Call for Help

Creating wellness goals

Creating wellness goals centered around sleep, exercise, and diet can positively impact your mind, body, and study skills. University Health Services’ nutritionist Alicia Bosscher describes wellness goals like a wheel.

Think of it like this: Nutrition is just one spoke that’s coming out of the hub, along with sleep and exercise, which may seem unrelated to nutrition, but are connected. Then, you can think of wellness as the hub. “Stress and eating right and moving your body, making time for sleep – all of those things are equally important,” Bosscher says. And while it can be hard to be an A+ student in all areas of wellness, working to improve just one will naturally aid the others.

If you’re looking to continue this semester strong, or start new wellness goals, UHS providers have tips for you.


Within a busy schedule, sleep is often the first task to go. Wellness provider Tamar Kelson says students slowly start stripping away an hour or two of sleep, until it’s unhealthy. But Kelson says getting a good night’s sleep is necessary to a good memory, and therefore good grades. “Try to be consistent about it,” she says. “People do better if they go to bed roughly at the same time and get up roughly at the same time.”

If you feel there’s room for improvement, check your current patterns of sleep, and see what you’d like to change. Getting a traditional eight hours of sleep is good, but following your natural sleep cycle is even better. That means you want to aim for six, seven-and-a-half or nine hours of sleep a night. Learn more in our video:


Like sleep, exercise is easy to push off. In a student’s busy schedule, there isn’t always time to go to a recreation facility, in which case you should try to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule.

“Even when it feels like you can’t go to the Nat for a 45-minute workout, you may be able to add 10 extra minutes of walking in a day or walking fast for a block,” Kelson says. For example, instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs. Or walk to class instead of taking the bus. Even walking up Bascom Hill once a day is a small workout. “There are simple ways you can add exercise to your everyday life.”


The best dieting plan is no diet at all, says Bosscher. Restricting your food intake and cutting out major food groups isn’t healthy, especially because you might end up binging later. “Let go of any weight goal that you may have. That can knock you off your path of setting realistic goals.” Bosscher doesn’t recommend focusing on your BMI because “it’s not an equation that takes into account muscle mass or genetics.”

One way to make changes to your diet is by adding vegetables to the foods you already eat. So, if you choose to eat mac n’ cheese, add peas. Or if you buy a frozen pizza, add a small amount of vegetables. “It’s not this huge swap of a French fry for stick of celery.”

Restriction is not the key, and you should be eating every three to five hours or when you feel hungry. “Try to pause and listen to what your body is saying,” Bosscher says. If that means you’re eating six small meals a day instead of three regular meals, that’s okay.

Be patient with yourself as you’re experimenting. Not everything will happen perfectly, and it’s okay to make mistakes. If you do find yourself feeling unsatisfied after a meal, try adding a protein, fat, sugar, or carbohydrate (whichever you were lacking). “Don’t just sit down and only eat vegetables,” Bosscher says. In fact, adding foods like proteins or fats can improve your blood sugar.

Signs of restriction or fear of adding higher-calorie food groups could be the result of an eating disorder. Bosscher says eating disorders are common in college-aged students, and there’s no shame in asking for help. UHS offers services for students who would like to talk about their eating habits.

At the end of the day…

You can’t literally control your weight, but you can control your behavior. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example, instead of saying, “I’m going to eat more fruit,” try a goal such as, “I’m going to add one serving of fruit to my breakfasts, five days a week.”

Creating habits can take up to 21 days, so be patient. “Perfectionism is a problem for a lot of people [and] it teaches us all or none thinking,” Kelson says. Making mistakes becomes an opportunity to learn and reflect on how you can do better. “It’s always okay to start over again.”

If you’re interested in talking with a UHS provider on how to improve wellness and nutritional goals, set up an Access Appointment at your MyUHS, or call UHS at 608-265-5600.

Written by Emilie Burditt, UHS Communications Assistant