Although the holiday season may present challenges to staying healthy, students can avoid common holiday pitfalls with a few tips and University health resources.
Nutritional sciences professor Stephen Hursting said it is easy for students’ metabolisms to be disrupted during the holiday season when they are surrounded by many desserts and other calorie-dense food.
“Splurge a little bit here or there, but don’t go too overboard,” Hursting said. “You don’t have to eat every bite — if someone serves you a big piece of cheesecake, don’t feel like you have to eat the whole thing.”
Biology sophomore Cynthia Williamson said although she is conscious of her diet, she will need to watch her holiday food consumption.
“The biggest issue I have during the holidays is restricting myself,” Williamson said. “Whenever I go home, I want to eat a lot of good home-cooked food, but I have to limit myself.”
Hursting said weight gain is typical during the holidays. He said students should monitor caloric intake when at events or with friends and family.
“We’re stimulated by sights and smells, and it can be kind of a trigger for us even when we’re not hungry,” Hursting said.
Hursting said students can avoid splurging by drinking water and by increasing physical activity to compensate for increased food consumption.
Jane Morgan Bost, UT Counseling and Mental Health Center associate director, said students should be self-aware of the motivations behind their food choices.
“Enjoy and really savor [food] instead of just eating to eat kind of [as] a behavior,” Bost said.
Bost said there are several University health resources students can remotely utilize during the holidays, including phone counseling services available 24/7 and Stress Recess, an interactive stress website.
“[Stress Recess] has a lot of really great, specific tips for stress and how to handle stress,” Bost said. “There are some great relaxation exercises that they can do.”
Bost said the University also provides tip sheets, such as one titled “Home for the Holidays,” which can help students handle challenges that may arise when they are home for the holidays. She said learning how to manage stress before it happens will help students build confidence to handle the inevitable challenges
“People think that we need to have this perfectly balanced life that we strive for,” Bost said. “It may not always feel like you’re totally balanced, but it’s more the process of trying to stay true to yourself and the important things [to] you.”