DECATUR — Jack and Dianna Wagner felt pretty good about themselves as Millikin University senior Morgan McDougall asked her “students” to remain standing if they chose whole foods over processed and opted for leaner cuts of meat.
The Forsyth couple had to take their seats, however, when McDougall asked if they ate five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Not that this discouraged them. The reason the Wagners attended a free nutrition and fitness seminar for middle-aged adults at Millikin on Feb. 28 was to jump-start their New Year’s resolution to adopt a healthier lifestyle the next day.
“We decided to wait until March 1,” Dianna said. “We needed to do something, now that we have an empty nest. It’s too easy to go out to eat.”
The class was the first in a series being taught this semester by students in Tina Cloney’s health, fitness and recreation class in the university’s new West Towne Square building.
“We’re trying to brand the Exercise Science and Sport Department with a certain location and purpose of promoting health and wellness,” said Cloney, an assistant professor of health and nutrition. “This way, the students also get to apply what they’ve learned.”
Sophomore Heather Wrench said she’s gotten much more comfortable speaking in front of an audience and added that she’s trying to incorporate what she’s learned into her life. “I didn’t grow up with healthy habits,” she said.
All 13 students in the class helped lead the session, which covered eating right, getting enough exercise and managing stress.
Senior Owen Raymundo said eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily is not an impossible goal, and “eating a couple of apples, a banana and taking seconds on corn isn’t enough.”
He then talked about how important it is to “paint your plate” with produce in a variety of colors: blue/purple to lower blood pressure, yellow/orange and white/brown to lower the risk of heart disease, red to promote urinary tract health and green to prevent cancer.
“That was an ‘Aha!’ moment for me,” Dianna Wagner said.
Junior Miranda Lofgren said it’s not difficult to be physically active if you make choices such as playing with your grandchildren, parking farther from the store, taking the stairs or doing calisthenics during commercials.
“Shopping for 30 minutes burns 100 calories,” Lofgren said. “That’s half the time my mom takes getting groceries.”
Jack Wagner said he liked learning how small changes can make a big difference. “Exercising during commercials wouldn’t be that hard,” he said. “Neither would cutting out one can of pop a day.”
Wrench illustrated how heavy the burden of stress can become by asking how long people thought they could hold up a cup of water.
She urged her audience to open up to friends and family, get regular exercise and try to accept that there are things they cannot change. “Don’t be afraid to slow down and put down the stresses of the day,” Wrench said.
Raymundo was the only person left standing after McDougall went through the rest of her list, asking who slept at least seven hours a night, who was physically active at least five times a week and who ate at restaurants fewer than four times a month.
He said a breakup with a girlfriend his freshman year spurred him to overcome a family history of obesity by limiting his food portion sizes, eating more vegetables and working out with more intensity.
Standing 5 feet 9 inches, Raymundo said he lost 45 pounds and now weighs 220 pounds.
“I let myself go my senior year of high school,” he said. “I never want to go back.”