Let’s Put an End to Body Shaming

By: Ivey Smith ’15, University Health Center, Dietetic Student Volunteer

How often have you heard someone you care about, perhaps a friend, say something negative about his or her body? How often have you said something negative about your own body or someone else’s?

I believe everyBODY is beautiful. Let’s put an end to body shaming.

Body shaming isn’t limited to the cruel comments we toss around behind people’s backs about their weight; body shaming occurs any time we say something negative about anybody’s body – including your own.

Some common examples of body shaming are:

  • Saying, “I am so fat; I hate my thighs!”
  • Commenting on Facebook, “Wow, this is not fashion skin and bones too much”
  • Pointing out that the clothes someone chose to wear didn’t flatter their body type

Even doing something as small as acknowledging a change in another person’s body that you perceive to be negative, is body shaming.

I work in an industry where my body is constantly under scrutiny; everyone including photographers, booking agents, makeup artists, stylists, family and friends alike-seem to have an opinion about my body.

Being a fashion model opens up a whole new door for criticism. I have been called “scary skinny”, “skin and bones”; I have been told to “eat a hamburger” on more occasions than I care to count and too often I feel I am defined solely by my physical appearance.

I struggle sometimes to remember that the most important opinion is my own, that I am the only true expert on my body.

If you take the time to get to know me, you may be surprised to find out that I have a very healthy relationship with food. I eat chocolate when I crave it (without any remorse!) and maintain a balanced diet so that I have energy for the activities I love.

We are all guilty of saying insensitive things about the physical appearance of others and ourselves, and we have probably all had someone say something hurtful about our own bodies.

By becoming aware of how our words and opinions affect others, we can help put an end to body shaming. Here’s how:

1. Take ownership of your body. It sounds silly to imagine not owning your body, but any time we criticize and say unkind or hateful things about our bodies, we are distancing ourselves from them. We are who we are, because of our strengths, not our weaknesses. 5 ways to love the skin you’re in >>

2. Train your brain with positivity. Any time you feel the urge to say something negative about your body or someone else’s, pause and take a step back. Think of one positive attribute about yourself or someone else and say that instead. For example, before turning to your friend and pointing out something negative about the way a person’s clothes fit their body, you could instead remark on his or her confidence or simply say nothing at all.

3. Be responsible for your “internet-self”. If you wouldn’t say something out loud to someone’s face, then you should definitely think twice about publishing it on social media. Typed words are just as, if not more hurtful, than those that are spoken; they are out there for all to see.

4. Check yourself. Recognize that you are not the authority on anyone’s body but your own. Realize that saying anything about another person’s size or shape will probably do more harm than good. And finally, understand that you do not know all the facts about a person’s life. Everyone is fighting a battle; some may be just beginning to wage war while others are struggling in the thick of it. It is up to us, society, to extend hands in support and help each other succeed.

The world is hard enough to navigate with out body shaming thrown into the mix.

Remember, everyBODY is beautiful; when in doubt, open your eyes and close your mouth!

To receive personalized nutrition tips and advice, reserve your free diet analysis session with the University Health Center.

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How to Conquer Your Fitness Fears

By: Laura Whitney ’15, Campus Recreation Services, Group Fitness Instructor

Being afraid to try something new is a perfectly normal experience, and it can definitely be common when it comes to the gym.

Heck, I work for Campus Recreation Services, and I still get a little lost walking around the weight room or functional training studio! Between the difficult-to-adjust-yet-extremely-necessary-to-adjust squat racks, those yellow TRX cables, and the scary-looking Matrix machines, it took me forever to figure out what I was doing.

UMD Group Fitness Instructors flexing their muscles! We're here to help you feel comfortable fitness classes. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask us for help.

UMD Group Fitness Instructors flexing their muscles! We’re here to help you feel comfortable fitness classes. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask us for help.

I know that many people have similar feelings towards group fitness classes. As an instructor, students ask me what will happen if they’re bad at it, if they look stupid, or if other people will judge them.

I lost count within my first week of how many times I heard, “I can’t do Hip-Hop Shake, I’ll look stupid!”

Here’s the thing — it’s perfectly normal to feel uncomfortable or nervous before trying something new.

But you don’t want let your fears and discomfort stop you from doing something that could potentially be really fun and beneficial.

Here are a few strategies that helped me learn how to conquer some of my own fitness fears:

Ask a staff member for help.

We get paid for a reason! If you’re not sure how to use a new piece of equipment, ask a weight-fitness staff attendant.

If you’re in a group fitness class and are not sure if you’re doing a move correctly, ask the instructor when he or she comes around—there are two instructors in almost every class for this exact reason.

The Functional Training Studio offers classes, some special and some regular, to help members learn how to use equipment. You can also watch how-to videos online to get familiar with the equipment before you even step foot in the space.

You might also consider hiring a personal trainer, even if just for one or two sessions, to learn how to use equipment properly and how to find the best workout strategy for you.

Realize that nobody is judging you.

You have probably heard this time and time again, but it’s true. Nobody else is judging you. You’re not doing anything outlandish or crazy by coming to a class and not being perfect at it. Every single class has people there for the first, second or third time. Everybody is there for themselves — not to judge you.

Remember … what’s the worst that could happen?

In most of these cases, the absolute worst thing that happens is that you do something new and you’re not great at it. Maybe you come to Hip-Hop Shake and you end up being even more uncoordinated than you thought you’d be. Unless you’re struggling so much that your attempts at twerking end up dislocating a hip (for the record, I’m pretty sure that’s not physiologically possible), the worst thing that happens is that you just spent an hour of your life being bad at something. Oh well!

More importantly … what’s the best thing that could happen?

We push ourselves out of our comfort zones because it’s good for us. Leaving your comfort zone allows you to try new things, improve your fitness, improve your confidence and self-esteem, and potentially find something new that you really enjoy.

Even if you end up absolutely hating the new thing you try, you’ll have the confidence booster of knowing that you tried it anyway.

Above all, just bite the bullet and do it!

Learning how to do things that are scary and uncomfortable is a skill that takes time and practice, but it will benefit you throughout your life.

By doing something even as small as asking a fitness attendant how to use a new piece of equipment, you’re building up that skill.

So, try that new Pilates or kettlebell class, that TRX workout, or the Matrix machine. Your mind and body will thank you!

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4 Facts About College Health Literacy

By: Gabriella Villacis ’15, University Health Center, HEALTH Works Peer Educator

October is a pretty awesome month, right? Autumn is upon us, Halloween is coming up, and of course tons of football. But, did you know October is also Health Literacy Month?

Okay, so that might not sound super exciting, but let me tell you how this can be really important to us as college students.

First, I’ll get that boring definition out of the way.  Health Literacy is defined as, “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions” (Institute of Medicine).

So, what does that mean to you and me?

It means that we are bombarded every day with information about how to live a healthy life. We often have to try and interpret what this information means and it might even be inaccurate.

Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming and certainly confusing.

Here’s what UMD students had to say about health literacy …

I’m here to help you improve your health literacy today by going over some college health issues that we might be uncertain about. There are often a lot of myths and misinformation out there. I’m going to go over the facts, so you can better understand the health information out there.

  • Sleep. We are all well aware that midterms are underway. This does not mean it is time to start pulling all-nighters! College students should be getting about 7- 9 hours of sleep every night. Trust me, you will be feeling much less stressed and alert enough to do well on your exam.
  • Exercise. Who doesn’t love to feel fit? Am I right? Increasing your physical activity can improve your mood and help fight chronic disease. You don’t have to be out at Ritchie pumping iron 7 days a week, but at least 2 and half hours a week of some physical activity is what we need. Campus Recreation Services definitely has something for everyone, so check out what they have to offer.
  • Eat healthy. I think we can all agree that this isn’t the easiest of tasks on campus. One way you can improve your eating habits is learning portion control. You may also want to check out the free diet analysis service right here on campus!
  • Getting Vaccinated. GO GET A FLU SHOT! We are living in close proximity with one another, and when one person gets sick, we all get sick. It’s quick and easy and covered by the Student Health Insurance Plan. Being sick at school is the worst. Make an appointment for the flu shot (or intranasal spray if needles aren’t your thing) at the University Health Center today. You can thank me later.

If you ever have questions about your health or decisions regarding it, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor, counselor, or other health professional. They are there to help.

Learn more about health literacy with the Herschel S. Horowitz Center for Health Literacy right here at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

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Take a hike!

By: Jennifer Macko ’16, Campus Recreation Services, Group Fitness Instructor

College Park: Step outside. Feel the clean, crisp breeze blowing leaves around you and look at the brilliant fall colors. Close your eyes and let your sense of hearing take over. The wind rustles through the trees, finches chirp as they peck through the grass… a dump truck slams this week’s garbage from its bin and a siren blares from Route One.

Imagine escaping the madness that is campus and being immersed in the quiet paradise that is Mother Nature.

CliffBlueMts (3)

Lucky for us, despite a proximity to the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capitol, we are also close to a multitude of national parks and forests. The Maryland and Virginia sections of the Appalachian Trail, Shenandoah Valley, Great Falls, Monongahela, and Harpers Ferry are all just a few hours away by car and all offer great hikes.

Don’t have a car?

Don’t fret! Look for a friend who does or visit the Maryland Adventure Program (MAP) at the Eppley Recreation Center.

MAP offers day trips and weekend outdoor adventure trips for reasonable prices. This program offers transportation and equipment as well as a trained leader to guide you through the lush deciduous forests of Maryland and Virginia.

Is a trip you wanted to take already full?

You can create a custom trip for groups of 6-10 students. Find a group of friends who share your passion for adventure or  who just want to try something new and set up a weekend of outdoor fun. Use this online form to request a custom trip.

“I love being at College Park, it’s beautiful,” she says, “but it’s really nice to be in a different environment.”-Olivia Kelly ’15, MAP challenge course leader

Any one can participate in these weekend trips, and it is the perfect way to escape, relax, and take a step back from the stress of college.

Spending time in the great outdoors has numerous health and wellness benefits, including:

  • De-stressing
  • Increasing creativity
  • Cardiovascular and strengthening workout (you can burn up to 600 calories an hour of hiking!)
  • Lowering LDL (the bad cholesterol), lowering blood sugar, and improving glucose tolerance

UMD Sophomore, Jamal Gross ’17, a first time hiker image (5)shared his experience hiking the Billy Goat Trail in Potomac, Maryland. He initially signed up to go in order to get extra credit for a geology class and dreaded it being some “lame” trip. He returned feeling exhausted but excited to hike again!

“It was beautiful, fantastic! I’ve never felt so accomplished in my life.”

He also had the added benefit of bonding with peers, while playing trail games like “Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon.”

So, if you want to try something new, escape the hectic campus life, de-stress, bond with friends, have an adventure, get a workout, take breath-taking photos, explore the area, be one with nature… the possibilities are endless… then take a hike!

“The mountains are calling and I must go” –John Muir

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Introducing…GymQ: A Terp-Created Fitness Tracking App

By: Laura Gonzalez ’15, Campus Recreation Services, Communication Assistant

In true enTERPreneurial style, seniors Kevin Chang, mechanical engineering major, and Connie Li, finance and information systems major, saw a problem and took it upon themselves to solve it.

They noticed it was challenging to remember past workouts and log their progress at the gym. GymQ was born – a unique fitness tracking app.

“That was kind of the push, it was just something that we personally needed and wanted and we figured if we had the power to create it, then why not,” says Li.

GymQ is a free iPhone app that utilizes QR codes on workout machines and personalized data entry to provide users with a digital log of their workouts.

gymqhomepageWhen Chang and Li approached Campus Recreation Services (CRS) to explore ways they could make the app available to Terps, we were thrilled to support them.

We teamed up and added QR stickers to all of our machines and weights in Ritchie Coliseum. Ritchie is located on Rt. 1 across the street from campus between Fraternity row and the Department of Public Safety and is open to University of Maryland students and CRS members.

Getting Started with GymQ

Once you download GymQ from the Apple App store, you’ll need to log in. If it’s your first time, you’ll create a username and password within the app.

Tip: Turn on the ‘remember me’ function and never have to enter them manually again.

You are then taken to the main menu screen with three options: scan, enter code and search. Selecting ‘scan’ will take you to a camera function, from which you can capture the QR code on the machine and immediately recognize what exercise you are attempting. You may also manually enter the exercise by selecting ‘enter code’ and typing the code you see on the equipment.

Don’t use the gym at Ritchie? You can still use GymQ!

Simply use the third option: ‘search.’ You only need to type the equipment name, select the correct option and begin your workout.

Whether you scan, enter the code, or search – you’ll then be prompted to enter the details of your workout such as the amount of weight you lifted, how many stairs you climbed or other information specific to the exercise.

After several workouts, you will be able to see a graph of your progress broken down day by day.

We are excited to be working the innovative creators of GymQ and offering this useful tool to students and our members.

Have a question about GymQ or how to use it? Ask away! Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

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Let’s Talk About Breast Health

By: Emily Menge ’15, University of Maryland Health Center, HEALTH Works Peer Educator

When you think of October, what do you think of? Cooler weather? Pumpkin spice lattes? Football games?

I think of Breast Cancer Awareness month and encourage you to as well. Even though as college students we are focused on school, it is important to remember to keep our health in mind.

The iconic "M" circle in the center of campus decorated in pink to raise awareness for breast cancer. Image credit: Emily Menge.

The iconic “M” circle in the center of campus decorated in pink to raise awareness for breast cancer. Image credit: Emily Menge.

It is estimated that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

That statistic translates to 2,189 women on the University of Maryland campus. This is almost 5% of the student body! This is a number we can’t ignore.

Through research and prevention, I hope that we can decrease this number dramatically. Although there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, there are healthy lifestyle choices that you can make that might reduce your risk and increase your chances for early detection.

You can detect breast cancer as early as possible throug self-breast exams and yearly mammograms after the age of 40, for women of average risk.

Lifestyle factors that may affect your risk for breast cancer:

  • Taking oral contraceptives may increase your risk. Overtime, the risk goes back to normal after the pill is stopped, but it is important to talk to your doctor about the effects of this medication.
  • Breastfeeding has been shown to decrease your risk for breast cancer.
  • The more alcohol you drink, your risk of developing breast cancer increases. It is recommended that women limit alcohol consumption to 1 drink per day.
  • Physical activity decreases your risk of breast cancer. As little as 1-2 hours of exercise per week can decrease a woman’s risk by 18%.

Source:American Cancer Society

Although some people may be uncomfortable talking about it, it is also important to administer self-breast exams regularly.

If you conduct self-breast exams regularly you will understand what is “normal” for your body which could make it easier for you to notice when something is not right.

This small step could be the difference between catching the disease in the early stages or when it’s too late. It is important to remember self-breast exams should not replace clinical breast exams which are recommended every 3 years from ages 20-39 and every year starting at age 40.

Source: Susan G. Komen

Easy guide to a quick self-breast exam:

Step 1: Look in the mirror with your back straight and arms at your hip. Are your breasts their usual size, shape, and color? Do you notice any swelling, dimpling, or puckering? Has your nipple changed position or inverted?

Step 2: Raise your arms and look for the same signs.

Step 3: Lie down and examine your right breast with your left hand and your left breast with your right hand. Using two fingers press firmly in a circular motion about the size of a quarter. You should cover your entire breast from your collarbone to your abdomen and from your armpit to your cleavage.

Step 4: Follow the same procedure while standing up. Many women find it easier to administer this exam when their skin is slightly wet -such as in the shower.

If you find anything unusual during your exam, contact your doctor and have them take a look. Even if you notice anything slightly out of the ordinary, you should get it checked.

By following these recommendations you are taking control of your breast health. These small steps could be lifesaving and could help decrease the amount of women diagnosed with breast cancer.

If you ever feel like you need to be seen by a doctor or need a clinical breast exam, you can visit the Women’s Health department at the health center. Remember 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime – so tell a friend, sister, aunt, or cousin how they too can decrease their risk of breast cancer.

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7 Tips to Eat Healthy on a Budget

By: Caitlin Smith ’16, University of Maryland Health Center, Dietetic Intern

While in college, it can be hard to be mindful of our diets, especially when cash is tight. I’ve seen my share of cabinets full of ramen noodle packages, boxes of mac and cheese, and pop-tarts.

There’s a common misconception that eating healthfully is expensive and thus, it becomes a low tier priority.

However, I’m here to tell you that being broke does not have to be synonymous with being unhealthy.


Image used under the Creative Commons license from Flickr user muammerokumus

Here are some tips I have come to learn and love:

  1. Buy frozen and/or canned fruits and vegetables. Many people believe that if fruits and vegetables aren’t fresh then they aren’t healthy. That’s not true! Frozen produce is picked at the peak of freshness and then frozen so it contains an optimal amount of nutrients. For canned items, just be sure to look for low sodium items and fruits that are canned in 100% juice instead of heavy syrup.
  2. Buy in bulk. Since we typically only feed ourselves as college students, this tip can seem counter intuitive. Wouldn’t this be wasteful? The key is to buy things like meat, seafood, and even bread in bulk and then freeze them so they won’t go bad.
  3. Skip the name brands. There’s a common misconception out there that the store brand items don’t taste as good as the name brand ones. However, more often than not, the ingredient list is exactly the same. It’s usually just the appearance of the box or packaging that is different. Next time you’re at the grocery store, compare your favorite name brand item with a store brand one.
  4. Shop at farmers and/or ethnic markets. This is usually an effective way of getting produce for a cheaper price than what the grocery store sells them for, especially when it comes to in-season produce. Check out The Farmers Market at Maryland which is right here on campus in front of Cole Field House every Wednesday from 11-3!
  5. Pack lunches and snacks. When you’re spending all day on campus, as many of us are, it’s easy to work up an appetite. However, frequently buying food on campus can get expensive. Buy some reusable containers and pack some lunches and snacks such as grapes, humus and pretzels, sliced cucumber, or a turkey sandwich. Throw it in your backpack in the morning and you have a quick, easy, delicious, and nutritious way to save some money.
  6. Get creative in the kitchen. I can’t tell you how many healthy, cheap, and yummy little recipes I’ve created since I came to college and I’m no chef! I often use things like tuna, rice, and frozen vegetables and just throw them together.  Get creative in the kitchen using any ingredients you already have.
  7. Visit the Health Center! Last but certainly not least, consider making an appointment for free diet analysis to learn more tips and tricks for eating lots of good food with limited funds.

Visit choosemyplate.gov for even more information on how to remain healthy on a budget.

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