Healthy eating leads to healthy mind


Junior exercise sciences major Christina McCullough sits on a workout machine in the gym at the Province apartment complex on Tuesday, April 26, 2016.

Julie Riedel

Five more reps of bicep curls tones her arms before she moves on to the next exercise. Christina McCullough, a junior exercise science major, is training for the North Coast Championships, where she plans on competing in the bikini contest, a fitness competition to show off her physique. The May 28 contest, hosted in the Kent State MAC Center, is McCullough’s first competition.

To train for the competition, McCullough has been working with a physical trainer. Each week she reports to her trainer to determine that week’s exercise regimen and diet, all the while monitoring her weight and body fat. She is following a macro diet, which focuses on hitting specific ranges of protein, carbohydrates and fat. She lifts each day—using low-weight, high-repetition—and then completes 40 minutes of cardio, four days a week. After the competition she will slowly add more calories into her diet.

“I’m very happy. Of course there’s times where I’m like, ‘I just want to do what I use to do, I just want to go out with friends and eat whatever I want.’ Like, before this competition, I didn’t care about any of this stuff and now I’m so much happier. Like, I feel so much better, I look so much better and even though there’s all these sacrifices and I can’t eat whatever (I want), it’s worth it … when I see myself in the mirror and see how much I’ve changed, it’s so worth it,” said McCullough.

McCullough said her life has changed in “every way possible.”

“I’m getting better grades than I ever have. I’m more focused on things that actually matter … I’m so focused and motivated and I feel so much better about myself; I feel more confident,” she said. “I was always really awkward and uncomfortable in high school. I didn’t really feel like I had a purpose, but now I do and I feel so much happier … and more independent … I can do more for myself,” said McCullough.

Not being active and not eating healthy increases chances of obesity, which has the ill effects of increasing chances of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, sleep apnea, depression, some forms of cancers and decreased mobility, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Being too conscious of diet and exercise also have ill effects: anorexia nervosa can result in decreased heart rate—possibly leading to heart failure, decreased bone density, muscle weakness and loss and overall weakness. Bulimia Nervosa can cause irregular heartbeats—potentially leading to heart failure, tooth decay from stomach acid, peptic ulcers and pancreatitis. The effects of binge-eating disorders are similar to the effects of obesity. However, the two are different because of the alternating between periods of eating too much and then switching to habits expressed by a person with anorexia or bulimia, all according to the National Eating Disorders’ website.

“Most people associate being healthy with physicality, so if somebody is in good shape—like, you look at them and say they’re healthy, but there are so many other things that could be going on that you have to look at,” said Ben Cope, recreation program coordinator for Kent State’s Recreational Services.

Cope said that although there are people who may appear to be healthy—on the physical side—but have high stress levels and are constantly chronically stressed or have other forms of addictions.

“It could be anything,” Cope said.

Starting a new and healthier diet regime worked for senior nutrition major Leilah Absi.

“I feel more energized; I don’t feel like I get these sugar highs anymore and then crash. My classes have helped with that because now I’m actually learning the science behind why this is happening to me. So rather than just making all this food that’s so unhealthy for me—and not knowing—I kind of second guess, like ‘maybe I shouldn’t eat this or maybe I shouldn’t be making this for dinner tonight,’ or ‘maybe I shouldn’t go out to dinner tonight and I should just cook for myself,’ ” Absi said. “So my classes have helped a lot with that and it’s definitely benefited me in a positive way.”

Tanya Falcone, a lecturer in the Health Sciences Department and coordinator for Kent State’s Center of Nutrition Outreach, recommends a diabetic diet, which includes eating small portions of food throughout the day and covering all necessary food groups.

Falcone said she has noticed a lot of portion control issues and recommends splitting up a plate to make it half vegetables, a fourth carbohydrates and a fourth protein. She also stresses the 80/20 concept of eating healthy, where for 80 percent of the time a person eats healthy and then allowing treats or less healthy eating habits for 20 percent of the time.

“Nutrition is so important because—and I think a lot of people don’t think about (it)—but if we think of ourselves, like our hair, our skin, our nails, our tissues our organs, we’re essentially made up of the exact same ingredients that food is,” Falcone said.

McCollough believes that including some form of physical activity into an exercise schedule is best. She recommends doing a combination of cardio and resistance, but said that there is no straight answer for what the best workout is for a person.

The Kent State Recreation Center is available for all students to use for free, providing they are taking least five credit hours. The Rec Center has Group X classes and the fitness suite, which offers personal training, fitness consolations, massages, nutrition counseling and customized programming.

Kent State also has the Center of Nutrition Outreach located in Nixson Hall, which offers nutrition education and health assessments. Kent State’s Dining Services offers Veggie A Go Go.

Megan Brzuski, a registered dietitian who makes menus for the dining halls, meets with students to talk about diet concerns on campus. The best online sources are by registered dietitians, universities, hospitals and Choose My Plate, as well as the American Council on Exercise and American College of Sports Medicine.

Julie Riedel is a Student Life reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her [email protected].