Thu08282014

Your Health

Mother knows best: Local authors’ book offers healthful advice for college students


Photo By: courtesy of Kim Fielding
Photo Courtesy Of Kim Fielding

Mariam Manoukian, left, and Kim Fielding co-authored “The Alpha Plan” to serve as a lifestyle guide for college students.

Mariam Manoukian, M.D. and Ph.D., and Kim Fielding are aiming to make sure mom’s advice is always within grasp for college-bound students.

With this in mind, the duo recently co-authored “The Alpha Plan: Healthy Eating in College and Beyond” (CreateSpace, 2011), offering practical and actionable advice for college students to establish healthful eating and lifestyle habits away from home.

The inspiration behind the book is simple, Fielding noted, pointing to the fact that she and Manoukian have a combined four children in college. For Fielding in particular, her inspiration came in part after seeing her oldest son – a healthy and fit high school athlete – suddenly struggle with his weight as a college freshman.

“That was so disappointing to him physically and emotionally,” said Fielding, a local nutrition counselor with three college-age sons. “It just kind of spiraled out of control for a while. He got his bearings, moved out of the dorms, got an apartment and realized his health was up to him. It wasn’t going to come from the dorm food.”

To that end, Manoukian noted that the book was written as a guide to establish good habits early, thereby avoiding long-term health problems down the road. Two years ago, Manoukian and Fielding partnered in conducting a weight-loss clinic and soon realized that undoing the harm caused by poor eating, a lack of exercise and other lifestyle habits as a young adult is an uphill battle as people age.

“The hardest part for a doctor is to see that if I met you 20 years ago, I could’ve prevented all this,” said Manoukian, a Mountain View-based internal medicine specialist who has spent the bulk of her career treating people with diabetes and obesity issues. “I could’ve helped you not to be where you are today.”

To that end, Manoukian said the book is, in part, an attempt to cut those bad habits off at an early age. She added that the book focuses in particular on reversing the poor nutritional behaviors many students pick up because of the added responsibilities suddenly heaped on them living away from home.

“The chances the kids really have (to establish good habits) are in college, because this is when they can finally make their own decisions,” Manoukian said. “They’re the ones that are going to buy, plan and eat the food from the (college) cafeteria and things like that.”

Fielding added that the book “encourages kids to be responsible for their own health.” She noted that the book covers a variety of topics, such as the many reasons why people gain weight, portion control, the importance of sleep and the toll alcohol and drug use can take on a student’s weight and overall health.

In addition, the book offers students strategies on navigating the at-times questionable food choices available on college campuses, while also providing 400 easy-to-prepare recipes with the budget-conscious college student in mind.

“As we said in the book at one point, you walk into a dormitory cafeteria and it seems like it’s this cruise-style buffet, an all-you-can-eat type thing,” Fielding said. “It’s a lot of starches and a lot of fats. … (A college cafeteria) is still a restaurant business and they still need to meet the bottom line.”

At the end of the day, Manoukian said the book simply serves as a guide for students to avoid the pitfalls – foodwise and more – that are readily accessible on many college campuses.

“It’s actually about life,” she said. “The buffet is not just food – it’s a buffet of everything. They’re exposed to everything and they have to make the decisions. It’s food, drugs, alcohol, smoking, sleep. It’s the buffet of life.”

To purchase “The Alpha Plan,” visit Amazon.com.

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