I had never gone to a nutritionist before my visit with Heather Bauer last month. What drew me to Heather was that she is young, completely relatable, and totally realistic when it comes to planning out the perfect diet for you and your lifestyle – as she explains, in order to be successful and sustainable, a healthy diet program must work with ones existing habits, not against them, and must take into account critical (and often overlooked) factors such as lifestyle, taste, preferences and diet history.
Heather, 34, became focused on nutrition at a really young age. She realized that she had a love for food and people, so the field was a perfect fit for her. “In high school, I realized there was a clear connection between the foods I ate and my performance as a runner. This solidified my decision to go into nutrition,” Heather added.
In September of 2001, at the age of 23 Heather founded Nu-Train, a New York City-based diet and nutrition counseling center. Since then, she has written two books, appeared on TV and news shows, and has been a featured nutritionist in Instyle, Shape, Self, and In Touch magazines, and has most recently launched a new venture, Bestowed.
Since many of you, while at school do not have the opportunity to visit a nutritionist – especially one as dynamic as Heather – I decided to take it upon myself to use my appointment with Heather to ask the questions about health and diet that you have probably been dying to get the answers to. (You’re welcome!!!)… and of course, she was happy to offer up the information.
I prepared for my appointment with Heather by reading her book beforehand, Bread Is the Devil, (I highly recommend picking up a copy) which identifies the top ten Diet Devils that challenge healthy eating. Most of these Devils may and will arise during someone’s college years for the first time. Heather and I discussed which of these Diet Devils are most common to college life and what strategies Heather suggests to free us from these Devils.
Diet Devil #1: Free Style Dieting – when you have no specific diet plan, but rather loosely watch what you eat.
Heather: I find that my college-aged clients fall prey to fad diets. They may try a juice cleanse for breakfast and then a zero carb lunch and dinner.
Heather’s Strategy: Planning and commitment. Allowing 1 to 2 angel carbs/day, specifically at lunch or dinner so that you feel satisfied and not tempted by late night pizza or dorm room snacking. Planning is essential in weight loss success.
Diet Devil #2: The Plunge – not just sneaking your hand into a friend’s popcorn at the movies – but a real binge!
Heather: It’s usually caused when students go too long without eating. College kids get frenzied around midterm time or rush season and forget to eat. The result? One poor meal choice (like sugary Danish for breakfast) then leads to bad choices all day. Basically, in your head you say “Eff it” and let your diet go out the window. Too many days like this add up to weight gain. The Plunge can also happen after a long night of drinking and/or not getting enough sleep. Your body mistakes sleepiness for hunger and your cravings kick into high gear.
Heather’s Strategy: If you know that you are in a situation where you are susceptible to the Plunge, make sure to have finite food choices around you. Finite foods are things that are pre portioned, which reduces the risk of overeating. For example, a single serve container of Greek yogurt mixed with a 100 calorie pack of almonds is a no-brainer for Plungers. Or make sure to always have a fiber bar (I love GNU brand) in your bag, so that you aren’t scavenging for something unhealthy.
Diet Devil #3: The late night shuffle – night time mindless eating. Sound familiar?
Heather: Totally! It wouldn’t be college without late nights spent studying, socializing, stressing or all of the above! Students are victims of the Late Night Shuffle because they are keeping their body up WAY later than it wants to be. When you extend your day, the chance of adding an extra meal increases significantly. It’s only natural that if you’re awake, you want to eat! But unfortunately this is one of the most common causes of the freshman fifteen.
Heather’s Strategy: Going to bed early just isn’t an option in college. So give in to the extra meal, but do it smartly. Choose foods that take longer to eat, like a frozen Greek yogurt. (Literally put a FAGE or Chobani yogurt in the freezer for a minimum of 3 hours). As a rule, keep this extra meal under 200 calories. Other great options are Matt’s Munchies fruit snacks or Seasnax, a flavored seaweed snack. Both can be delivered to your dorm room in less than 3 days. If possible, keep sliced organic turkey on hand to munch on. You don’t want to allow yourself a whole sandwich, but a few slices may be all your need. The turkey also contains tryptophan which will calm you and increase your chances of sleep.
Also, give in to temptation (sometimes) - If you know that your night is going to end with a late night slice of pizza or a visit to the local diner, plan ahead. Keep your lunch and dinner that day high in vegetables and lean protein. Save your carbs for the late night eating. This way you won’t feel deprived when your pals are chowing down on pizza and you’re left out. Isolating yourself from the group can lead to a binge, causing more damage to your diet than a simple slice of pizza. Remember: Savor the treat that you allow yourself and be mindful about it!
Diet Devil #4: Celebrations! Vacations!
Heather: Surprisingly, one of the most important parts about going off to college is coming home! Students look forward to being home for the holidays or seeing their old friends on Spring Break and tend to leave their diet back on campus.
Heather’s Strategy: Remember not to use every event as an excuse to eat unhealthy foods. Try snacking on GG Fiber crisps with a Laughing Cow cheese before heading to a social gathering. Make sure to get in at least one full glass of water before going out as well. These things keep you full for a long time, so you won’t be tempted at parties. When traveling, don’t be embarrassed to take fiber bars and nut butter packs in your carry-on. You won’t look high maintenance, you’ll just look smart!
Diet Devil #5: Emotional Eating – eating that is not prompted by hunger or social pressure, but rather by feelings: sadness, anger, frustration, or stress to name a few.
Heather: Between the ups and downs of relationships, sororities, and professors this is a common problem. Not to mention that students often feel homesick their first year away from home (Also contributing to the Freshman 15).
Heather’s Strategy: Exercise is the BEST solution to this devil. It relieves emotional stress, gives you tons of confidence and keeps your mind off of what may be bothering you. Enlist a friend to accompany you to the campus gym or join a club team at your school. It’s a win-win because you’ll have an opportunity to socialize and keep your hands out of the cookie jar. Exercise DVD’s are a great option if you feel too self-conscious to hit the gym when you first start.
Diet Devil #6: Boredom Binging – mindless eating in an endless, robotic loop. Constant nibbling all day long.
Heather: The hardest transition when going from high school to college is the lack of structure. All of a sudden, your days aren’t dictated for you and you have large gaps of time in your schedule. During this time, students are susceptible to mindless picking and unstructured meals. This may mean a trip to the cafeteria for an unexpected cup of self serve froyo or eating cereal for breakfast. Both are big no-nos.
Heather’s Strategy: Plan! Plan! Plan! I can’t say it enough. Planning is key to avoiding boredom binging. If the campus cafeteria is en route from classroom to dorm room, navigate another route. It may seem extreme, but if it prevents you from being tempted, it’s totally worth it.
Aside from the Diet Devils– simply knowing what foods and brands are considered to be the best healthy choices is a challenge for college students. As an answer to this challenge, you and your team created Bestowed, a monthly subscription to an education on healthy food choices. How does this work?
Heather: My team of health and diet experts, including myself, carefully curate 5 product samples that have caught their attention. Items like nutrition bars, snacks, breakfast cereals, and supplements are just a few of the categories considered. Bestowed members receive these samples in a box delivered right to their door each month.
Bestowed takes the guesswork out of nutrition. There is so much misinformation out there and college kids certainly don’t have time to sift through it all. In a way, Bestowed is like a monthly care package that keeps your health in check. It’s the perfect reminder that eating healthy isn’t impossible and wholesome, responsible food companies do exist!
Finally – since “styling your space” is so important to Dormify, I have to ask you Heather, how do you style your fridge?
Heather: The biggest rule I follow is First In, First Out (FIFO) I keep the food that I bought most recently in the back so that I’m apt to use up the older food first. It takes the guess work out of trying to remember when you bought what. I keep meats separate from any type of raw fruits and vegetables and my dairy goes in a designated section as well. When you have a clean fridge, you are able to have a clean diet.
How should a college student style their fridge?
Heather: Follow the FIFO rule and keep healthy snacks on hand. For nights when you can’t make it to the cafeteria or have to eat in a rush, use frozen meals. Amy’s Organic, Organic Bistro and Kashi all make excellent dinner choices that can be heated in less than 5 minutes.