Americans may be fat and happy, but sometimes they cannot even walk around DisneyWorld on their own two feet anymore, said John Brown University’s nurse Rhonda Hostler.
She contrasted the typical American’s health with that of Ugandans or Europeans, as she witnessed during her travels this summer. In other countries, people walk or bicycle everywhere and tend to eat healthier food.
“We are killing our children,” Hostler said. “We have poor eating and poor exercise. In order to be healthy, we need to balance diet, activity and sleep.”
Counselor Jennifer Niles and Hostler talked to the Mayfield women at their monthly dinner on Tuesday about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Hostler provided some basic information about dieting, sleeping and exercise. Niles discussed the importance of sunlight exposure, social connections and engaging activities.
Both Niles and Hostler emphasized the need to sleep for eight hours a night.
“Consider it studying time,” Niles said. “The brain best processes information at night when you are sleeping. Remember that the brain is like a muscle and it is important to give it a break.”
“I see the Industrial Revolution as the second fall,” Niles said. “Our technological advances create problems such as depression in our society. As a result, we live sedentary and stressful lives.”
Three things she talked about can help combat that stress. Sunlight provides the body with Vitamin D, which improves people’s moods. Social interactions, face-to-face rather than over electronic media, encourage people to keep priorities on people rather than achievements. Engaging activities provide people with a way to escape ruminating about negative experiences. Over-thinking about issues tends to drag down people’s attitudes, particularly for women.
Mayfield dorm is hosting a competition during the month of October to encourage and support residents to practice a healthy lifestyle in accordance with the ideas Hostler and Niles introduced. Last year, 25 women turned in forms as participation the event.
Women are encouraged to aim for certain goals in the six areas discussed, earning points by doing so. Prizes will be awarded at the end of the month to the women with the most points.
Resident Director Sarah Erdman aims for the month’s focus to help Mayfield be an extension of the classroom.
“We do not want this to be just a place to have fun,” she said. “We also want students to learn here. Students hear this information a lot, but it is easy to forget about it with everything else they have going on.”
Students need to pay attention to the habits they are forming now and not be complacent, Erdman said. Maintaining healthy lifestyles can become increasingly challenging during mid-terms. Students may be tempted to eat to feel loved, to deal with the figurative weight of classes, to combat seasonal depression, or to deal with being away from their families.
Mayfield’s Resident Hall Association will host workout Wednesdays in the Mayfield basement during October, as it did last year. These evenings will feature a variety of exercise types such as yoga or Zumba.
The University’s administration shares Erdman’s concern about student health, Hostler said. When the school hired her as nurse, people talked to her about how to help students address concerns such as weight loss and depression.
The two often go hand-in-hand, she said. When students cannot or do not maintain a balance between all of the aspects of a healthy life, their bodies will suffer as a result.
College students face particular challenges with this because their parents are no longer feeding them healthy meals or telling them when to go to bed.
As part of her goal to help students make good choices, Hostler will offer a free weight loss support group in the spring for students who are struggling with becoming fit. Last spring, six students participated in a similar group, which combined exercise plans with information from a dietician about how to eat well in the cafeteria.
Hostler said she hopes to keep the number of students in the group between six and eight. In the spring, she is planning to also incorporate counseling, looking at why students overeat, and the services of a physical trainer into the program.
Niles said including counseling in the program is important because emotional issues can often impact people’s physical health, such as their weight.
“Any part of our health that is out of sync will disrupt the whole system of our body,” she said.
The true problem causing a student’s weight issues can often be something deeper. An example is emotional avoidance.
“A student’s perceived chaotic life can manifest itself in his or her weight,” she added.
Anyone interested in participating should email Hostler at firstname.lastname@example.org. They can start by having physicals and blood work completed now ahead of time to check for underlying issues.
“Americans tend to have such stagnant lives,” Hostler said. “One in 10 people has Type II diabetes, and estimates show that by 2050 that could be one in four. We must start living better lives.”