Does Eating really fix the problem?

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Source: OcusFocus/Getty Images

By: Vivian Siu, Healthy Aggies Nutrition Intern

Why do we eat? Besides the obvious reason that we need fuel to keep us healthy and moving, we eat because food is yummy. There’s a form of happiness that comes from eating a warm, fudgy brownie. Eating is also important during celebrations, reunions, or simply hanging out. With so much cultural diversity in this town, there are so many food choices available that make it that much harder to find an excuse to not go eat. However, there’s another reason why some of us eat. We refer to it as ‘snacking’ but sometimes it is a coping mechanism – then it is stress or emotional eating.

Reasons we eat outside of hunger

  1. We relate ‘Food’ to ‘pleasure’.

At the end of a tiring, long day what is one thing you can look forward to? A plate of fries or maybe a bowl of ice cream? Both can give you a temporary feeling of happiness, and if you’re like me, those types of comfort food are often associated with feelings of bliss, at least at first.  

But, instead of associating food that sense of pleasure and then suffering the consequences of too much junk, not enough nutrients, or just eating more food than you need, try using different activities to accomplish the bliss goal. What about that painting class you always wanted to take or learning how to play the guitar to serenade your cat and enjoy some music when you arrive home after a hard day?   This will feel especially doable if you’ve been practicing good, adequate eating habits throughout your day and are not famished! Having other activities besides eating to look forward to can cause you feel that same bliss.

  1. To avoid difficult situations and/or feelings.

During time of hardships and challenges, for many of us – including myself, we tend to avoid feelings. Avoiding feelings makes us more likely to seek out temporary fixes such as eating that feel good during the moment, but are very temporary, in fact may make things worse.  

One important fact to remember is that it’s okay to feel sad, mad, and frustrated. If it wasn’t for these feelings, would we know what happiness really is? Learning how to talk about your feelings, whether it be in the form of journaling, calling a hotline, or talking to a friend, can help you realize the deeper rooted problem that is causing you to want to turn to food for comfort.

  1.     Physiological Response.

One thing I’ve learned from my 2 ½ years of college so far is that there are days where I can be swamped with work, class, assignments, studying, you get the idea, right? If I don’t take the time to feed myself, lovingly throughout the day, I find myself more irritable and more susceptible to my cravings/eating more junk food because I’m “hangry” when I finally get home.

Having a regular and nutritious meal schedule is important to staying healthy and lessening the likelihood of emotional eating.

  1.     Self-Image.

Society has led most to believe that beautiful means thin and skinny, with flat tummies.

Our lives are filled with some of the most innovative and connected technology, it can be hard to avoid societal influences of what beauty is. In reality, beauty is something that cannot be defined, at least not by society. Beauty is more than just appearances. It can be seen through the actions of taking care of yourself, being true to who you are, being kind to friends, family, and strangers, taking care of the earth, and the list could go on. If taking care of yourself means indulging in some sweets once in a while, that’s perfectly fine. Just remember that eating as a temporary fix for whatever challenge you may be facing is okay, but it’s important to remember that addressing the problem can pave the way to a more permanent solution.

National Nutrition Month 2018!

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By: Johanna Yao, Healthy Aggies intern

“I am going to eat healthier starting tomorrow,” I say for the hundredth time this quarter after I feel sick indulging in a bunch of Girl Scouts Cookies. We tend to have these bursts of motivation to become healthier after days of bad eating, however motivation is often lost once the next meal comes around. Eating healthy is challenging, especially as a college student. Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month? Now is the perfect time to re-evaluate goals towards developing healthier eating habits! Here are 5 tips I follow to be healthier:

 

  • Swap unhealthy snacks for something better

 

Instead of opting to eat junk food such as cookies, candy and chips,  pack some fruit or veggies instead. Examples of fruit that can be tossed in your lunchbag include apples, tangerines or bananas; and as for veggie snacks, go for celery and peanut butter or baby carrots with hummus. These choices not only provide vitamins and minerals but also help you fulfill the daily MyPlate portions!

 

  • Practice portion control!

 

We have all experienced the “shock” after we eat half a bag of chips without even realizing it. Eating from a bag promotes mindless eating, and you end up consuming massive amount of calories without even thinking.  Alternatively, place one serving of chips in a bowl. Now you are in control of your portion size, and will be less tempted to overeat.

 

  • Bring your reusable water bottle everywhere you go!

 

Carrying your reusable water bottle around with you is not only a reminder to stay hydrated, it will also help curb your cravings for sugary drinks! Instead of buying bottles of sugar heavy drinks, choose to refill your water bottle and carry on with your day!

 

  • Meal Prep!

 

Though it can be hassle to cook (since we could be using that time to study), setting aside 1-2 hours during the weekend to make meals for the rest of the week is not only more time efficient but often healthier and cheaper. This way, you know exactly what is going on your plate and you can alter proportions and taste to your to your liking. Additionally, planning ahead is more budget friendly than buying food for each meal.

 

  • Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach!

 

You’ve heard this before, but research has shown that being hungry can have an effect on the way we shop.  When hungry, a hormone is produced that enhances your impulsiveness and hinders your ability to make rational decisions. If you go into a grocery store hungry, you are more likely to buy foods that you crave at the moment, but wouldn’t buy normally. Eating something before shopping can help prevent you from impulsively buying foods that are not on your list.

Becoming healthy can seem like a long and never ending journey, but making small changes in your everyday habits can make a big difference in the long run. By implementing these small but attainable goals, taking care of your body is a lot easier!

Sustaining Your New Year’s Resolution

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By Jackie Ahern

It’s a little over a week into 2018: a perfect time to reflect on the successes and struggles of those pesky New Year’s resolutions we all seem to make. For those of you that have stuck to your goal of going to the gym more often, or eating more leafy greens, congratulations! Research has shown it takes 21 days to make something a habit, so you’re halfway there! For those of you that haven’t been so successful, you’re absolutely not alone.

New Year’s resolutions are tough. For one, there are a lot of expectations and hype surrounding becoming a newer, better version of yourself, al starting on January 1st (or the 2nd if that NYE party was a real rager); however, in reality, time is relative. There’s no difference between starting a new habit on January 1st or June 1st, other than those 6 months. Granted you live for at least 20 more years (here’s hoping), 6 months is a pretty small fraction. What I’m trying to say is that January 1st isn’t the end-all-be-all for changing your life for the better. If you aren’t able to stick to your first resolution for whatever reason, whether it be that it’s too expensive, too time-consuming or just too difficult to keep up, that’s okay. You don’t have to abandon the resolution; just modify it. When an engineer designs a building but it gets painted the wrong color, they don’t tear down the whole building. They just repaint it.

A good New Year’s resolution, or any lifestyle change for that matter, needs to be something you can see yourself being able to continue for the rest, or most, of your life. For example, I know I cannot completely cut out desert forever (have you ever had ice cream?) but what I could do is cut down on my portion size, or only have it a couple times a week instead of every night. Additionally as a student, working out every day at 7am isn’t exactly sustainable, but working out after class 3 or 4 times a week could be. If down the line you find yourself suddenly hating ice cream, or craving more workouts, you can definitely switch some things up, but in the beginning, its best to start small with more attainable goals.

So what is a good way to assess an attainable, smart goal? Well, there’s a convenient acronym for that. It’s called SMART: Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Specific refers to a clear definition of the goal, such as “I will take a 30-minute walk in the morning, 3 times a week” versus just, “I will get in shape.” Measurable means having a way to evaluate how thoroughly the goal has been met, such as marking exercise days on a calendar or keeping a food journal. Achievable means the goal must be within the realm of possibility; for example, “I will lose 1 pound a week” instead of, “I will lose 20 pounds this month.” Talking to a professional like a doctor, dietitian, or personal trainer can help to navigate how achievable a health-related goal is. Relevant refers to how much the goal fits in with your lifestyle and other pursuits. For example, while in school, a resolution such as “I will learn how to swim” may be more relevant than “I will learn how to scuba dive.” Lastly, timely means that the goal should have some defined checkpoint or endpoint, such as “I will eventually be able to meditate for 20 minutes by adding 5 minutes to my meditation every 2 weeks.” Of course, from there you can decide to modify the goal.

And finally… Think about where you were 3 months ago. If you had made just a small lifestyle change then, today could a very different day. With time flying by the way that it does, who knows where you could be in just a few months by taking a small step towards a healthier future, today.

I don’t have time…

 

 

you always have time

By:  Jackie Ahern, Nutrition Peer Counselor, Fitness and Wellness, UC Davis

“I don’t have time to…” fill in the blank with whatever old New Year’s resolution or healthy habit you’ve been wanting to implement in your life. Think: exercise, meal prep, take baths, or catch up with a friend. I find myself saying this a lot, meanwhile I somehow always find the time to binge watch Friends until 1 am, when really I should have taken the extra minute to floss. We’ve all been there.

So what does it mean to not have time? Is it that there really isn’t enough hours in the day to take a 30 minute walk, or cut up some extra vegetables for the week? When you do the math, there’s 1440 minutes in a day and 30 minutes is only 2% of that. This calls for a change in perspective.

Let’s talk about priorities. I’d like to challenge you to shift your way of thinking from, “I don’t have the time” to, “It’s not a priority for me right now.”

“I don’t have the time” is an absolute negative, where there is no possible way you could achieve this task and it is out of your control. It also removes yourself from the issue, ridding yourself from the responsibility of your own choices. It seems like an innocent enough mindset, but it is not a good strategy to live with intention.

Meanwhile, “It’s not a priority for me right now” is an acknowledgement of your own decision, that whatever you’re not doing (me personally: flossing) is a result of your own choices. This isn’t a negative thing, it’s an opportunity for self-reflection. You are in control of your priorities. Shifting your mindset in regards to your choices gives you the power to question if your current habits are your true priority. Ask yourself, is watching Netflix a priority over exercise? Is scrolling through social media a priority over cooking a balanced meal? If it is, great! If it isn’t, reflect on that and make a change.

With finals around the corner, studying will definitely be a high priority item for myself and other students; however don’t forget to make self-care a high priority as well. Take study breaks, fuel your body with good foods, and practice deep breathing if you feel stressed out. Good luck Healthy Aggies!

A Supervisor Guides You Through the CoHo at UC Davis

 

 

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By:  Jackie Ahern, Nutrition Peer Counselor, Fitness and Wellness Center, UC Davis

Every visit to the Coffee House seems to feel like an obstacle course. Do you wait in a 20 minute line just to wait another 15 for a latte? Should you get a salad? But the pizza line is pretty short… Where did she get that poke bowl?

Fear not. Let me guide you through saving money, time and options for plant eaters.

Saving Pennies        

As a college student, I’ll take any opportunity to save a few cents. Bring your own coffee cup to get 25 cents off any espresso drink and coffee refills for only $1.50. On top of that, bring your own clean plate or bowl for food purchased at the Coho and get 25 cents off your purchase. Saving pennies and the planet! And more: Skip the tortilla on your taco salad and save another 50 cents.

Skipping the Line

This year, the Coho rolled out a fancy new system: Tapingo. Through an app on your smartphone, you can now pre order and pay for your meal through the Tapingo app. No more waiting in line, nifty!

Avoiding Peak Hours

            If you’re able to, try to avoid the peak times. These include 9-10 am and 12-1 pm. Additionally 10 minutes before and after the hour are generally pretty busy any time of the day. Plan ahead to avoid the rush.

Vegetarian & Vegan Options

            I’ve spent my entire college career scouting out vegetarian and vegan options. It’s been a long process but here’s the wisdom I’ve gathered at each food area:

Swirlz: You can get almost any espresso drink made with soy for a few more cents. The only drink that can’t be made with soy are blasts, which are made with ice cream. Shucks.

  • Vegan note: The caramel, pumpkin spice and white chocolate sauces all have milk in them, but the chocolate sauce is vegan!

Ciao: Check out the hot sandwich line to the left and load up a delicious garden patty or black bean burger!

  • Vegan note: All the breads are vegan except for the whole wheat bun; it has yogurt in it.

Cooks: Stop by on Meatless Monday for delicious meat-free options every week at Cooks. They also distinguish vegan and vegetarian options on the menu.

TxMx: Ask for ½ beans ½ rice on your burrito or taco salad for an inexpensive and complete protein option! Also try out the Tofu Rojas made with delicious seasonings.

  • Vegan note: Make sure to ask for “no cheese” on your tortilla, as their default has cheese

Croutons: Load up a build your own baked potato or build your own salad for a nutritious and filling meal. Once it’s made, sprinkle on some nutritional yeast (those yellow flakes) for a nutty, cheesy and vitamin packed topping.

Chopstixx: Get your soup on with vegetarian pho (made with vegetable broth) and try out the quick and easy vegetarian sushi roll made with avocado, cucumber and carrots.

Fickle Pickle: Tofu salad is a great vegan addition to your usual sandwich, or throw it on a bagel with hummus!

 

Best wishes for managing the CoHo maze. In the end the drinks are caffeinated, the food is warm and the company is good. And if you have questions, just ask an employee. They’re there to help!

Mysterious Secret InGredient: What is MSG?

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Mysterious Secret InGredient: What is MSG?

We have a few notions about MSG. It’s salty. It makes an appearance in Asian cuisine. And it may not be good for us. But what exactly is it? Can we really experience side effects from eating it? And overall, could it actually cause harm so that we can never eat instant ramen and Chinese cuisine again?? HELP!

What exactly is MSG?

To explain it in a way that is not terrifyingly scientific, MSG or monosodium glutamate is a compound of glutamic acid (a non-essential amino acid) and a sodium molecule.

You can find glutamic acid naturally in foods like tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. MSG on the other hand, was manufactured by a University of Tokyo chemistry professor Kikunae Ikeda in 1908. The discovery of MSG, added to the four basic tastes of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter with a new taste called umami. Umami is used to describe a meaty and savory taste like in a juicy cheeseburger hence the popular burger chain called UMAMI Burger.

What about Side Effects? How did MSG gain a bad reputation?

Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, or MSG symptom complex is a group of conditions some people report after having a meal that includes MSG. Symptoms reported included nausea, headaches, and numbness.

However, these symptoms were not reported until 1968 after a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine became popular. Ironically, a Chinese-American man, Dr. Robert Ho Man Kwok in the letter theorized that MSG was the culprit for his symptoms of numbness, general weakness, and palpitation after eating at Chinese restaurants. What adds to this interesting history is that MSG was actually quite popular prior to letter and not just in Chinese cuisine as it was heavily used in World War II to add flavor to bland soldiers’ rations.

Since 1968, studies have been done to confirm the safety of MSG as a food additive.

Harmful for my health?

The FDA has determined that MSG is generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

Double blind studies have shown little correlation between MSG and negative symptoms. The amount of MSG you eat in foods is also typically a very small amount so it’s not likely to cause any problems. But pun intended, take this information with a grain of salt. Because those that are against MSG claim that MSG producers fund these studies (and skew results…), while those that are for MSG claim those that are anti-MSG are just instilling fear in the public.

TLDR

Studies indicate that MSG is generally safe for most people. There may be an occasional person who is sensitive to it. If that is the case, read labels and avoid foods with added MSG. In addition, the FDA’s designation for MSG doesn’t mean that other aspects of the ingredient, like the sodium level are not of concern. So even though MSG is safe, it does not necessarily mean no consequences can come from eating a spoonful of it everyday. But feel free to enjoy your instant ramen with MSG flavoring as a treat once in awhile!

Resources:

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20151106-is-msg-as-bad-as-its-made-out-to-be

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/its-the-umami-stupid-why-the-truth-about-msg-is-so-easy-to-swallow-180947626/

 

 

Protect your Skin from the Summer Sun

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Are you glowing with that summer tan?

Unfortunately there is a pervasive belief in our society that a tan connotes health, affluence and beauty.  You’ll hear that a tan offers protection against sunburn.  The truth is that a tan offers very little protection against sunburn and we’re starting to learn some startling new truths from recent research, namely that UV harms skin cells’ DNA.  This destruction triggers melanogenesis which is a scientific word for production of pigment cells where melanoma (skin cancer) forms.  Some of the time the body’s immune system tracks down these mutations and repairs them; when it doesn’t, skin cancer takes hold.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a tan is never a good thing from a health perspective.  The only safe tan is a non-UV self-tanner, which may carry its own risks.

Protect yourself!

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones:

  • Wear long sleeves/pants when possible.
  • Use a swim shirt to block UV rays in the pool.
  • Take advantage of a wide brimmed hat.
  • Aim for 20 minutes of sun exposure, avoiding the strong midday sun, for production of Vitamin D before heading for shade or covering up!
  • Use broad spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen. If you’re concerned about chemicals, make your own sunscreen.
  • Apply to face, ears, neck, hands, legs, any exposed skin, 15 minutes before heading into the sun.
  • Reapply after swimming or sweating as even water resistant sunscreens are diluted.
  • Reapply every two hours.

Resources:

http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/tanning/is-a-tan-ever-a-good-thing

National Institutes of Health / U. S. National Library of Medicine

https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_166902.html