Dietitian Helps Students Address Physical, Emotional Wellness

Eating a balanced diet can help students achieve both physical and emotional well-being.

With National Wellness Month drawing to a close and an academic year approaching, now is a good time for Kalamazoo College students to reflect on how to maintain their physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental wellbeing on campus .

One element to consider within this wellness spectrum might surprise some: a balanced diet. And nutritionist Gretchen Kauth is available to help the students at K and Western Michigan University with their strategies.

“Food is not only critical to our physical health, but also a large part of our emotional health,” says Kauth. “Students come to me because they would like to become vegetarians and want to know how to do it healthily. Or they see me because their blood sugar or cholesterol is high. You may want to lose weight or gain weight. These are the physical reasons. But more and more, especially during the pandemic, the students want to know about the emotional part of eating. Many of us turned to eating for entertainment, comfort, or stress management. “

“Diet”, from Kauth’s point of view, refers to much more than the four-letter word associated with weight goals. Their strategy of supporting students instead addresses the purposes of our food to promote wellbeing.

“I think the traditional meaning of how we use the word ‘diet’ usually has to do with weight or weight management,” she said. “I really tried to take a nutrition free approach to getting away from numbers and counting. I want students to really grapple with the “why” of what and how they eat and how we can deal with emotions without eating. “

That’s not to say that food shouldn’t include pleasure. On the contrary, and balance is important. Students should have their cake and eat it too.

“I never want to deny that eating is a pleasure,” says Kauth. “It’s part of our social world. If we think back evolutionarily, people once ate simply because they were hungry and knew that the food kept them going. Then there are the reasons why people eat as part of traditions and celebrations. Food can and should be a part of this celebration, but food shouldn’t be the main reason we get together. “

For some people, eating can be comforting with emotional needs and helpful in managing stress. But emotional eating can cause problems if done too often or in large quantities.

“I try to get the students to think about the ‘why’ and not always about the ‘what’ behind the meal,” says Kauth. “Even if we overeat or eat something healthy, like carrots – yes, carrots are better food than ice cream, but the behavior is not what we want. To deal with our emotions, we need to develop non-food coping strategies – such as meditation, yoga, visualization, and in some cases, finding a therapist. A healthy diet is not all about essential nutrients, fuel, and reducing the risk of chronic illness. It’s about understanding our relationship with food and maintaining a healthy balance for physical and emotional health. ”

Virtual appointments are free for students with college health insurance or $ 50 for students with private insurance. In addition, Kauth is planning three free workshops for all K students in the fall. “You vs. Illness: Win with a Healthy Immune System” is scheduled for Tuesday, September 28th from 6.30pm to 7.30pm. “Vegetarian food: Plants are powerful” is planned for Wednesday, October 6th, 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm. “Emotional food: What are you hungry for?” Thursday, October 14th, from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Registration for individual appointments or workshops by email to Kauth at [email protected]

“When students have been to the doctor and have been referred for follow-up care, it’s good to see a nutritionist,” said Kauth. “If you come to school with a chronic illness like diabetes or cystic fibrosis and have never seen a nutritionist, be sure to drop by because it is a good idea to seek treatment here. If you are interested in making any changes to your diet, or if you are looking at the pandemic and think you want to improve your immune system, then get in touch. Anything to do with your physical or emotional health – If you are turning to food to manage your emotions, this is a really good time to see a nutritionist. “

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