory up to that time, and not a personal matter. And from then on, I knew I needed to make some changes.
Why 25 is the Magic Number
Most health professionals are given a calculation for their ideal weight for life that should be attained by age 25 years. The thought behind it was to “get there and stay there” for the rest of your life. So, with that in mind, I did calculate that ideal weight for myself, and did fairly well to get there and stay there.
The biggest part, was not the weight, it was the nutrition. It suffered because I was too busy and had no time. Actually, I did have access to food and some preparation most of the time. I just never took the time to think about “what will I take on campus to eat?” So, it began that day.
To replace the calories from candy, cookies, and soda, with better calories from sandwiches, and fruits was a start. The amazing part about it that I could hardly believe was how much better I felt eating real food. It even lasted most of the afternoon! What a difference!
The other elephant in the room was thinking I was too busy, always too busy, to eat, to rest, to workout. So, for meals, I would grab something “on the go,” but always finger foods. Or even pass altogether without food intending to get back to it later. I never did, because when I got there to that point, I was too tired. That is not weight control that is poorly planned abstinence. Enough said.
Developing Proper Eating Habits for Life
All college students are on a roller coaster, but that is why they are there; to learn how to do things in the right way for the rest of their lives. At this point, I am confident that my habits are good and well established. So, for the most part, eating has become a automatic event without a lot of contemplation. Why? Because it is very similar foods at just about the same time every day. Predictable eating is exactly what your body likes. Then, there is no “feast or famine” scenario. It is a part of your natural behavior.
Less likely for you to understand, is the fact that if you are into a predictable eating pattern, then when you do something richer or heavier, your body is likely to react. Sometimes I will go out for a steak dinner with friends and we will add wine and even desserts. This, too, is wonderful and provide great tastes; but I also know that I will “feel” the extra in my system. On occasion, we all like to “indulge” in more food and more calories than we are used to…
- Donuts and sweet rolls
- Chocolate, candies or cookies
- Specialty meats, brats or hot dogs
- French fries, potato chips
In the right place, and time frame, these foods will provide some fun! They are favorites of mine and ones that I grew up with. Most of us did. Until we realized we could do better.
Since my time in school I’ve learned much about good foods that are packaged in just the right way to take with you. It should not be a problem to always have just what you need at the right time.
I am glad that my professor came along when she did. I am glad that I had a chance to think about my reference weight before I was 25 years of age. If you haven’t you still can. It gives you the opportunity to closely identify exactly who the “real you” should or could be. It is a very important point, and if it is correct, maintaining that PERSON you are, will be the next step with good food and good fitness.
Any questions about this or other nutritional topics, please contact me through the “Ask the Dietitian” program where hours are available every week at each of the 5 Milwaukee area Elite Sports Clubs locations.
Written by Rita Larsen, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Nutrition Educator & Diet Counselor
Rita is certified in Positive Psychology, University of Penn; has a BS in Dietetics from Kansas State University; and an Internship and Masters at the Indiana University Medical Center.Schedule a Nutrition Consultation