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Permanent link for 4 Tips for 4 Years: Advice from a Graduating Senior on April 27, 2022

I can hardly believe I am graduating in a few days. My freshman year was four years ago, but it seems like yesterday. I’ve grown a lot in the last few years, and I often think about how I felt at the start of my degree. In this blog, I hope to share some ideas and resources that have helped me to not just ‘survive’ but thrive in college!

1. Sleep

The importance of good sleep is old news on the RecWell blog - in fact I’ve already dedicated a whole post on how much of an effect poor sleep can have on one's life. This was something that I had struggled with in high school; come my freshman year I reached a point where I had to make a change.

I was formally diagnosed with insomnia and greatly appreciate the help of my doctor and counselor. It can be scary to walk into these spaces but understand that they are here to help you! Everyone should be sleeping at least 7 hours on a consistent schedule. In order to fix my sleeping patterns I set specific bed and wake up times. I also used sound-canceling headphones or white noise such as a box fan or the app BetterSleep along with techniques learned in my counseling sessions.

2. Get organized (and motivated).

A good planner can help you reach your academic and personal goals. This may be a physical planner or something online. I personally carried a notebook or daily planner then at the end of the day entered important due dates into a google calendar. My google calendar leads into the next and maybe most important point of this topic: motivation.

What motivates you to complete your work? For me, I loved to make things look aesthetically pleasing. I color-coded my google calendar, created Pinterest moodboards, and used studying websites such as LifeAt to keep myself motivated and organized. Explore different studying techniques - what works best for you?

3. Understand your relationships.

We make a lot of connections in our daily life. It can be hard to find where you fit in, or to figure out which relationships are actually a positive influence. It can be scary to put yourself out there or walk into new spaces. - but college provides us with so many opportunities to do so! Getting involved in a new sport, joining a club, or something smaller like turning to the person next to you in a class can lead to connections.

Sometimes you may have relationships that aren’t so positive. It is ok to set boundaries with people in your life, whether it’s a professor, a roommate, or a close friend. Not sure how? Our Wellness Coaches and Wellness Navigators can help!

4. Find what helps you destress.

College is stressful and can make it feel like everything is in a state of constant change. It’s easy, and well sucks, to just sulk in your room all day. What do you actually enjoy doing and learning about? There is rarely a better time than now to figure out what makes you happy. Get involved in the community, read a book (is it pretentious to link my goodreads?), or try a new workout. Maybe you just need to take a long bath! Whatever it is, make sure that you set aside time for yourself and your well-being. What was hard for me to grasp is that I can’t always please everyone and that it is perfectly ok to have time dedicated to ‘nothing’. I often wrote personal time into my planner.

So there it is: 4 tips for 4 years. I hope anyone reading this can find ways to improve not only their college experience but their overall well-being. Peace!

By: Stella Sterling, WIT Peer Educator

Part of our WIT Blog Series

Categories: General Wellness Rest
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for 4 Tips for 4 Years: Advice from a Graduating Senior on April 27, 2022.



Permanent link for On the Fence about Supplements? on April 21, 2022

The world of supplements can be a confusing and vast landscape. Nutritional or Dietary supplements are defined by the FDA as “products taken by mouth that contain a "dietary ingredient." This could be vitamins, minerals, protein, and many more substances intended to supplement the nutrients you get from the food you eat. It can be hard to determine if supplements are necessary, what supplements you should take, and if supplements even work. 

It is important to meet all of your vitamin and mineral needs but it can be hard to know if supplements are the best way to do that or if there are other options. Many studies now indicate that most dietary supplements are ineffective or can cause more harm than good, yet numerous companies advertise the many positive effects of their products. Eating a balanced diet full of nutrient rich foods is actually better than supplements because whole foods are more nutrient-dense, are a source of fiber, contain health protective substances, and are usually cheaper than supplements. Here’s a general guide on the most commonly used supplements and some tips on how to get a nutrient rich diet without supplements.

Vitamins and Minerals 101

There are two types of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble

Water-soluble - These vitamins dissolve in water are easy to absorb into the body, but are not stored in the body's tissues. This makes it very important to get enough of these vitamins in your diet each day. Any water-soluble vitamins the body doesn't absorb go down the drain - literally - when you use the bathroom.

Fat-soluble - These vitamins dissolve in fat and the body stores them in fat tissue and can draw from those stores as needed. This means if you get too much of these vitamins they will stay in your body and can have negative health effects. The fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E, and K. When supplementing these vitamins it's important to not exceed the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (shortened to UL). This limit is the largest amount of a vitamin you can take without experiencing negative health effects. It is very unlikely to reach this limit from food alone.

Now that we know the different kinds of vitamins we are going to go through some of the most commonly used supplements by young adults. We will cover why each vitamin is important, how you can get more in your diet through food, and some risks of taking it as a supplement.

Multivitamins 

Many people take multivitamins, but aren’t sure exactly why they are taking them other than “vitamins are good for you.” There is actually no definitive evidence that multivitamins improve health or prevent illness. The main issue with multivitamins is that many foods we eat regularly have been fortified, meaning they have had vital nutrients and vitamins added so that we get our recommended daily amount. When you combine a multivitamin with our already fortified diets, you can quickly end up with an excess of vitamins and nutrients in your body, which can be dangerous. Another fact to keep in mind is that most of the benefits that multivitamins claim to have aren’t backed by science and are simply a product of marketing. If you do still want to take a multivitamin and you can always take half or take a children's multivitamin so you are not getting too much of any one vitamin or mineral. (But you should check with a nutrition professional before doing so). A balanced diet is the best way to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is crucial for calcium absorption in the intestines. Vitamin D helps maintain bone health, as it is key for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. It is a very common vitamin supplement, likely because 70% of adults in the United States are deficient in vitamin D. To learn more about some factors that contribute to this, check out Stella's blog post about sunlight and its effect on mood. Vitamin D in the right dose can safely help with deficiencies, just make sure you speak with a healthcare professional to determine if you are deficient before you start taking any supplements. Vitamin D is not found in many foods in substantial amounts, fatty fish like salmon and tuna are good sources. There are also lots of foods that are fortified and are good sources of vitamin d and other vitamins, this is often dairy products and their plant-based alternatives

Antioxidants ( vitamin A and vitamin E )

Both Vitamin A and E are fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin A is important for eye health, white blood cell production, maintaining the health of endothelial and bone cells, and it regulates cell growth and division. Vitamin E helps with immune system function and helps prevent arterial clots

Antioxidants have been marketed as protection from cancer and illness, but there is no substantial data to support this. The data we have shows that these vitamins can become toxic and increase the risk of long-term illnesses in some cases. Because of the dangers of high doses of these supplements, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional before taking them. It’s also important to know that taking antioxidant supplements for the prevention of illness isn’t backed by data or science. Some good food sources of vitamin A are leafy greens, orange and yellow vegetables, tomatoes, red bell peppers, milk, eggs,cantaloupe, and mango. Some good food sources of vitamin E are plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, pumpkin, red bell pepper, asparagus, and avocado.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so its important to get enough each day. Vitamin C plays a role in healing infections and wounds, it aids in the production of collagen, and plays a role in neurological function. Many people incorrectly believe that vitamin C can prevent or cure a cold. There isn’t much science to back this up. Vitamin C is considered safe in moderate doses, just don’t expect it to ward off cold and flu season germs. Some food sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli/cauliflower, and potatoes.

Vitamin B 12

Vitamin B is a water-soluble vitamin, so it is also important to get enough everyday. Vitamin B12 is a very common supplement for people who follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet because it is mostly found in meat and dairy products. However, unless directed by a professional to take it as a supplement, you can obtain your daily value through fortified grain products like cereals, oatmeal, and both dairy and non-dairy varieties of milk. Outside of a plant-based diet, vitamin B12 deficiency is rare.

Protein and similar supplements

Eating enough protein in your diet is important because protein is vital for the maintenance and growth of muscle. May people take protein powder supplements to help them reach their fitness goals, but just like all the vitamins we discussed food is often a better bet than a supplement. Whole foods are often cheaper than protein supplements and contain other important nutrients you need. Its important to get as much of your protein from plant based sources as you can, as plant based foods are lower in saturated fat and better for overall health. Some good sources are legumes like beans and lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts, and artichokes. If you want to include meat into your diet you should try and limit your red meat and processed meat intake. Poultry, seafood, and dairy in moderation are good options.

So what now? 

The biggest takeaway from this should be that vitamins and supplements should be treated like any other medicine. You should always consult a doctor before taking them. If you don’t have a deficiency or a specialized diet, there is often no need for them. Eating a variety of food is cheaper and healthier than taking a supplement. Another big takeaway is that you do need vitamins and minerals for your body to function properly, but humans have survived for so long without commercial man-made supplements. If there is a particular vitamin you think you need more of, do some research to find what foods are naturally high in that vitamin and incorporate more of them into your diet. Many people wonder if they should be taking a vitamin or supplement, but for most of us we can get our vitamins better from the food we use to fuel our body .

If you want to learn more about getting vitamins and minerals from food check out this resource from the Harvard School of Public Health or you can talk to GVSU's Laker Food Co. Dietitian.

By: Eva VanWyck, WIT Peer Educator

Part of our WIT Blog Series

Categories: General Wellness Nutrition
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for On the Fence about Supplements? on April 21, 2022.



Permanent link for Microaggressions on April 15, 2022

*Content warning: This blog post will discuss bias towards historically marginalized groups, providing examples of microaggressions experienced by these individuals.

Kevin Nadal, a professor of psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, defines microaggressions as “everyday, subtle, and oftentimes unintentional interactions or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias toward historically marginalized groups”. It’s important to note that microaggressions can be intentional, just like macroaggresions (which we usually refer to as discrimination or oppression), but often they’ve become so ingrained into a society or culture that they aren’t noticed or even known to be offensive. And don’t be fooled just because the word ‘micro’ is the prefix - these offenses are anything but. They can cause anywhere from casual annoyance to severe depression and trauma in individuals depending on the frequency, severity, and cause of the aggression. Microaggressions can happen anywhere and be committed by anyone. They can be said about any number of personal identity markers or traits such as race, sexuality, income, body image or weight, religion, etc. 

Here are some examples of common microaggressions*: 

Examples on the topic of race

  • “I’m not racist. I have black friends.” → Someone can still be racist with friends of color.
  • “You don't sound black.” → Here the offensive suggestion is being made that a person should sound like something because of their color/race/ethnicity.

Examples on the topic of LGBTQIA+

  • “That’s gay.” → Here, being or seeming, gay is being equated to being bad. 
  • The use of ‘he/she’ in writing, or the argument that ‘they’ can’t be a singular pronoun → Using he/she is still excluding certain genders and gender pronouns, and arguing that ‘they’ is not grammatically correct in the singular tense is simply factually false.
  • “I just don’t support that lifestyle.” → Here the speaker is assuming that being queer is a choice, when it is actually a natural part of who someone is. 

Examples on the topic of fitness , nutrition, and wellness

  • Saying “I don’t eat ____ it’s so unhealthy.” when someone is eating _____ → The implication could be that the person eating said food is also unhealthy. A moral judgment on food is given.
  • “Someone like you shouldn’t wear something so revealing.” → Making the assumption that someone is unhealthy based on their body size and that only certain clothing can be worn by certain people. 

How and Why Do Microaggressions Happen?

Ultimately, microaggressions are due to a systemic and foundational lack of intersectional education at a nationwide level. When we don’t learn about people different from ourselves, we never learn how to positively interact with other behaviors, cultures, and identities. Microaggressions feed into a system of ignorance and mistreatment or harm of others, and they reflect a lack of understanding or respect for an individual’s lived experiences. 

Just a Few Effects

Family, friends and community can sometimes be perpetrators of the microaggressions, and less time may be spent with them because of this. They can also lessen involvement in school, work and volunteering due to stress or anxiety about possible microaggressions or simply the traumatic knowledge that one will be seen incorrectly and this could have dangerous consequences. The Harvard Gazette says microaggressions cause an "onslaught of injuries to the psyche that may seem unrelenting and can result in everything from depression, fatigue, and anger to physical ailments such as chronic infections, thyroid problems, and high blood pressure."

What Can You Do?

Make sure to always listen to others with an open perspective and be willing to hear ideas, opinions, and experiences that might be different or even in conflict with your own. This will allow for a more deeper sense of understanding and empathizing to occur, and hopefully lead to a stronger connection between individuals. You can also search out research and biographies or personal experiences that have been offered to learn more about what experiencing microaggressions and living as a member of a marginalized community feels like (but don’t just go ask your friend that you know is gay or black - we don’t want to burden someone who hasn’t offered with the need to educate us). As cliché as it sounds, remember the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. 

By: Beck Lukins and Eva VanWyck,WIT Peer Educators

Part of our WIT Blog Series.

Categories: General Wellness
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Microaggressions on April 15, 2022.



Permanent link for What Does "Balance" Look Like? on April 7, 2022

We see the word “balance” everywhere and most of us can agree there are things we could do to improve it in our lives - but how? Before we can even think about how we can improve balance in our lives, we need to fully understand what the concept of balance means to us individually. The word balance will often be used to describe nutrition, the amount of exercise we’re getting, or “the work-life balance.” Balance can mean all of these things and represent aspects of our lives on so many levels; the important part is just reflecting on how you would like balance to look like in your own life. 

Balance is different for everyone and everyone is seeking a different level of it. As college students, we’re at a unique point in our lives juggling school, work, leadership positions, social activities, and overall learning how to be functional adults. It’s hard to find balance, but there are a few reasons for why it might be so hard and of course ways to help find balance in your own life. 

The “All or Nothing” Mentality

When it comes to trying to find balance in my own life, I often find myself dealing with the same type of issue. Balance can be difficult to achieve, no matter who you are. One minute, you feel like you’re doing it all - exercising regularly, eating well, finishing all of your basic household tasks, socializing, and getting lots of work done. It feels great - you feel productive, energized, and ahead of life. But as I have experienced myself, it feels hard and almost exhausting to do this consistently, and when I don’t do all of these things I end up being extremely hard on myself. 

But there’s great news - you don’t have to do it all and most people are feeling the same exact way. Balance is all about doing what you can (and sure, challenging yourself a bit too) but shedding the guilt that comes along with “not being productive'' (when in reality, you may be being very productive in another way). This thought pattern of thinking you need to do everything to have a healthy and positive life all at once is part of a negative thought pattern called the “All or Nothing” mentality. If you’ve been feeling trapped in this cycle as I have, do not fear! There are ways to combat these negative thought patterns and begin incorporating balance into your life. 

Finding Balance

  • Replace Negative Thoughts: Understand rest and social activities are just as, if not more important, than an assignment‌ at times. Don’t let negativity spoil the fun of social activities or having a rest day. Losing balance in our lives can sometimes be a way to find it again. 
  • Reframe Your Thinking: Adopt healthy habits one or two at a time. You don’t have to do everything at once. Long-term lifestyle changes can be gradual and take a while to become a habit. Also, start integrating your life. What does this mean? Stop compartmentalizing your work, school, and social time. Instead of viewing these separately, reframe them as parts of your life that collaborate. For example, instead of thinking about your work and social life as competing with one another, think about these as all part of your day - sometimes you might need to work more to get something done, but then spend more time spending time with friends another time. 
  • Learn to Say NO: Understand it’s totally okay to say no to things or take a break if you need it. Becoming an advocate for yourself and what you spend your time doing will give you the control to create balance in your life, whatever that means for you.
  • Listen to Your Body and Mind: As simple as it may seem, sometimes we tend to bypass the signals our body and mind are trying to send us. Be kind to yourself and the cues your body and mind are giving you. If you don’t listen to these cues, you can end up feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. These may include exhaustion, irritability, anxiety, frequent colds/viruses, low confidence, not responding to friends/family, etc. 
  • Find an Activity that Makes YOU Feel Like YOU: Set time aside for a hobby you have, set time aside to start a hobby you want to try, set time aside for YOU. Even things like journaling, reading, meditating, or stretching can be ways to ground yourself and figure out what kind of balance you want in your life. 

For more ways to incorporate balance in your life, check out these links:

Psychology Today

Intelligent Change 

Explore Your Wellness

If you are struggling to evaluate your own wellness, or are just interested in measuring the areas you would like to improve in, here is a quick activity you can do at home to measure how you’re doing between all eight dimensions of wellness: emotional, environmental, financial, spiritual, social, intellectual, physical, and occupational. 

For this activity, all you will need is a piece of blank paper and a pen or a pencil. You can draw the diagram on the top (in second image of blog post) and make sure each section of the circle is labeled with the dimensions of wellness. Once you have the diagram drawn, rate how you’re feeling in each dimension by shading in each level (1= less well and 5= most well). Once you have it filled in, it should look something like the diagram on the bottom. You can use this tool to gauge how you’re feeling and reflect on what you might do really well in, but also some areas you might see room for improvement. 

For more information on the eight dimensions of wellness, the Recreation & Wellness website has resources available on each dimension. You can also take this quiz to help you think a little bit more about each dimension (no score is given at the end).

Balance Takes Time

No matter where you are in your wellness journey, the key to balance is to be kind and patient with yourself. Changes and habits aren’t formed overnight and “achieving” balance is a long-term investment in yourself. Slow down, take a breath, and take some time to reflect on the types of balance that make you the happiest and feel like the best version of yourself.  

Finding Balance at GVSU

This month, the Press Pause Campaign at Grand Valley is focused on Balance. If you are feeling overwhelmed and struggling to find balance in your life (whatever that means for you), Grand Valley has a variety of resources available for students. Recreation and Wellness offer Wellness Navigation, Wellness Coaching, and a monthly speaker series. The University Counseling Center also offers counseling services to GVSU students, free of charge. 

By: Sofia Hessler, WIT Peer Educator

Part of our WIT Blog Series.

Example of the "Explore Your Wellness" activity.

Categories: General Wellness Press Pause
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for What Does "Balance" Look Like? on April 7, 2022.



Permanent link for Sex Positivity and Empowerment: the Autonomy in Feeling Good on March 28, 2022

Sex is more than a just a desire or behavior - it’s a part of the human life cycle, and likely it’s something that most people will experience or engage in at some point in their lives. Since sex is so common in the world, it’s worth taking a look at how we can learn more about it, and how that knowledge can help us going forward. 

The Sex Positivity Movement

The term “sex positivity” wasn’t coined until the 1920’s, when psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich began speaking on the different aspects of humanity. He suggested that sex was a normal part of human life and was actually healthy for the body. While his ideas didn’t gain much traction at the time, they were picked up and revitalized in the 1960’s, an era often referred to as “the sexual revolution”. Since then, it has turned into a movement based on the idea that no one should judge another for their sexual activities (or lack thereof) as long as everything is consensual. The sex positivity movement centers around the belief that sex is a healthy and normal part of life and is something to enjoy, not something to be ashamed of. In recent years it has become a direct response and solution to sex negativity and shame culture. Many in the movement advocate for more comprehensive sex ed, healthy sexual exploration, and supporting all sexualities and identities. 

Consent Tastes Good as FRIES

I’m sure we’ve all heard about consent before. It’s that thing teachers try to use lots of metaphors for in school, like pizza or ice cream, and how if you don’t really want seconds that’s the same thing as ‘no means no’. In reality, consent is a little more detailed than that. Thanks to Planned Parenthood, we can use the acronym FRIES and break it down:

  • Freely given: must be given of someone’s free will with no coercion, gaslighting or manipulation.
  • Reversible : a “yes” can become a no at any time regardless of circumstance, no questions asked.
  • Informed: everyone involved knows exactly what they are agreeing to and what limits there are.
  • Enthusiastic : only “yes” means yes - not maybe, whatever, sure, I guess, or I don’t know. If  there is any hesitation or uncertainty, everyone involved should stop and communicate.
  • Specific + Sober : “yes” only means yes to whatever was spoken and agreed upon. If someone wants to do something new, they should check in with their partner(s) again. A person must also be sober to obtain and give consent, and it’s a legal requirement in the state of Michigan. 

Consent should be the very first step to any activity, especially ones of physical or sexual nature. Anything other than a “yes” is a no, so take care of others (whether you know them or not) and yourself, and never take advantage of a person or situation. We all have control of our own bodies and no one should be able to take that away from us. 

Pleasure = Power 

When something is reclaimed, power is restored. For hundreds of years, active expression of sexuality (especially female sexuality) has been oppressed and shamed. This has led to sex, sexuality, and most related topics being considered ‘taboo’ or shameful and censored in society. Pleasure is something everyone has a right to in whatever form it looks like for them. This is because we as people have autonomy: power over ourselves to make decisions concerning our bodies and to act in accordance to our personal values and interests. By reclaiming our right to pleasure and refusing the shame society tries to place on it, we reclaim power over ourselves. In this way pleasure can be used as a tool to help someone feel more confident, gain more control, learn more about themselves, understand theirs and others’ bodies, and make more informed decisions regarding physical intimacy. 

Reclaiming bodily autonomy and learning to embrace pleasure can be hard. Most people aren’t raised with a sex-positive outlook, and most sex education programs teach only the risks of sex and not the benefits. It can take lots of time, patience, introspection, self-nurturing, and bravery before someone feels like they’re ready to try something new, or even admit to themselves they haven’t fully loved what they’ve been doing. Becoming comfortable with your body and learning to communicate what you want and not shy away from pleasure takes trust - with yourself or with anyone else. 

Masturbation and Stimulation 

Masturbation is the quickest and easiest way to learn what feels good. Masturbation is self-stimulation of the genitals and other parts of the body for sexual pleasure. It can’t hurt you or become addictive, and no one can tell someone masturbates just by looking at them. Masturbation is actually scientifically proven to have several health benefits, including stress relief, better/easier sleep, and relief of menstrual cramps. Regular masturbation or orgasm is said to help with depression and anxiety as it produces an extreme amount of endorphins and lowers the amount of cortisol in the brain (a hormone related to high stress levels). It can also greatly improve self-esteem, sexual validation, and confidence. Being able to speak to what you like in the bedroom can be very empowering, and it can also help sex (whatever that is for you) be a more pleasurable or positive experience. To read more about masturbation and orgasm, try our blog post Foreplay, Orgasm and Self-Pleasure

Playing with Toys

Sex toys are another easy way to reclaim power over your pleasure. Toys can be used to enhance or change the pleasure or dynamic experienced during sex. They can also be used as an aid to help with sexual dysfunction, low libido, gender dysphoria, anorgasmia, and disability. Regardless of the reason, having a toy in hand can make you feel powerful - it can be proof that you care enough about yourself to make a purchase to support your happiness and pleasure. That same kind of pride someone might feel when buying a new uniform after making the team, or buying new shoes for an upcoming show, can be felt making purchases for your pleasure. 

There are a TON of different kinds of toys - some are made for specific genitalia, some are made for 1 person vs 2 or more people, and some are made for certain kinds of activities. No matter what you’re into, remember that it’s okay to want whatever you want. That’s what’s so awesome about pleasure; it’s personalized and special to everyone, so no one has exactly the same mixture of tastes and turn-ons as someone else. Your pleasure is uniquely yours, and you have the authority on who, what, when, where, how, and even if it’s ever shared, used or discovered. 

Dipping a Toe into the Deep End

Kink is another world that is often used for reclaiming power and autonomy within sex. When being done correctly kink and BDSM should be based on consent, pleasure, setting & negotiating boundaries, and mutual respect between everyone involved. It may seem unlikely or even backwards to some, but the kink community and the spaces where it is practiced tend to be safer and healthier in relation to sex culture, and often feature less sexual violence and more responsibility than the ‘vanilla’ world. Kink can be a helpful tool to unlearn shame, as a large proponent of kink is enjoyment of sex and pleasure in ways deviant from the mainstream. Many victim-survivors of sexual assault also use kink/BDSM as a method of healing, re-liberation, and redefining trauma. There is great power in having control over or being self-aware of your relationship to sex and pleasure: what you want now and what you may want in the future. Kink is just one more possible path to use to explore that relationship in a way that is based on autonomy. 

You Have the Power

Ultimately, sex is a choice - some people may never want it, some people may never have it, some people may have it all the time, and others might only want to have it with a certain someone. No matter what choices you make regarding your body and your pleasure, it is your choice. We all have personal autonomy and we can use that power to ensure our experiences are as positive and pleasurable as possible - even ones that aren’t sexual! Remember, consent needs to be the first step in any situation so that everyone keeps their power of choice. 

For more follow: @sexpositivefamilies (an educational insta about consent, sex positivity, and how to talk about/react to different sexual health topics!) 

By: Beck Lukins (they/them/theirs), WIT Peer Educator  

Part of our WIT Blog Series

Categories: General Wellness Sexual Health
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Sex Positivity and Empowerment: the Autonomy in Feeling Good on March 28, 2022.



Permanent link for What is Diet Culture? on March 24, 2022

Diet culture is a wide-reaching phenomenon of encouraging and expecting extreme weight loss, deeming certain foods bad or good, and the false implication that to be healthy you need to lose weight and you need to do it with a diet. Diet and weight loss culture profit on fatphobia (also known as weight stigma) and making people feel uncomfortable in their own body. We are often made to feel that our bodies are wrong and in need of changing but, this is not true. It is important to remember that you can be healthy at any size and the implication that having fat on your body is something to be ashamed of is just plain wrong. Body size does not indicate health, and the most important thing is that you feel good in your own body and that you give it the right fuel and tools so it can do its job best.

(We also know that it’s hard to feel good in your body sometimes, so one of our peer educators wrote a whole post about Body Neutrality! You should check it out to learn more about accepting your body as it is.)

Diet culture has many manifestations and it can be tricky to know if a piece of information is sound nutritional advice or if it is part of diet culture. So, how do you know if something is diet culture? Bethany Wheeler, a registered and licensed dietician, has a Diet Culture Litmus test that is a great tool to use to determine if something is part of diet culture.

Is it diet culture?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it body shaming or claiming someone's body is the problem?
  • Does it label foods as either bad or good, or bash certain foods?
  • Is it saying food must be earned or burned off with exercise?
  • Does it only see food as fuel and look down on emotional eating?
  • Does it paint people as good or better for pursuing health?
  • Does it paint people who aren't pursuing health as lazy or lacking willpower and grit?
  • Does it ignore the fact that privilege, resources, and funds impact people's health related choices?

An answer of yes to any of these should make you wary of that information potentially being a product of diet culture.

Bad Fads: Diet trends not worth your time

Over time, a variety of fad diets have come and gone as a part of diet culture - all echoing a similar claim: quick and easy weight loss! As we said, body size and weight do not necessarily determine health so this claim is a signal that a diet does not have your best interest in mind. Most of these diets can even harm your body because many cause rapid weight loss that is not recommended by the CDC or other exercise and health professionals. The CDC states that an appropriate amount of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week. This can be achieved with a slight calorie deficit and/or increased physical activity. They also mention an important point: when weight loss is gradual, the weight is more likely to stay off. Many of these popular diets cause rapid weight fluctuation. This is called Yo-Yo dieting and it has many negative effects beyond weight changes. It can lead to loss of muscle mass, higher risk for liver problems, increased risk of chronic disease, negative body image, and low body acceptance. Another problem with most of these popular diets is that though you may lose weight, that weight loss is probably not coming from where you think it is. The weight lost in extreme calorie deficit diets is usually muscle, bone, and water loss and body’s fat stores are maintained or even increased. If improving health is your goal, then diets with extreme calorie deficits that promote rapid weight loss are ones to avoid.

Keto

The Keto diet was developed to control epilepsy in children. According to Mayo Clinic, besides for those with epilepsy, there is little evidence to support the use of this diet in any other population and evidence is unclear as to whether or not this diet is safe for the general population. The reason being that this diet is high in fat and protein and very low in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are essential nutrients, meaning they are needed for your body to function properly - they are actually our bodies’ preferred source of fuel. Severely limiting them means you will be lacking essential parts of your diet and at risk of nutrient deficiency. This also often means unsaturated fats are in excess in this diet and foods like fruits and vegetables are very limited, which can increase your risk for chronic disease. With the lack of fruits and vegetables, this diet makes it extremely hard to get all the vitamins and nutrients you need and can lead to other serious medical complications. Some long term health effects are increased heart disease risk due to increased fat intake and poor cholesterol, increased risk of certain cancers, gastrointestinal problems, and prolonged nutrient deficiencies.  

Drastic calorie deficit diets

Many diet trends consist of cutting your calories drastically and eating with few other restrictions. The problem here is that many of the caloric intakes they recommend are often the daily requirements for young children. The average adult needs 2,000-2,800 calories daily. That number changes depending on your body and will increase if you are active. Calories are our body’s fuel and the number of calories you eat is less important than simply eating a variety of healthy foods and maintaining a balanced diet.

Juice cleanses

The reason you don’t need this diet is simple, your body doesn’t need a cleanse because it cleanses itself! Your liver and kidneys do this all on their own without any change in diet, they are experts at removing waste and unwanted substances from the body. If you need more convincing, these diets usually have very little results and can be pricey. You are better off skipping the juice cleanse and letting your body take care of any detoxifying.

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is about keeping your body free of carbs, so after 12-14 hours of fasting, your body begins burning fat. Though this diet can result in quick weight loss, it often triggers the Yo-Yo dieting we talked about earlier. On non-fasting days, you are more likely to eat more calories and more non-nutrient dense foods, which promotes weight gain. There are other negative side effects to this diet as well. Your body will feel very tired because it lacks the carbohydrates it needs to have energy throughout the day. This diet also causes lower levels of dopamine and serotonin, which can affect mental health. 

Science-based Swaps: science-supported diet changes that can positively impact health.

If you are looking to improve your overall health there are some ways to do it that are kinder to your body and support long term health improvements.

Plant-based diet

A plant-based diet consists of mostly or entirely plant-based foods (no animal sources). Plant-based foods include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and oils. There is an abundance of benefits to eating plant based. For example, this diet can lower blood pressure, promote heart health, decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, and many other diseases. A plant-based diet can also improve mental health! The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that “Research that looked at the impact of diet on emotional well-being and productivity at 10 corporate sites of a major U.S. insurance company found that a plant-based dietary intervention led to significantly reduced feelings of depression, anxiety, and fatigue”

Intuitive eating

Intuitive eating is a philosophy about giving your body what it needs when it needs it. Unlike a traditional diet, there are no guidelines or restrictions; the goal is treating your body well. Intuitive eating has many benefits, including improved cholesterol levels, higher self-esteem, reduced stress, and improved metabolism.

What is Most Important when it comes to Fueling our Body

Often getting physical activity, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding alcohol and smoking are more important for your health than your weight. Weight loss is not necessarily the path to health despite what diet culture tells us. Look out for the signs of diet culture and fad diets and take steps to promote your health in ways that make your body feel good.

Campus Resources

And, if you are struggling with navigating your way through food and nutrition, the GVSU's Laker Food Co. Dietitian, is available for appointments about general nutrition, weight loss, nutrient needs, allergy restrictions and so much more. It's free for students! Furthermore, if you are struggling with disordered eating or body image, the University Counseling Center has many resources to help.

By: Eva VanWyck, WIT Peer Educator

Part of our WIT Blog Series

Categories: General Wellness Nutrition
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for What is Diet Culture? on March 24, 2022.



Permanent link for Body Neutrality: Acceptance of Your Body as It Is on March 17, 2022

Content Warning

This blog post covers some potentially triggering topics. There will be content mentioning racism, black misogyny, slavery, sexual violence, fatphobia, body image, and eating disorders.    

What is Body Shaming? 

Before diving into body neutrality, it's important to know the background behind body shaming and fat-phobia. So, what is body shaming? Body shaming is the action of making someone feel uncomfortable by talking about aspects of their physical appearance. This type of bullying typically revolves around someone not living up to society’s ideals of what someone “should look like.”  

    Common Types of Body Shaming:

  • Fat Shaming: being shamed for being overweight 
  • Skinny Shaming: being shamed for being underweight
  • Body Hair Shaming: being shamed for having thick, darker body hair 
  • Food Shaming: being shamed for how much, how little, or what you eat
  • Pretty Shaming: being shamed for being “too pretty” and stereotyped as “dumb”

In addition to these, people can be shamed about their body type, skin color, hair color, masculinity (or lack of), breast-size, disability, or even common conditions like psoriasis or eczema.  While all of these are important issues, we’ll be focusing on body weight and size. We’re going to start off with a little bit of history about body-shaming before diving into its modern issues. 

History of Body Shaming in the US

Body shaming in the United States has been around forever, and has its origins deeply rooted in racism. At the beginning of the slave trade, skin color was the main factor that differentiated the enslaved from those who were free (aka the white people). Throughout the years of slavery in the U.S., white people subjected their slaves to so much rape and sexual abuse that generations later, there was no longer a distinct skin color difference to separate the races. From here, they began to rewrite what defined the racial categories. Sociology professor and author Sabrina Strings talked about this in her book Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia, where she said :

"...One of the things that the colonists believed was that Black people were inherently more sensuous, that people love sex and they love food, and so the idea was that Black people had more venereal diseases, and that Black people were inherently obese, because they lack self-control. And of course, self-control and rationality, after the Enlightenment, were characteristics that were deemed integral to Whiteness."   

This is obviously an absurd claim looking back on it, but at the time, this is what white people felt was necessary to remain the “elite” race. White people began to use weight and slenderness to determine social propriety–basically, their status in life. Anyone who did not fit the skinny eurocentric body type was looked down upon in society for years, even after the end of slavery.  

Later in the 1920’s and 1930’s medical doctors began to use words like sluggish, mammy and ugly to describe fat black women in popular Black magazines, and it slowly reinforced negative stereotypes and fatphobia across the country. This was the way of life until the 1960’s when people began to protest the negativity surrounding fat bodies.

Fat and Body Activism

In the midst of all the civil rights movements in the 60’s, groups of people decided to

speak out against all the hate in regards to bigger bodies. In 1967 a crowd of over 500 people gathered in New York City’s Central Park to protest absurd body standards. They were unapologetically loud in their opinions, and later even published an article titled “More People Should Be Fat.” Soon after the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) was established in 1969 to improve the quality of life for fat people. A few of the more radical members of NAAFA split from the main organization in the early 70’s to form a group called the Fat Underground. This group focused on feminism and gay activism. Two members, Judy Freespirit and Sara Aldebaran, actually created the Fat Liberation Manifesto to speak out against the discrimination these people faced.

“We believe that fat people are fully entitled to human respect and recognition. We are angry at the mistreatment by commercial and sexist interests. These have exploited our bodies as objects of ridicule, thereby creating an immensely profitable market selling the false promise of avoidance of, or relief from, that ridicule. We see our struggle as allied with the struggle of other oppressed groups, against classism, racism, sexism, ageism, capitalism, imperialism, and the like.”

        -Fat Liberation Manifesto

This started a very slow moving revolution of body activism, and what has turned into the modern “body positivity” movement we hear about today.  In 1972, a welfare activist Johnnie Tillmon wrote, “I’m a woman. I’m a Black woman. I’m a poor woman. I’m a fat woman. I’m a middle-aged woman. In this country, if you’re any one of those things you count less as a human being.” And it was true–there was so much misogyny and racism during those years that also being fat made things so much worse.  

The 70’s and 80’s were filled with so many skinny bodies, white girls with big hair, fad-diets, and intense exercising, that all of the protesting against the body-shaming of people of color sometimes gets kicked under the rug.  But, during these years, body activists were on daytime TV preaching for equality, people were protesting gyms with fatphobic ads, and as the internet started to become more well-known, it became a safe space for marginalized people to spread positivity about fat bodies. As mentioned before, this was a very slow moving revolution that didn’t really become totally mainstream until the 2010’s. 

2000’s “Body Positivity”

In the early 2000’s, body positivity was more so based on diet culture. If you were

working towards a skinnier body, then it was okay to love yourself. But if you were fat and okay with it, you were shamed.  There were even advertisements like this one here, promoting men to have affairs if their wives are overweight.  During this time when everyone was obsessed with being thin, you also couldn’t be too thin, because then people assumed you were anorexic or on drugs. There was really no winning for anyone.   In the magazines, actresses like Alicia Silverstone and Drew Barrymore were constantly body shamed for being “plus-sized,” despite having objectively slender bodies.  Even as a child-star, Candace Cameron from Full-House was criticized for having baby fat and being bigger than her co-stars. The media was ruthless when it came to body image and body shaming. 

One body-shaming phenomenon that we’ll be diving into a little more today is the era of America’s Next Top Model.  Starting in 2003, Tyra Banks was the host of America’s Next Top Model, and for those of you who know the show, you know just how problematic it was. On the show, young aspiring models went through a series of photoshoots and traveled the world to make it big, but they held these girls to insanely unhealthy and unrealistic beauty standards.  Despite Tyra preaching out against eating disorders, she and the panel of judges made constant passive aggressive comments about the size and weight of the contestants to the point where SO many of the girls developed eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia just to live up to dangerously skinny ideals.  This TV show was watched by young girls and women across the country, and sent a horrible message to everyone about body size. 

A few years later, Tyra herself started to gain a little bit of weight. Paparazzi took some unflattering pictures of her on vacation wearing a one-piece swimsuit, and received a horrible backlash from the media about how “fat” she’s gotten. In response, she went on national television in the same swimsuit and told those critics to “kiss her fat ass.” Everyone went crazy, and she was praised for fighting those critics. At this point, she was a body positivity icon. So many people began to look up to her for preaching that being fat is okay. Even though she was only 160 pounds with a slender frame, which is not even close to being “fat” or even “plus sized”, at this time, it was brave. She told women to love themselves despite their weight, stretch marks, cellulite, and rolls. This inspired so many women to love their own bodies, no matter what it looked like. 

Real Body Positivity

For the first few years, it was mainly mid-sized women who led this body positivity movement, but when it started to gain speed and attention, people of all shapes and sizes started to feel included. They were all told to love their bodies no matter what, because all bodies are beautiful. Untouched, real bodies were being shown on social media, and started to make their way into brands’ marketing like Dove and Aerie.  People started to address unrealistic body standards that no one could live up to.  Body positivity helped people challenge what society had been telling them for years about what they should weigh, what they should eat, what they should wear, how they should work out, and more.  It was really revolutionary, but also had its many flaws. 

Body Positivity and Why It Can Be Harmful:

In the body positivity movement, it encourages everyone to love and be confident in the way their body looks and feels–which is a great idea. But, unfortunately the movement has become very white-washed, and has strayed away from some of its original ideals.  When you look on Instagram or Twitter, it's filled with petite white women who sit all slouched with their tummy stuck out in hopes of showing off a body roll or two, with a caption saying something along the lines of “Having fat is okay! You’re gorgeous either way!” And this message is ABSOLUTELY true–having fat should not take away from your self image, but having a conventionally attractive, skinny white woman share this message often leaves the impression that you can love your body IF your end goal is to lose the fat. 

On the other hand, some people have taken body positivity to the other extreme: promoting healthy, fat bodies while shaming others who are skinny or in-shape. For example, singer Meghan Trainor released her hit single “All About That Bass” back in 2014 with the intention of being body positive, but it actually ended up being highly problematic.  In the song, she includes phrases such as “every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top,” which on its own is a cute and catchy lyric to make people feel better about themselves. But, the rest of the song builds people up by tearing down others. She makes comments about how she “ain't no size 2,” and refers to those who are as “skinny bitches,” painting smaller women in a negative light. From there, she says “I’m just playing, I know y’all think you’re fat,” which is just insensitive to those who struggle with their own body image.  Despite meaning well, she promoted the idea that you can love your body either if boys like it, or if you put down other women to get there, which is absolutely NOT what body positivity is about.  Today’s body positivity also lacks representation of black bodies, trans bodies, disabled bodies, and many, many others who are criticized for the way they look. Instead of participating in body positivity, many have chosen to go with body neutrality instead. 

Body Neutrality as an Alternative to Body Positivity

So, what is body neutrality? The basic principle of it is accepting your body as it is. Body Neutrality is the idea that you are worthy of love and respect, regardless of what your body looks like.  In this practice, you’re minimizing negativity about your body, and realizing that you are MORE than just your body. You’re not only accepting your body, but yourself as a whole. 

Mindfulness is a really big part of practicing body neutrality. Being aware of your body and how it feels and how it makes you feel can help you learn to treat yourself with the kindness and compassion you deserve. Showing gratitude for who you are and what your body can do for you can also  help you reverse what negative thoughts you may have about yourself. When you begin to appreciate and accept yourself for who you are, you will be able to find so much more peace in your life and with yourself.

Who is Body Neutrality good for?

So, who is body neutrality good for? Body Neutrality can be a great practice for everyone, but especially those who might be be plus sized, disabled, transgender, people of color, people who have struggled with eating disorders, or other any marginalized people who feel they don’t feel represented in the current “body positivity” movement.  Some people just find body positivity too challenging– it can be hard to love your body if you’ve spent any time hating it. Those struggling with eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, or suffer from body dysmorphia might not be mentally ready to love their bodies. Instead of forcing toxic positivity, body neutrality can help slowly undo the hatred or confusion one might have about their body. This excerpt from DiveThru.com explains its uses very well:

“Many people in the queer and disabled communities have used the basic principles of body neutrality, rather than body positivity, as a way to come to terms with their own bodies and experiences. It can be extra hard to be body positive as a trans person when you feel like your body doesn’t match your gender. Striving for body neutrality can be a tool for trans folks to allow themselves to live in their body without needing to love it.  Disabled people face a similar struggle, but this time, their bodies might be causing them pain or difficulty. It can feel like they’re fighting against their own body while simultaneously trying to love it. Again, the guiding principles of body neutrality can lead someone to acceptance and liberation, but their journey can be a difficult and emotionally wrought one to travel.”

How Can I Practice Body Neutrality? 

So, how can someone start to incorporate body neutrality into their everyday lives? It can be as easy as starting every day with affirmations.  Simple affirmations like “I accept my body just how it is,” “I don’t need to change my body,” or “I am more than a body” can help you set good intentions for the day. Taking the time to really reflect on yourself and your thoughts is a great thing to do as well.  Ask yourself, would you talk to others about their bodies like you do about yours? Ask yourself why you feel the way you do about your body, or your relationship with food, or others around you, and try to release the negativity surrounding it. Choose to respect yourself and your body, no matter what. 

Finding Peace with Your Body

Practicing these affirmations daily can help relieve any discomfort about your body that's settled into your mind.  In expressing gratitude for yourself and your body, you can begin to reverse any negative feelings you may have about yourself. In a world where you see both toxic positivity and fatphobia all the time, it's important to remember that you deserve to be at peace with yourself and your body. Do not feel pressured into loving yourself if that's not where you are.  Whether you practice body positivity or neutrality, these practices are hard, and you should be proud of yourself for even attempting to better yourself in this way. Changing your inner dialogue about how your body should look is hard and can take time. But when trying, just remember: feeling comfortable in your own skin is enough. You are enough.  

 

Inspired by The Past, Present and Future of Body Image in America by Anna North, and The History of Body Neutrality, Body Positivity, and Fat Liberation by the DiveThru Team

By: Camryn Lane, WIT Peer Educator

Part of our WIT Blog Series

Categories: General Wellness
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Body Neutrality: Acceptance of Your Body as It Is on March 17, 2022.



Permanent link for Your Spring Break To Do List on March 8, 2022

Hello all! This is Katie - taking on writing this spring break blog post so the WIT Peer Educators can take some time to rest, relax and refresh; to press pause if you will.

Is it just me or has this semester seemed really long already? 

Now, I know you’re halfway through spring break, but I want to be sure you’re all getting some things done this week. It may seem counterintuitive to have a spring break to do list, but trust me… you’re gonna want to make sure you do some of these things!

Spend time with friends/family - Our social wellness has taken a hit during the pandemic. With more time spent in our rooms and in a virtual world, we’ve lost opportunities to just be in spaces with people. Take some time to be with people you like.

Sleep - Seriously, get some sleep! The WIT Peer Educators have plenty of blog posts on why sleep is so important if you need any reasons to sleep more.

Do something you enjoy - Haven’t read a book for fun in awhile?  Haven’t binged the newest Netflix series? Whatever it is (cooking, painting, video-gaming, puzzling, crafting, running, hiking, fishing, dancing, driving, singing….). Now’s your chance!

Unplug - Getting away from technology, especially social media and the 24 hour news cycle can be super cleansing. Maybe go for a walk or call a friend instead?

Whatever you do for the rest of spring break, please take some time to rest.

By: Katie Jourdan, Student Health Promotions Coordinator (and a big fan of resting!)

Categories: General Wellness Press Pause Rest Sleep
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Your Spring Break To Do List on March 8, 2022.



Permanent link for Can Lack of Sleep Significantly affect One's Physical Well-being? on March 3, 2022

Spoiler: it can.

Have you ever woken up late and been unable to do everything you wanted to do in the day? Finding yourself staying up late on your phone watching Tik Toks? While these activities seem fun at the moment, they negatively impact more than just your energy, they can affect your body, too. Prioritizing your sleep routine can benefit your personal fitness goals!

Your body without sleep: Hungry!

While it is true that sleeping is our body’s way to rest up the brain, sleep gives a deep meaning to our body’s physical health as well. Previously mentioned in last week’s blog, neurotransmitters give our brain signals. Two of them, called ghrelin and leptin, tell our brain how hungry or full we are. A study done by the National Library of Medicine (NIH), tells us that a restriction of sleep, or sleep deprivation, can raise our ghrelin and leptin levels, causing us to get hungrier. The study also concluded that we tend to choose calorie-dense foods that are high in carbohydrates when we’re sleepy and hungry. Now, carbohydrates are really good for our body - they are our body’s preferred source of energy - but the problem is, the study shows we tend to choose fatty foods for our carb fix with lots of less healthy fats, such as pizza, donuts, fries, etc. when we do not get enough sleep.

Other ways sleep affects the body and your fitness goals

Sleep:

  • Helps muscles rebuild at night (think muscle repair after a workout)
  • Lowers blood pressure, giving your heart and blood vessels a break
  • Increases motivation (which is important if you’re trying to stick to routine!)
  • Supports your immune system 
  • Allows for a steadier blood sugar level in the deepest sleep (which helps lower risk of type 2 diabetes).

So if you’re lacking sleep, you’re missing out on all these benefits!

A step in the right direction

Reading all this, it may be overwhelming to think what is happening to your body with too little sleep, but you can make a change and get more sleep if you want!  For example, I personally just found out about google calendar and now like to incorporate my sleep schedule into each day. Giving yourself an idea of when to go to bed and how much sleep you will get is very useful! And,the biggest piece of advice I have is setting a specific amount of time to put your phone away before bed. The Tik Tok video will still be there when you wake up. This has become especially helpful for me being, that I would always be on my phone late trying to chase the next helpful or funny video, but what I realized was, the most helpful thing I can do is go to sleep on time; because waking up late and having to risk missing a class is not the funniest thing in the world.

If setting up a calendar a week in advance or putting your phone away an hour before bed seems like too much, then take baby steps. Maybe just plan a day out. You can put your phone in a place where you cannot reach it before you go to bed. What can also help is figuring out how many hours of sleep your body needs. Testing different amounts of sleep and seeing how your body reacts can be handy. This gives you a plan for how many hours you want to set aside to sleep.

Sleep to access the gains

When you go to sleep early, it gives your body strength to take on the day! It leaves more time to cook, say yes to healthier food options, and even prevent obesity. Make sure to get the proper amount of sleep so that you can make the best choices for your body and chase after your fitness goals (or just feel better physically). For more information on the benefits of sleep, how to get better sleep, and sleep in general, be sure to check out our other blog posts about sleep.

By: Emilio Espinosa, WIT Peer Educator

Part of our WIT Blog Series.

Categories: General Wellness Press Pause Rest Sleep
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Can Lack of Sleep Significantly affect One's Physical Well-being? on March 3, 2022.



Permanent link for How to "Beet" the Winter Blues on February 21, 2022

Can Food Really Affect Your Mood?

Are you getting a little tired of the endless cloudy Michigan skies? Has it been hard to focus on homework…spring weather in your daydreams? Maybe falling snow has lost its charm. Maybe you’re starting to think the lake effect is more like the lake de fect. Well you are not alone– according to a psychiatry journal, about 46 million Americans (18 and older) experience a gloomy winter. 

The good news is that what you lick off your spoon (or fork) can be a game changer for your mood. Neurotransmitters are little signals in the brain that impact the way you feel and can be affected by different nutrients found in food. There are so many tiny vitamins (like B12 and B6) or other nutrients (like folic acid and tyrosine) that can make a big difference!

5 Foods to Help Lift Moods

  1. Did the title give it away? Beets are one of the many great options to lift your mood. Their bright color isn’t the only exciting part about them. They contain nitrates that can decrease blood pressure and increase oxygen. Choline found in beets is a key helper for making one of those neurotransmitters (the tiny signals important for mood) in the brain. Other benefits of beets include memory help, decreased chance of heart disease, and decreased inflammation. 
  2. Winter squash is a seasonal favorite that is a mood favorite too. The vitamin B6 it contains is extremely important for keeping a good mood, not to mention all the fun varieties. Butternut, spaghetti, delicata and many others are all part of the clan that can give you a vitamin B6 boost. Pumpkin, another squash family member, not only contains vitamin B6 but also magnesium. Magnesium is an important mineral that could lower symptoms of depression.
  3. Bananas, like squash, have high amounts of vitamin B6. They also contain a good source of fiber which is important for the regulation of blood sugars and prevent energy roller coasters. They also contain prebiotics (note: not probiotics) which good bacteria thrive on in the gut. For more information on gut health visit one of our previous blog posts Mind-Gut Connection.
  4. Sweet potato, another orange vegetable variety, has vitamin C. Not only do these golden potatoes have the potential of lowering depression symptoms, they also have the ability to lower inflammation, another important aspect of mood. As you might already know, vitamin C can additionally support the immune system, a little bonus during the cold seasons.
  5. Brussels sprouts are another amazing option. Maybe not your first choice, but you don’t want to miss out on all the folic acid brain-mood booster qualities they can provide.

So Many to Choose From!

There are many other foods that can boost your mood. Some general options include:

  • Foods high in fiber
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Legumes (lentils/beans)
  • Potatoes (the skin is the best part!)
  • And many other fruits/vegetables besides those previously mentioned

Visit this Healthline website for more foods that can help with mood.

Slip It In

With so many options it might be overwhelming to think about how to get all of it into your diet. It’s important to remember, however, that you don’t need to eat them all at once. Maybe start by trying to incorporate one of these foods into a meal each week. You can always keep adding them in as it becomes easier. Furthermore, there are so many possibilities and ways to eat them it might take a little experimentation to see what makes your taste buds dance. Frozen, canned, shredded, sauteed, blended, baked, microwaved, chopped or any combination– your brain and mood don’t mind how it comes.

Some Specific Examples of How to Include

One low-cost easy way to get pumpkin in your diet is to buy 100% canned pumpkin puree. You could add it to your oatmeal, overnight oats or to a smoothie. Add shredded brussels sprouts to a stir fry, salad or soup. Skewering a few beets from a jar and eating them right off the fork is always a tasty snack. If you have access to raw beets, shred them for a colorful salad or roast some beets in the oven. Maybe grab a banana with some spare dining dollars. Simply thinking of ways to eat them could put you in a better mood!

There are also many resources online to help inspire you. Epicurious is a website and app. You can customize your search results for the specific food, type of meal, allergies, level of difficulty and much more!

Winter Doesn’t Have to be a Downer

Food may not be the first idea that comes to mind when trying to solve seasonal blues, but it clearly can have an impact. Enhancing your menus with some beets, bananas, squash, sweet potatoes or brussels sprouts has shown to boost mood and turn winter blues into reds, yellows and oranges. Keeping in mind some of these food ideas and having fun making up your meals are some first steps to keep you smiling through the end of March.

Don’t Hesitate

If seasonal depression is becoming unbearable, don’t hesitate to book a free consultation with the counseling center at GVSU. Or, if you need some more nutrition advice, and/or have some other wellness goals in mind there are many other resources on the Recreation and Wellness page. Want to ask an anonymous question? Our WIT Peer Educators are happy to answer questions on Ask WIT. The newest program called Wellness Navigators could even give you free one-on-one guidance!

By: Josie Kasmauskis, WIT Peer Educator

Part of our WIT Blog Series.

Categories: General Wellness Nutrition
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for How to "Beet" the Winter Blues on February 21, 2022.



Page last modified April 27, 2022