United We Stand: Highway to Health

Photo courtesy Alexandra Catalano

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Alexandra Catalano, nutritionist and healthy lifestyle expert, spoke to students about what it means to be healthy. She started her lecture asking the crowd what it means to be healthy, which no one seemed to know the answer to. Catalano went on to explain that physical, mental and spiritual health are important when perusing a healthy lifestyle but also said there is no right way to be healthy. In order to be healthy, one must manage their health to themselves. Something could be healthy for one person but not for another like drinking dariy.

She highlighted that being healthy is not about how much you weigh and advised students to go home and throw away their scales. Catalano said being healthy is about how you feel. In order to have amazing energy, one must fuel the body with the best foods, set time aside for self-care and have a positive mindset.

“Changing your lifestyle didn’t seem impossible. Little changes could actually make a difference over time and that’s when you take the next step. It’s a process, not a race, and a big part of it is understanding yourself and your body,” junior business administration major Samantha Garcia said.

In order to connect with the crowd, Catalano shared her  personal battle with being healthy. In college, she had a horrible relationship with food, and she experienced things that most college students go through, such as low energy, getting sick a lot, acne and always being stressed.

Catalano suggested that everyone creates a diet right for them. She stressed that choosing what is at the end of your fork is very important. You have the control over what you put into your body. She explained this does not have to be a huge change, just try drinking more water every day for two weeks and it will become routine. She also said that you should practice patience and positive self affirmations because this is not always the easiest thing to do. It can be very difficult, but by being positive and working at it, you can achieve your goal. She also suggested keeping a food journal in order to be more aware of what you are consuming and about how you feel after you eat. If you feel tired and sluggish after every meal, it means that you are not putting the right kind of food into your body.

Catalano went more in depth with how college students can choose what is at the end of our forks. Instead of using a tray when we go to the cafeteria, she suggested only using a plate. The tray gives us more room for more food. She also advised the audience to stay away from packaged foods, such as protein bars and shakes, because they are full of preservatives. The fresher the food the better it is for you. She also wants people to avoid sugar if possible because it is a drug. She referred to a study, conducted by Siege Ahmed, where rats were given the choice between sugar and cocaine, and they selected the sugar.

Catalano encouraged the audience that water is their best friend. It will help skin hydration, acne will clear up and your metabolism will increase by 30 percent.

“I want to drink more water. She told us that we need to drink half our body weight in ounces of water every day and that is something that I don’t do enough of,” sophomore animal science major Emily Mikkelson said.

Catalano talked about how everyone experiences stress no matter who they are, and there are many different ways to combat that stress. She talked about how herbs and essential oils can be used for many different things. Her favorite herb is called ashwagandha. She also suggested to drink less caffeine and stop drinking caffeine after 3 p.m. She swore off soda, saying that it is the worst enemy someone can have. She also said that in order to destress, you should have a morning and nighttime routine. Self-care is incredibly important, and by just doing something for yourself everyday, you will decrease stress levels.

Sleep was one of the final things Catalano talked about. She discussed that lack of sleep can cause weight gain, sickness and poor health. She talked about how the Canadian Medical Association Journal had a study where sleep deprivation was directly linked to an inability to lose weight. She stressed that sleep is important because it helps your immune system, balances hormones and boosts your metabolism while also improving brain function.

“I would most like to work on setting a more regular sleep schedule but also scheduling the time I have for class work versus free time would be a nice step too,” junior English and German education major Jessica Gruber said.

To end her lecture, Catalano reminded the audience to be open to trying new things but to be gentle to ourselves and only try one thing at a time. She advised us to journal what makes us feel the best when it comes to food, exercise and our daily practices. She gave encouragement, saying that going off your plan does not mean you failed. Her rule is 80/20, which means that 80 percent of the time you work towards being healthy, but there is that 20 percent of the time that you can allow yourself a can of soda or a chocolate bar.

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