Monthly Archives: February 2014

Wellness Wednesday: There is a Couch Potato in Us All

Amidst the recent hubbub surrounding the perhaps negligible link between type-2 Diabetes and Obesity remains the question of the precise cause of this obesity. How did America get to the point where 36 percent of its citizens are obese? Why didn’t we do something to stop it?

Recently researchers found an even closer connection between owning modern technology—specifically televisions, computers, and cars—and the growing epidemic in the developing world. Having these high-priced consumer goods results in more sitting, watching, and less physical activity. Biologically, such lack of movement actually reduces the body’s ability to break down fats and use sugar in the blood for energy. A recent study showed that owning all three of these devices resulted in a 31 percent decrease in physical activity and a 21 percent increase in sitting, compared with those populations of people who owned no devices.

Accompanied by the intake of increased consumption of calories, a lifestyle of couch-potato-ing can having some serious side effects.

On the other hand fitness companies like Nike, Wii, and Apple, have been producing similar devices, which are designed to do just the opposite: to promote fitness. Smart-phone apps can count calories and miles, teach correct lifting form, and can auto-alert its user about their upcoming workouts, while video games like the Wii Fit allow players to dance, box, do yoga, and tennis. allows users to create running routes and find ones other runners have posted, while Nike+ Running app counts mileage while on the go with a chip you can slip into your shoes.

Whether you’re getting lazier, or gearing up with your fitness apps, it’s alarming how much direct influence technology has on our bodies, begging the question: Which trajectory will technology’s effect on obesity take in the coming years?

Only time will tell, but in light of Feel Good in February, one piece of advice will get you far: just get off the couch.

SPECIAL Wellness Wednesday: Understanding Changes to the Health Center

Do you like our Health center? Or do you walk out frustrated when you can’t get an appointment, or if you can’t walk out with your drugs right away? This week Greg Rosen brings us a comprehensive understanding of the administration’s recent announcement calling changes to the Bowdoin Health Center. This new change may not bring the benefits the administration calls for. Read below:

Two weeks ago, the Bowdoin Orient published a review of the possible changes to the Health Center’s structure following Sandra Hayes’ departure. Conceivable modifications to the Health Center model include: outsourcing the Health Center’s services to a private firm, outsourcing administrative work to another healthcare provider, and maintaining the current model with a replacement Director of Health Services.

While acknowledging the shortcomings of any system is healthy, and entertaining the possibility of change is important, there still are many overlooked benefits to the current Health Services model, which (if changed) could put the longevity of these benefits at risk.

For instance, under the current College model, Bowdoin employs all staff members of the Health Center. These excellent healthcare providers voluntarily chose to work in a college setting. They have a personal investment in community health and are passionate about the health issues college-aged students face. When a student makes an appointment at the Health Center, the care this student receives is informed by campus knowledge and a community-based approach to healthcare.

Empathy goes a long way in health.

Outsourcing the Health Center may mean an end to healthcare providers with a specific interest in working in a college environment. While such a structural change may bring more walk-in hours and shorter wait times, it may also mean the type of care Bowdoin students receive will lack knowledge and understanding of the campus culture and norms that inherently influence the health issues we face.

It might also inhibit establishing personal relationships with the Health Center staff. For many students, being able to meet with a particular staff member is important in evaluating the Health Center’s work. Discussing particular health issues can be challenging and triggering for some students, and having a Health Center staff member act the role of not only a provider but also a confidant and mentor can facilitate honest discourse between provider and patient. Upon outsourcing the Health Center to another firm, that personal contact may no longer exist. It may be difficult for students to establish rapport with a particular clinical worker if these posts at Bowdoin are merely rotational, meaning reaching that point where the student feels comfortable sharing sensitive information with a healthcare provider may be much longer and more strenuous.

Time, however, is precious at Bowdoin. We can’t seem to get enough of it. It’s understandable that some students would prefer to be seen by Health Center staff immediately, have a quick appointment, get antibiotics, and then get out. For many other students at Bowdoin, spending time with their healthcare providers and forging personal bonds with them are essential to the way they navigate health issues in their college years. Indeed, relationships with Health Center staff are integral to many students’ Bowdoin experience, and a change in the model may put that type of experience in jeopardy.

Outsourcing the Health Center, in addition, can rupture vital relationships between the Health Center staff and other College staff/student groups. The equivalent of “Sex with Sandra,” organized by the Health Center’s Sandra Hayes and prompting students to flock en masse to 24 College, may not exist if clinical practitioners show no interest in working outside of clinical hours to help student groups promote health and wellness. Free Plan B Days – another program Peer Health runs in partnership with the Health Center – may no longer be possible if staff members of an outsourced Health Center take no initiative in spearheading the program.

While these programs and events fall outside the clinical practice of current staff members of the Health Center, they are vital to the wellness promotion efforts of campus groups, like Peer Health. Raising awareness of health issues, disseminating medically accurate health-related information to students, and providing students with tools and resources to navigate the complex health environment that we call College would be significantly stifled without the help of the Health Center.

Regardless of student posture on the Health Center and possible structural changes ahead, recognizing all the options and being mindful of what may no longer exist following changes to the Health Center’s current model are vital to an informed understanding of the issues Dean Foster and the College are currently wrestling. We encourage all Bowdoin students to learn more about these possible changes and voice their opinions about them.

We are lucky to have a Health Center that employs staff members trained in college-campus health literacy and competency, hands out barrier methods and emergency contraception on demand, and has strong partnerships with other on-campus resources which help cultivate a holistic vision of College health and wellness.

A Tradeoff Between Weight Loss and Healthy Body Image on Reality Shows

by Zach Danssaert

There’s a reality TV show for just about everything these days. With a high entertainment value and a low production budget, reality shows seem to be taking over cable TV. One of the more popular genres is the competition for weight loss. In these shows obese contestants are taken from across the country to lose weight. Sounds like a good idea, right? Competitors can compete for money and become healthier at the same time. However, these shows might not be leaving contestants as healthy as they appear to be. Reality TV shows require an extremely fast paced competition where the most successful competitor is rewarded. There are a few major issues with applying this game show model to weight loss.
In the most recent season of The Biggest Loser contestants would prepare for their weigh-ins by exercising in sweats and drinking massive amounts of coffee to dehydrate themselves. Extreme dieting and exercising 6 hours a day deprives the body of the nutrients required to instill a healthy metabolism. Furthermore, the winner of this season’s show, Ms. Frederickson, was extolled for losing about 60% of her body fat. If I could confidently say that the “winner” had achieved this incredible transformation in a healthy way, I would be the first one to give credit to Ms. Frederickson and the competition in general. However, after hearing that Ms. Frederickson was losing hair during the competition as a lack of nutrients, I began to question the whole process. Our body image is tenuous and should never be forced. An optimal body image is where a person feels completely comfortable in their own skin. They are one with their body, and they love how they look, ignoring how others think they should look. Game shows like The Biggest Loser directly contradict a healthy body image. Yes, these contestants need to lose weight to limit their risk of cardiac disease and diabetes, however, this process should be promoted in a better way. Unfortunately reality TV shows and healthy weight loss don’t really go hand in hand.