Freshman 15: Fact or Myth?

We have all heard of the freshman fifteen. Some of us have even heard of the sophomore twenty. It isn’t hard to believe, given the amount of free pizza, popcorn, and candy on campus; the all-you-can-eat style cafeterias that serve many delicious desserts. Despite this, gaining weight and eating ice cream for the rest of your life is not your only option, however tempting it might be. With some background information and quick tips you can take after Buffy the Vampire Slayer and tell the next person who asks you about the freshmen fifteen that they are, “mythtaken!”

Photo from Pinterest

Photo from Pinterest

College is a time of freedom, expressing yourself, and finding yourself. If, on the way, you find the line for free tacos, it isn’t really anybody’s business. As college students we sometimes feel it’s our right to eat ramen for every meal five days in a row and then a piece of lettuce to be “healthy” when we feel guilty. (To be clear, when I use the term “healthy,” I mean foods that are as natural and unprocessed as possible. Some examples are oranges instead of orange juice, brown rice instead of white rice, steamed vegetables instead of fried.) The range of diets is extensive and sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. There is a lot of literature out there on health and nutrition, so I encourage you to do your own research and find out what is the best for you!

We say we are too poor, lazy, tired, and so on to validate our diets. The first step is to realize and accept that those are all excuses. You chose paying rent over groceries? That’s totally fine! But that is still a choice you made. Chose sleeping an extra half hour over eating breakfast? It happens, but accept that you are the one that decided to do it. Every day we make the choice on what, when, where, and if we eat. Just like Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. You have the power to choose your diet which will affect your mood and health and in turn, your entire life! Your life is your responsibility, so what are you going to do about it? Well, here are some great campus and outside resources!

1. Campus Harvest Food Pantry: This September a campus food pantry opened up exclusively for students! Campus Harvest is a much-needed and awaited resource and is located in Schofield Hall 4. The pantry is available to help students one-on-one if the hours below do not work. Just email them at foodpantry@uwec.edu to set up a time. The regular schedule is as follows:
a. Mondays, 12:00pm-2pm
b. Tuesdays, 2:00pm-4:00pm
c. Thursdays, 5:00pm-7:00pm
As stated above, some students have to decide between paying rent (or tuition, or other bills) and buying healthy groceries. Although it is unfortunate that they have to make this choice it is still a reality. Campus Harvest provides these students solutions and help that they need. For more information on donations, volunteer opportunities, and more, check out their website: http://www.uwec.edu/Studentaffairs/initiatives/campus-harvest.htm
2. Blugold Dining: The Blugold Dining website (http://www.uwec.edu/dining/) has more than the schedules for your favorite eateries. They host a wonderful array of resources, too! They connect students to My Fitness Pal, an app that helps people track their nutrition and exercise to make healthier choices and goals. They have information for those with food allergies and restrictions as well as the general nutritional information for their food.
Curious about what is really in that meal you just had? You can use Sodexo’s nutrition calculator (http://www.tomorrowstarts2day.com/calculator.html) to help your mindful eating. Spend a few minutes on the website and see what new things you can learn.
3. Farmers Market: The Eau Claire Farmers Market is a great place to go for fresh, cheap eats! Vendors sell anything in season from vegetables, fruits, pastries and flowers. They are open until October 30th with the following hours:
a. Wednesdays, 7:30am-1:00pm
b. Thursdays, 12:00pm-5:00pm
c. Saturdays, 7:30am-1:00pm

Photo from Tripadvisor

Photo from Tripadvisor

The summer location for the Farmers Market is downtown in Phoenix Park. For information about winter hours and location, harvest schedule, events, and more check out their website:
http://www.ecdowntownfarmersmarket.com/

Hopefully these resources will help you conscientious decisions about your health and diet! I’d just like to leave you with a couple tips:

• Eat breakfast
• Drink water
• Sleep regularly
• Exercise
• Ignore the scale

Did you gain the dreaded “freshman fifteen”? Twenty? Ten? Thirteen? Who cares! The scale tells you a number. Your mood, immunity to illness, and energy levels are better measures of your overall health. So feel free to take any/all/none of these resources and tips on your wellness journey. Good luck!

Photo from revolutionprep

Photo from revolutionprep

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Everybody Poops!

Number 2. Dropping the kids off at the pool. Drop a Bomb. Doo-doo. Dookie. Poop. Whatever you call it pooping is not something we discuss with others very often. Not with our friends, family, not even our doctors. Many of us don’t even like to admit we poop (I’m talking to you, ladies). We have all heard the very common saying “girls don’t poop”, and after discussing pooping with my own mother and sister, I learned that we try to live up to this tall-tale. Moving to college I was nervous about so many things; would I like my roommates? Would they like me? What if I got lost going to class? Where am I going to sit? How am I going to adjust not living at home? So many thoughts bombarded my mind causing me to be frantic and overly stressed. But these thoughts could not compare to the morning after I moved into my dorm, after a long night of binging on junk food and the all-you-can-eat desserts, French fries, pizza and other glorious foods that were available at the cafeteria. I woke up in the morning and was watching a movie with my new roommates when my stomach started to cramp up and grumble. Oh how I tried to turn up the volume of the television to tune out the grumbles of my stomach and how I squeezed together my butt cheeks to keep in the flatulence that I knew would ruin the potential friendship with my new roommates. I became petrified as I realized what my body was telling me: I had to poop. Pooping at home was easy, but my home now was also home to 30 other girls. After about twenty minutes of my painful attempt to squeeze it all in I couldn’t handle it anymore; I put on my slippers and made my way down the hall to the community bathroom. With squeezed cheeks I opened the door to the bathroom and blew a sigh of relief when I saw nobody in there. I scurried quickly into the corner stall just to make it in time to let ‘er rip. But, of course, as soon as I took a seat on the throne, I heard the door swing open and the bathroom fill with the voice of my new hall mates. So what does any person do? I played around with the tampon disposal box, slamming the tin lid as I would much rather have everyone know I was on the rag than taking a deuce, I rolled and unrolled the toilet paper, I even began coughing, anything to cover up the sound and the smell that was happening in the corner stall. But that sort of distraction can only last so long for it to be believable. I just sat there, waiting and hoping they would leave. This was a struggle for the two years I lived in the dorms. It is a struggle for many of my friends and even my mother and sister. Although I have learned to become comfortable with dropping bombs in any public restroom, there are many people who are still crippled with anxiety over pooping in public.

Although pooping can be utterly embarrassing, you have to remember that EVERYONE poops. Yes, that’s right, everyone does it and the consequences of pinching it off when nature calls can be quite alarming.  

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Avoiding going number two can lead to constipation. As food moves through the colon, the colon absorbs water from the food white it forms waste products, or stool. If stool sits in the rectum longer than it should, water will continue to be absorbed from the stool. This will cause constipation where stools are usually hard, dry, small in size, and difficult to eliminate. Some people who are constipated find it painful to have a bowel movement and often experience straining, bloating, and the sensation of a full bowel. Holding it in can also lead to painful side effects, including hemorrhoids and/or anal fissures (tears in the skin around the anus). These may occur when a person strains to have a bowel movement. Holding it in can lead to serious damage to your internal sphincter: The muscle in your rectum that relaxes to allow for quick and easy bowel movements. Ignoring the need to go causes the internal sphincter to stop relaxing entirely. Once this occurs, almost every bowel movement requires straining and pushing, which is unnatural and unhealthy. Allowing your body to act naturally is the best thing to keep your health in check. Also, your poop can give you a sneak peek into your health. Your poop can reveal signs of infections, digestive problems, as well as early signs of cancer.

Water makes up about 75% of bowel movements. The rest is an often stinky combination of fiber, dead and live bacteria, other cells and mucus. Soluble fibers found in foods like beans and nuts are broken down during digestion and form a gel-like substance that becomes part of your poop. Other foods that are packed with insoluble fiber, such as corn, oat bran, and carrots are more difficult for your body to digest, which explains why they may emerge in the toilet seemingly unchanged. This is ok and normal. Poop can be an array of colors depending on the foods you’ve ingested and other factors such as eating an abundance of green leafy veggies or red foods as well. The food you eat typically takes three days from the time you eat it until it finishes its journey in your toilet. If it takes a shorter time, the result may be greener stool because green is one of the first colors in the rainbow of the digestive process. Color can also be signs of trouble, that is, when it is a drastic change. If stool is black, it can mean that you are bleeding internally, possibly as a result of an ulcer or cancer. Stool that is black due to bleeding is also sticky or tarry and smells bad. However, black stools are also common when taking a vitamin that contains iron or medications that contain bismuth subsalicylate. Stool that is light in color, such as grey clay, can also mean trouble if it is a change from what you normally see. Although it doesn’t happen often, very light-colored stool can indicate a block in the flow of bile or liver disease.

Poo can also come in all different shapes and sizes. Part of getting that log-style shape, compared to poo that comes out more pebble-looking comes from eating fiber which lends bulk to stool and acts as glue to keep the stool stuck together as it exits your body. Fiber is very important to keep your body regular. 

Odor can be a sign of something more serious happening in your body. Particularly pungent stool is often a sigh of infection. It can be a side effect of one stomach bug as well as a sign of more serious digestive condition such as ulcerative colitis, Chron’s disease, or celiac disease. Now don’t start panicking, it is normal for your bowel movements to stink. Even if it means that your family may have to avoid that part of the house for a bit after you relieve yourself. Your intestines are swarming with trillions upon trillions of bacteria that enhance digestive and metabolic processes. They are also the reason why poop smells, a direct result of the bacterial activity in your GI tract. Smell is a good sign that your guy is abundant with bacteria that is working hard to keep you healthy. Only if the smell has a sudden change, or your bowel movements have a sudden change should you get things checked out.

Now there is no normal amount that a person should go number 2. As long as you are consistent for your own routine, the amount you go is whatever is normal for you. However, a big decrease in output could be due to a diet change, such as a decrease in fiber intake, or even working out less often. Both of these promote healthy digestion. Now when you do go, does your poop float or sink? Floating stools are often an indication of high fat content, which can be a sign of malabsorption; a sign of Celiacs or chronic pancreatitis.

Pooping is completely normal, something that we need to do to be a healthy individual. With pooping comes flatulence, or farting. Farting is the result of harmless bacteria breaking down food in the large intestine. Your colon is filled with bacteria that release gas as a byproduct of digesting the food you eat. It is normal to pass gas anywhere from 10 to 18 times a day.

Pooping in public can still be an anxiety causing thought, but in order to keep your body healthy and to look out for signs of disease or other problems, we need to poop. There are many products out there that can mask the smell, such as PooPourri, which can help with masking the smell of poop as well as other strategies that can cover up the sound such as putting toilet paper in the toilet as a buffer of padding or coughing loudly. Some will even bring in their phones to play music as they go. This last idea is a terrible idea, but I should waive some caution to that. Researchers have discovered that one in six cell phones may be contaminated with fecal matter that can spread E. Coli bacteria. Washing your hands and sanitizing your phone is very important since cell phones tend to come with us wherever we go, including places where we eat like counters, tables and desks playing a role in spreading illness.

Remember everybody poops, being comfortable with your own body is very important in keeping your body in tip-top health. So the next time you feel the urge, don’t fight it just go ahead and let it out. 

Resounding Resolutions

We are about four weeks into the New Year. How are your resolutions coming along?? I see you are eating those leafy greens, hitting the gym every day and doing your best to stop listing things in threes in everything you write. Oh wait, that was the first week of January, right? Four weeks into January we are well into classes; back on campus with our packets of ramen and shivering under blankets instead of working out because turning the heat on just isn’t worth that $400 energy bill every month. Believe me, I’ve been there. In fact, I am there. I had two packets of ramen yesterday.

So how do you do it? How do you set awesome New Year’s Resolutions and stick to them? Well here I am going to give you all a few helpful hints to doing just that. I do want to preface by saying it isn’t going to be easy. Keep in mind that forming habits can take weeks and weeks, not necessarily including relapses.

 

1. Make SMART Goals:

This means Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. When you make a resolution to “eat more vegetables,” it is almost doomed to fail because it is not measurable. How much is ‘more’ to you? Saying instead, “I want to eat three more servings of vegetables a week,” is specific, measurable, and in most cases realistic and attainable.

Your goals should be timely, meaning you set up a timeline for them. If you want to eat three more servings of vegetables a week, figure out when. For example, start on January 1st and eat those three extra servings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

2. Don’t make New Year’s Resolutions:

Wait, what? Isn’t this supposed to be about how to make effective resolutions? Yes. And sometimes that means skipping out on the traditional New Year’s Resolutions and springing for resolutions and lifestyle changes when they are most convenient to you. A huge part of making a healthy lifestyle change is the “Contemplation” stage. This is before you set definite goals. Instead you are considering what changes need to be made in your life and what the best way to do it is. Most of us make our “resolutions” a couple of hours before the clock strikes midnight. This is not enough time to create lasting changes.

My advice is set those goals when they will work out best. Maybe that means starting in the beginning of a new semester, summer, or on March 13th. The important thing is to set goals and times that work for your life.

3. Tell your roommates and friends:

I made a resolution to finish a workout calendar and so far I have done every single day. Okay, sometimes I skipped a day and had to do two days’ worth of videos in one, but I’m keeping up! A huge factor to my current success is that when I came back to school my roommates started doing the videos with me. This was really encouraging because I had people to hold me accountable and the time seems to go by faster when we are failing together.

4. Treat Yourself:

Maybe this means putting a cute sticker on your calendar every day you work out. Or it means every time you hit a new goal you treat yourself to a nice dinner. Perhaps you just allow yourself to indulge in that extra episode of Doctor Who on Netflix. You are on your way to making lasting lifestyle changes, it’s good to reward yourself every once in a while.

5. Accept Life’s Difficulties:

Hey, sometimes your goals don’t always work out. That’s okay! Maybe it wasn’t that realistic for where you are right now. Just head back to the drawing board and figure out what went wrong and what can be done to achieve results next time. Relapsing is sometimes an integral part to making healthy lifestyle changes. So think of it as an opportunity to improve.

I leave you with these tips and your dreams of a healthy tomorrow. Good luck with your resolutions. I believe each and every one of you can achieve them if you put the work into it. As Earl Nightingale so eloquently said, “never give up on a dream because of the time it takes to achieve it. The time will pass anyway.”

Happy New Year.

Winter Health Myths

We’ve all heard the Old Wives’ Tales. But what fact truly comes from these myths? In this post I will be a Winter Health Mythbuster, helping you feel good when there is a blizzard outside.
Myth 1:
Feed a cold, starve a fever
FALSE!
really_190
Starvation is never the answer, even when it comes to the flu. A well balanced diet is key to a healthy lifestyle when sick or well. Instead of feigning away from meals, look for foods high in beta carotene and Vitamin C and E. Some of these include spinach, broccoli, cantaloupe and oranges.
For more information on this topic check out WebMD’s article on it:
http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/starve-cold-feed-fever

Myth 2:
You will catch a cold from going outside with wet hair
FALSE!
Although you may not be comfortable, only the exposure to viruses will cause you to catch a cold. This means that breathing in air particles sneezed or coughed out by an infected person or touching your face after touching an infected surface can cause the cold, but the weather cannot.
coldhair
For more information on this topic and why antibiotics are ineffective for treating colds read this article from healthyliving.msn:
http://healthyliving.msn.com/diseases/cold-and-flu/can-heading-outside-in-winter-with-wet-hair-increase-your-chances-of-catching-a-cold-1

Myth 3:
You lose most of your body heat through your head
FALSE!
While wearing a hat in winter is important for keeping warm, it is proven that any exposed body part will release heat. The head is only 10% of the body’s surface area and as such, does not release the majority of heat from the human body. As stated above, colds are caused by viral infections; therefore, forgetting a hat will not cause illness.

Myth 4:
You should not exercise outside in the winter months
FALSE!
As long as you don’t have preexisting health conditions that the cold might worsen, like asthma or heart disease, exercising outside is fine. It can, however, be dangerous to do vigorous exercise without warming up first. It is even important to do warm up exercises before going outside and shoveling. Shoveling can cause strain on the heart so no matter what level of health you are on it may help to take small, frequent breaks and use a small shovel. Also make sure you are dressing in layers and covering your hands and ears.
For more tips on exercising outside check out this article from Mayo Clinic:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fitness/HQ01681

Myth 5:
You don’t need sunscreen in the winter
FALSE!
UV rays are present no matter what season it is. In fact, reflections from snow and ice might make their impact worse than in warmer months. Whether you are on the ski slopes or going for a walk, it is important to wear SPF 30. Just because you don’t feel like your skin is burning doesn’t mean it isn’t being harmed.

As finals week is approaching and germs are being spread faster than you can say ‘mononucleosis,’ I hope my mythbusting helps you stay in tip-top shape. Good luck!