Chapter 9: Health & Wellness

Eating & Sleeping

Health management inventory

Take this 16 question Health Management Inventory to evaluate your habits around eating, sleeping, exercise, and stress. Although you won’t be required to share your results with your peers, you should take the time to personally reflect on what the quiz reveals to you. Do you take good care of yourself? Why or why not?

Just imagine, how much easier our lives would be if we were born with a ‘user guide or owner’s manual’ which could tell us what to eat and how to live healthy. ―Erika M. Szabo, author

Healthy Eating in College

Studies show that students on average gain 3 to 10 pounds during their first 2 years of college, and most of this weight gain occurs during the first semester of freshman year. Often referred to as “the freshman 15,” this weight gain may be due to a variety of factors, including transitioning to college which may require long hours of sitting in front of a computer.

College offers many temptations for students trying to create or maintain healthy eating habits, such as being on their own for the first time, cafeterias, all-you-can-eat dining facilities, vending machines, and easy access to food twenty-four hours a day. You may not be in the habit of shopping or cooking for yourself yet, and, when you find yourself short on time or money, it may seem easier to fuel yourself on sugary, caffeinated drinks and meals at the nearest fast-food place. Also, maybe you played basketball or volleyball in high school, but now you don’t seem to be getting much exercise.

On top of that, it’s common for people to overeat (or not eat enough) when they feel anxious, lonely, sad, or stressed. It’s incredibly important, though, to develop healthy ways of coping and relaxing that don’t involve reaching for food, drink, or other substances. It’s also important to eat regular healthy meals to keep up your energy.

The simplest way to create a healthy eating style is by learning to make wise food choices that you can enjoy, one small step at a time. The key is choosing a variety of foods and beverages from each food group (vegetables, fruits, grains, protein foods, and dairy) and making sure that each choice is limited in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars.[1] The following current USDA Healthy Eating Guidelines replace the old “food pyramid.”

USDA Healthy Eating Guidelines

Infographic showing a picture of a plate divided into four segments: One segment is labeled "Fruits," one is labeled "Grains," one is labeled "Protein," and the last is labeled "Vegetables." Next to the plate is a circle (suggesting a cup or glass) that's labeled "Dairy."

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: Focus on whole fruits, and vary your veggies

  • Choose whole fruits—fresh, frozen, dried, or canned in 100% juice.
  • Enjoy fruit with meals, as snacks, or for dessert.
  • Try adding fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables to salads, side dishes, and recipes.
  • Choose a variety of colorful veggies prepared in healthful ways: steamed, sautéed, roasted, or raw.

Make half your grains whole grains

  • Look for whole grains listed first or second on the ingredients list—try oatmeal, popcorn, whole-grain bread, and brown rice.
  • Limit grain desserts and snacks, such as cakes, cookies, and pastries.

Vary your protein routine

  • Mix up your protein foods to include a variety—seafood, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, soy products, eggs, and lean meats and poultry.
  • Try main dishes made with beans and seafood, like tuna salad or bean chili.

Drink and eat less sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars

  • Eating fewer calories from foods high in saturated fat and added sugars can help you manage your calories.
  • Eating foods with less sodium can reduce your risk of high blood pressure.
  • Use the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients list to compare foods and drinks and to limit items high in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Eat the right amount

  • Eat the right amount of calories for you based on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical act which can help you plan, analyze, and track your diet and physical activity.
  • Building a healthier eating style can help you avoid overweight and obesity and reduce your risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

The following short video recaps the USDA’s current healthy eating guidelines:

The following list offers more advice on ways for college students to adopt a healthy food attitude and avoid the Freshman 15:[2]

  • Avoid eating when stressed, while studying, or while watching TV.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Eat at regular times and try not to skip meals.
  • Keep between-meal and late-night snacking to a minimum.
  • Choose a mix of nutritious foods.
  • Watch the size of your portions.
  • Resist going back for additional servings.
  • Steer clear of vending machines and fast food.
  • Keep healthy snacks like fruit and vegetables on hand in your room.
  • Replace empty-calorie soft drinks with water or skim milk.

Tracking your snacking

  • Keep a daily snack journal for one week: Write down the types and amounts of snack foods and beverages you consume between meals each day. Record the time of day and note where you eat/drink each item.
  • At the end of the week, review your journal. Do you notice any unhealthy snacks or empty-calorie drinks? Are there any patterns? Are there times of day when you’re especially prone to choosing unhealthy snacks/drinks? Are there particular places where you tend to reach for junk food?
  • You might try journaling on what you have observed. Describe what you noticed about your snacking habits during the week. Identify any habits you’d like to change, and explain why. Describe several strategies you could use to break bad habits and replace unhealthy snacks with healthier ones. Explain why you think these strategies will be effective.

Food insecurity at college campuses

A study by the United States Department of Agriculture found that 10.5 percent (13.8 million) of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 2020. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” The consequences of food insecurity are far-reaching for individuals, families, and communities.

DWIGHT Food Pantries at MCC

Doing What Is Good and Healthy Together, (D.W.I.G.H.T) is a campus-based food pantry initiative created to support those struggling with food insecurity. DWIGHT is available to all students, faculty, and staff.

  • Brighton Campus: 3-125, (585) 292-2536, Open Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Residence Halls, West Canal Housing Office. Call: 585-292-3674 for access

If you have questions about DWIGHT, please call: 585-292-2534 or e-mail Student Life and Leadership Development. If you visit DWIGHT and the office is closed, please stop into the Office of Student Life and Leadership Development in 30126 and a staff member can walk you over.

Make a commitment to visit DWIGHT at MCC to donate or receive food. 

Getting Enough Sleep in College

Photo of a male student asleep on a couch amid a pile of book. A fan is aimed at his face, and a book lies open on his chest

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

Getting a full night of quality sleep is important, and the amount of sleep each person needs depends on many factors, including age. Infants generally require about sixteen hours a day while teenagers need about nine hours. For most adults, seven to eight hours a night appears to be the best amount of sleep. The amount of sleep a person needs also increases if he or she has been deprived of sleep in previous days.

Getting too little sleep creates a “sleep debt,” which is a lot like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body will demand that the debt be repaid. We don’t seem to adapt to getting less sleep than we need; while we may get used to a sleep-depriving schedule, our judgment, reaction time, and other functions are still impaired. If you’re a student, that means that sleep deprivation may prevent you from studying, learning, and performing as well as you can.

People tend to sleep more lightly and for shorter time spans as they get older, although they generally need about the same amount of sleep as they needed in early adulthood. Experts say that if you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, you haven’t had enough sleep. If you routinely fall asleep within five minutes of lying down, you probably have severe sleep deprivation, possibly even a sleep disorder. “Microsleeps,” or very brief episodes of sleep in an otherwise awake person, are another mark of sleep deprivation. In many cases, people are not aware that they are experiencing microsleeps. The widespread practice of “burning the candle at both ends” in western industrialized societies has created so much sleep deprivation that what is really abnormal sleepiness is now almost the norm.

Many studies make it clear that sleep deprivation is dangerous. Sleep-deprived people, who are tested by using a driving simulator or by performing a hand-eye coordination task, perform as badly as or worse than those who are intoxicated. Sleep deprivation also magnifies alcohol’s effects on the body, so a fatigued person who drinks will become much more impaired than someone who is well-rested. Driver fatigue is responsible for an estimated 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,500 deaths each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Since drowsiness is the brain’s last step before falling asleep, driving while drowsy can—and often does—lead to disaster. Caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects of severe sleep deprivation. The National Sleep Foundation says that if you have trouble keeping your eyes focused, if you can’t stop yawning, or if you can’t remember driving the last few miles, you are probably too drowsy to drive safely.

Assess your sleep habits

Take a few minutes to review and assess your own sleep habits. Are you getting enough?

 Check the appropriate boxes: Usually Sometimes Never
I get 7–8 hours of sleep at night.
I feel sleepy or have trouble focusing during the day.
I take a nap when I feel drowsy or need more sleep.
I fall asleep or have trouble staying awake in class.
I fall asleep while studying.
I stay up all night to study for exams or write papers.
  • Track how much sleep you get each night during a one-week period.
  • At the end of the week, write a short journal entry (1–2 pages) in which you reflect on your current sleep habits:
    • How many hours of sleep do you think you need every night to function at your best? How can you tell?
    • On average, how many hours of sleep did you get on weeknights?
    • On average, how many hours of sleep did you get on weekend nights?
  • How would you rank the importance of sleep compared with studying, working, spending time with friends/family, and other activities? What things get in the way of your consistently getting enough sleep?
  • What changes can you make to your schedule and/or routines that might improve your sleep habits?

Falling Asleep and Getting a Good Night’s Rest

Photograph of a man asleep, with a a cat, also asleep, snuggled across his cheek.

Many people, especially those who feel stressed, anxious, or overworked, have a hard time falling asleep and/or staying asleep, and this can shorten the quality and amount of sleep when it actually comes. The following tips can help you get to sleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling well-rested:

  • Set a schedule: Go to bed at a set time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Disrupting this schedule may lead to insomnia. “Sleeping in” on weekends also makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it resets your sleep cycles for a later awakening.
  • Exercise: Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day. Daily exercise often helps people sleep, although a workout soon before bedtime may interfere with sleep. For maximum benefit, try to get your exercise about 5 to 6 hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bed: Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, which acts as a stimulant and keeps people awake. Sources of caffeine include coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, non-herbal teas, diet drugs, and some pain relievers. Smokers tend to sleep very lightly and often wake up in the early morning due to nicotine withdrawal. Alcohol robs people of deep sleep and keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep.
  • Relax before bed: A warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine can make it easier to fall asleep. It’s also a good idea to put away books, homework, and screens (computer and phone) at least 30 minutes before bed. You can train yourself to associate certain restful activities with sleep and make them part of your bedtime ritual.
  • Sleep until sunlight: If possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. Sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock reset itself each day. Sleep experts recommend exposure to an hour of morning sunlight for people having problems falling asleep.
  • Don’t lie in bed awake: If you can’t get to sleep, don’t just lie in bed. Do something else, like reading or listening to music, until you feel tired. (Avoid digital screens, though: watching TV and being on the computer or a smartphone are too stimulating and will actually make you more wakeful.) The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to insomnia.
  • Control your room temperature: Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom. Extreme temperatures may disrupt sleep or prevent you from falling asleep.
  • Screen out noise and light: Sleep with earplugs and an eye pillow to drown out any bright lights and loud noises.
  • See a doctor if your sleeping problem continues: If you have trouble falling asleep night after night, or if you always feel tired the next day, then you may have a sleep disorder and should see a physician. Your primary care physician may be able to help you; if not, you can probably find a sleep specialist at a major hospital near you. Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively, so you can finally get that good night’s sleep you need.

Cooking in college

Examine one or more of the websites below to identify at least three recipes you’d be willing to try. Identify recipes you could make either with the ingredients you have on hand or with those that would not pose a hardship for you to buy. Commit to making one of those recipes within the next week.

Be prepared to share with your peers the results of your cooking adventure.

  1. "MyPlate." Choose. 2015. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.
  2. "Beating the Freshman 15." Web. 3 Mar 2016.


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