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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.
Wellness Wednesday: Get Real
Just two weeks ago, Aerie, the lingerie spin-off of American Eagle, launched a new advertising campaign, vowing to cease its use of airbrushing on models, in order to encourage a healthy and realistic body image. In honor of Feel Good in February month that is fast approaching here at Bowdoin, we vow to advertise these advertisements in support of this campaign.
While these advertisements are just a drop in a pond bigger than that of one small company, they address an issue pressing their demographic of buyers: women between the ages of 15 and 22. In a study on the effect of advertisements on the minds of young consumers done in 2004, a sample of 126 women viewed advertisements of models’ full bodies and parts of bodies. The study found that women experienced increased body dissatisfaction and mood swings immediately after viewing the images. If simple advertisements have such a negative effect on women’s every day moods, then why do sales of magazines containing such images continue to skyrocket? Aerie and other companies like Dove have spoken out against this fad in response.
While “Feel Good in February,” Peer Health’s approach to the upcoming month encourages a healthy approach to taking care of our bodies, its main purpose is to inspire body satisfaction among ourselves and our peers. If supermodels and fashion ads do it for you, then by all means carry on! The 2004 study was not an all-inclusive generalization about the entire population of college-age males and females in the world, but a randomly chosen sample. However, if you are one of these dissatisfied, then this study gives you good reason to put down the ads and pick yourself up.
Here is a link to the article about Aerie’s recent change and the 2004 study:
Wellness Wednesday: SPECIAL EDITION
Happy Wellness Wednesday! It’s been a few weeks, but this week we have a very special gift for you. Think back to September’s “Gratitude” blog post.
Studies show that expressing gratitude towards those who mean a lot to you actually MAKES you happier. We decided to take that theory to Bowdoin’s campus and ask a handful of students WHOM they were thankful for just in time for the holiday season. Sophomore filmmaker guru, Henry Austin and student worker, Maeve O’Leary present to you: “GRATEFUL.”
Thanks to Julie Piñero, John Swords, Michelle Kruk, and Tyler DeAngelis for their lovely candid appearances.
OMG you’re stressed too??
by Zach Danssaert
We hear it everyday in the dining hall, the café, and the dorm rooms. Someone has a TON of work and they don’t know if they will be able to get it all done. They reach out to their friends, and in return their claim is either validated with a “me too,” or is shut down by someone who might have a “light week.” We all do it, myself included. In times of stress we seek sympathy from friends who are in a similar situation. There is no denying that this interaction can provide a positive feeling for the person complaining. However, for Bowdoin College as a whole I think that we are actually increasing the stress of our entire student body.
Bowdoin College is one of the most rigorous schools in the country. There are times where we are pushed to our limit, and we don’t know if we will be able to overcome. For this reason, it becomes even more important for our student body to create a mental space away from the stresses associated with our schoolwork. This is where complaining becomes a problem. Our ability to get away and take mental breaks is limited when stressful conversations are constantly entering this “stress-free arena.”
In my opinion, our mental health at Bowdoin would be improved if we could create areas on campus where schoolwork is not discussed. Our college is known for having well-rounded happy students. If we could take our minds off of our academic obligations whenever we can, and focus on getting to know the amazing people around us, our mental states would be dramatically improved.
Wellness Wednesday: How to Grow Your Fingernails Back (a guide to the Counseling Center)
Have you been getting somewhere between 4 and 5 hours of sleep a night? Have you been stress-eating trail mix while cramming for an exam at midnight in the union? Have you been biting your nails so far down that they are now bloody stumps that used to be fingers? If all of these are true, you are either actually me, or you are just plain old stressed out.
In honor of Mental Health Month, Peer Health is on a mission to help you grow your fingernails back—or in other words, to help you de-stress.
The first step towards de-stressing is knowing who to go to. The Counseling Center is one of Bowdoin’s most used, but also most underrated resources on campus. Located just a bop away from any first-year dorm, and no more than 7 minutes away from any location on campus, Bowdoin’s counselors reside on 32 College street, right down the road from Ladd House. Services include:
• individual therapy
• psychological consultations and workshops
• alcohol and substance abuse
• treatment for disordered eating
• biofeedback and mind-body work
• group therapy
• psychiatric consultation and monitoring
• Psychological assessment
Biggest myth about the counseling center?
Some people believe that in order to utilize counseling services you have to have some sort of disorder, anxiety, or be sanctioned by health service. If this were true, than 30% of your classmates wouldn’t be attending the counseling center on a regular basis. However, as a result of the 40% increase of students who have been utilizing its services, the counseling center is now encouraging more group therapy and mindfulness exercises in order to ensure that all students will receive care.
However, the Counseling Center insists that all students experiencing crises will be able to receive one-on-one counseling always, whenever necessary. So, next time you’re getting ready to unload your problems on your roommate, or even just the next person you run into, call the counseling center, or just drop by.
Phone: (207) 725-3145
Let’s start a conversation…about our bodies
by Greg Rosen
We’ve all been there. Navigating our way in Moulton, we pass the desserts. We immediately begin to drool over the blueberry crumble. For some, ambivalent questions may surface and take control. Did I exercise today? How much am I going to have to work out to burn off these calories? Am I going to get “fat”?
Body consciousness. It exists. It’s real. And unfortunately, we don’t seem to talk about it that openly. Could you imagine yourself having this conversation out loud at Bowdoin? Most people would shun this type of discourse. But this input-output calculus can still take place in our heads. Perhaps because we don’t talk about the problem we become desensitized to the issues.
The input-output function of food doesn’t just happen at the individual level. It happens at a societal level. We live in a culture that equates health with body size. “Fat,” thus, becomes unwanted. We internalize messages – from television, from magazine, from social media – that “looking healthy” is “being healthy.” Nothing is wrong with looking healthy, but prioritizing looking healthy may actually lead us to make unhealthy choices. Take, for instance, body size. If we as a community value one specific body type, our goals and daily functions become systematized around the attainment of that body type. Exercise becomes a task, not a joy. Eating, additionally, can become a tool for molding our bodies into an ideal type, as if our bodies where malleable clay – things that we not only can alter through controlled actions but should be altering.
Most problematic perhaps is the rejection of difference in body discourse. “Fat talk” associates “fat” as being undesirable and unhealthy. Every healthcare practitioner, however, will tell you that body fat is necessary for survival and improves overall health outcomes. It seems we live in a society – and possibly even a world – that has replaced health with image. Looking like the ideal type not only becomes more desirable than being healthy – but it actually comes to define “healthy.”
This is not the message we should be hearing from a heath perspective. People’s bodies change over time, and likewise, their self-awareness of their bodies changes at different points in time. Body size shouldn’t matter to us as long as we are making healthy choices about our body. But what is a “healthy” body choice? In reality, it depends on the individual. Eating a donut to relieve stress can be just as much a healthy choice as eating a salad for lunch to get the necessary nutrients our bodies need to function at their highest level. What matters is context. Health doesn’t just have to be about what types of food we eat. It also has to do with the context in which we are making particular food choices.
Why does being body conscious matter at all? Because being body conscious sucks. But that doesn’t mean we should accept it. Because body consciousness is a product of culture, we have the power to change that culture through our language. Start a conversation: talk to your friends and your family, be mindful of the language you and others around you use when talking about their bodies, and compliment each other. The only way we can change how we talk about our bodies is by actually talking about our bodies – and talking about them in positive ways.
Please and Thank you, thank you very much
by Maeve O’Leary
Remember what your mother said about using your manners? Maybe to your chagrin, but to her satisfaction, she was right. As it turns out, saying “thank you” can provide the most selfish of benefits: making us happier. Even with Thanksgiving a whole month away, studies show there is never a wrong time to express gratitude towards others, whether that be through a simple “thanks” to a stranger, or through calling your mom to thank her for teaching you to use your manners, or through giving a dramatic recitation to your best friend, listing the reasons you love her, giving thanks helps people fell more positive emotions.
Two psychologists at the University of California, Davis, experimented with the theory to research gratitude. In one study they asked all participants to write a few sentences a week, expressing things they were grateful for. A second group wrote about daily irritations affecting them that week. After 10 weeks, the first group felt more optimistic about their lives, exercising more and requiring fewer physician visits, while the second group grew even more aggravated.
In another experiment done by the online video group, Soul Pancake (link below), volunteers were called in to speak about someone for whom they were grateful. After they expressed themselves, they were told to call that person. Results were positive—most subjects ended up moved in some way by the experience, either through laughter or crying or simply touching the one they had called on the telephone. If you’re in the mood to tear up a little in the union, watch the video yourself.
Or if you need an easy pick-me-up, just say the two words: “thank you.”
*Thanks to Emmy Danforth for her video recommendation!
Bowdoin’s Day of Stomp Out Stigma
by Zach Danssaert
I like to think of social stigma as the severe disapproval of a person because of a trait that indicates their deviance from social norms. The sub-conscious need to differentiate people who we consider different from what we construct to be normal is a flaw deeply ingrained in human nature that has led to some of the most devastating historical atrocities. From slavery to the holocaust, we cannot pretend to deny that our innate need to categorize leaves humankind in a far worse state.
While America as a whole has become more accepting with respect to perceived traits such as sexual orientation and race, social stigma remains extremely prevalent. From my experience, the stigmatizer is generally the person with self-esteem issues. By putting someone down, the stigmatizer enhances their self-confidence. For example, a student with bad grades might pick on a smart student by calling the student a nerd to compensate for his or her own inadequacies in the classroom. The negative stereotyping of individuals like the A+ student can cause stigmatized groups to have low self-esteem and depression. So what is being done to diminish the amount of social stigma in America? Large corporations like active minds and your very own Bowdoin College are working hard to make a difference.
For the tenth year in a row active minds will hold its 10th national “Stomp Out Stigma Walk” held at Georgetown University on November 15th. Those who have been affected by stigma, or just want to support friends and family, come together from all around the country to break the silence about social stigma with mental health. On a smaller, but just as important scale, Bowdoin College will be hosting its very own Day Without Stigma. This event will take place over the span of two days. The first day of the campaign a “Stomp Out Stigma” event will take place where a giant sheet of bubble wrap will be placed on the floor of Smith Union where students can come to literally stomp out stigma. For the second day of the event a table at the Union will be giving out anonymous compliment cards to place in friends’ mailboxes. This will serve to promote positive outlooks around campus. Finally, on Tuesday night a movie screening will be held at Mac House playing the film, “When Medicine Got it Wrong,” which is about the revolutionary movement of the treatment of psychiatric patients.
This is Why I’m Limping
Two Bowdoin Peer Healthers, Greg Rosen and Maeve O’Leary took on 26.2 miles at the Maine Marathon this past Sunday. Here are their accounts of the event:
I am not a runner. I was never on a track team, I’ve never had a coach, I’ve never been relied on to perform for a group of people. So when I finally did start running coming into Bowdoin three years ago it became something sacred—something that I did just for me. I would take off down Maine Street and just keep running until I hit the ocean, and just keep going until I found some more.
I can still barely run 3 miles on a treadmill, but as I explored the outskirts of Brunswick and Freeport, I found I could keep going as long as I wanted to as long as I had ocean to look forward to and my friend Helen by my side, chatting all the while. This summer we just kept running until we realized that there was a chance we could keep going until we hit 26.2 miles, the ultimate bucket-list item for both of us.
Running a marathon was harder than I thought it was going to be. I mean, duh it was. But what surprised me during the actual race was what came around mile 22—a new kind of pain I hadn’t felt before that came from just the constant four and some hours of pounding my legs on Yarmouth pavement. It started in my aching Achilles, drifted up my shins, hit my quads, my knees, hamstrings, and finally up to my precious gluts, as Helen and I repeated aloud: we’re doing this, we’re doing this, we’re doing this, to keep us moving.
But the best part, the part they don’t tell you about in training guides, or articles you find when you google “how to run a marathon for swimmers” as I had months before, is that this pain has the power to just disappear upon crossing the finish-line. That even though today I still hobble like Bambi on newborn legs or a senior citizen without her walker, that pain subsided for just a few moments as Helen and I caught each others’ eyes: We did this.
In some sports, they say no amount of training can mimic the conditions or the experience you will have on “game day.” When it came to training for my first marathon, I thought running outside – in the heat, in the frigid cold, and even in the pouring rain – would test my abilities to adapt to the environment and help me push through extreme weather. There was one thing that training could never prepare me for, but it was the one thing that helped me cross the finish line with a huge smile: the sense of community I felt running alongside other people.
I always enjoyed running outside on my own. Running has always been my meditation – a time when I put the world aside entirely and check in with myself, giving myself the time to reflect. Running the 26.2 miles in the company of others, cheering me on as they even passed me on the racecourse, was reaffirming. It made me delighted to keep running, and it gave me the chance to remind myself about why I loved running. Perhaps the best part of this race was having random spectators give me a high five as I sped on past them, or offer me pretzels and fruit when I needed it most (I started crashing around mile 22). I never thought of running as a team sport, but these acts of kindness made the sense of individuality I felt while running disappear. It felt as though the spectators were invested in my running, even though they did not know me, and they were going to do everything in their power to make sure I crossed that finish line. I felt like these strangers were on my team – and they wanted me to win.