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University of Mississippi

Take Care Tuesday!

Focus on Health

The pandemic was stressful for many of us in different ways – loss of family and friends, economically, juggling working from home while “home schooling” children, the uncertainty about the future (when will this end), and change of our usual schedules and activities to name a few.  As a Registered Dietitian (RD) and exercise scientist, I commonly get more questions regarding diet, exercise and body weight so it is not surprising that when reflecting on the past year, many folks have said the following “My pandemic weight is making me feel tired”, “I have no regular routine”, “I am so stressed about my excess weight” and “The isolation has resulted in poor eating and exercise habits”.  If you can relate, read on.


  • First thing – give yourself some grace and focus on the future, not the past! Beating ourselves up for something we did or didn’t do the past year doesn’t help improve our health.  Look forward with a positive attitude that you can do this with the right knowledge, resources and support.
  • Second – keep in mind what being healthy means. Being healthy isn’t defined simply by your body weight on a scale.  Health includes many aspects – physical, social, psychological, spiritual – with many subcategories below each.  Over focusing on one area can be detrimental to another.  For example, following a restrictive diet that does not allow for eating out can negatively impact your social health.
  • Next – if you do need to lose some weight, set reasonable weight loss goals which involves gradual weight loss to increase the likelihood that you are losing body fat versus muscle. This is best accomplished by including regular physical activity (more on that next), eating a variety of foods from different food groups that provide protein, carbohydrates (YES, we need carbohydrates) and fats, spreading calorie consumption over the course of the day starting in the morning, and consuming adequate fluids to assure you are hydrated.  And remember, healthy eating is not all or nothing.  Some days might look very different than others and that’s okay.  Meeting our nutrient needs most of the time is what is most important.
  • Then – get approval from your physician and find (or make) time for physical activity. Look at your schedule and mark off those times that you are obligated to be somewhere – work, sleep, childcare and transport, etc. – and then honestly evaluate the remaining time you have.  Is watching that television show more important than taking a walk?  Could you use a lunch break to fit in some active time – maybe some weight lifting at the Turner Center?  Could you wake up 30 minutes earlier and do a yoga video at home?  For most of us, including me, prioritizing time for physical activity and including it on our schedule improves our chances of consistently doing it.  It also helps to find activities that you enjoy and if you like company, a workout partner.

So, look forward and get moving! Our campus is filled with professionals who can help you reach your health and fitness goals.  Email Melinda Valliant at for information.

Melinda Valliant serves as the Chair and Professor of Nutrition and Hospitality Management within the School of Applied Science.