Permanent link for The Freshman 15: The Who, What, and How it Harms Us on April 26, 2023
The “Freshman 15” is a phrase I am sure most of us are familiar with. For anyone lucky enough to have never come across the “Freshman 15”, let me provide an explanation.
The “Freshman 15” is a widely held notion that freshmen gain 15 pounds once they come to campus due to getting less exercise, excessively drinking, and having unlimited access to campus food.
It is widely known and talked about, but most often used as an anecdote or joke. The first time I heard the phrase was during a campus tour when I was in high school. A representative for that University’s Admissions Department said something along the line of “We offer a large variety of options in our dining halls, and yes some are healthy options, so you can avoid gaining the Freshman 15.” Once I was in college I again heard jokes and comments being made about gaining weight. Staff and students both would make comments about hitting the gym to fight the “Freshman 15.” As a young person struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food and my body, my biggest fear was gaining the “Freshman 15” when I came to college. The use of the term and its negative effect on students is not limited solely to my experience. This phrase is used across the nation and research shows us that it negatively affects students on campuses all across the country.
Despite the innocuous nature of the phrase and the comments it was and is used in, the term is based on weight shame and fatphobia. It is rooted in the false notion that gaining weight is shameful and the discriminatory belief that a thin body is a better body. These negative messages, no matter how small, have the power to do real harm to students' mental health.
I am a graduating Senior in the Frederik Meijer Honors College, for my Senior Project I chose to create a podcast that zeroed in on the “Freshman 15” and illuminated the harms it can have to student health. I am passionate about showing students, their families, and university faculty and staff that this phrase has the power to do real harm.
The podcast is 3 episodes long, each with a different main focus. The first episode covers what “The Freshman 15” is, the history of its origins, and if it really even exists. It also covers why this term affects freshmen specifically and the unique stressors of the transition from high school to college. The second episode covers the stigma around weight and food in the US. I delve into the fatphobia embedded in our society and media and the harm it causes. The last episode covers the weight shame of the COVID-19 pandemic and how fatphobia harms us all. I also talk about the role of families and peers in body image and what we can all do to take care of each other and fight back against weight stigma. You can stream the podcast on Spotify, Check it out here!
We all have the power to fight fatphobia and weight shaming, not just for freshmen, but for everyone affected. This podcast is a tool for learning more about how the “Freshman 15” does harm and what we can do to spread body positivity/neutrality (read more on body neutrality in Camryn’s blog post here!) here on campus and also on social media, in our families, in our friend groups, and throughout our lives.
I hope you check out the podcast and learn that there is a lot more to that simple phrase “the Freshman 15” than you likely ever knew.
By: Eva VanWyck, WIT Peer Educator
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for The Freshman 15: The Who, What, and How it Harms Us on April 26, 2023.
Permanent link for Combating Stress with Emotional Wellness on April 13, 2023
Springtime has arrived in West Michigan, and with it so has the end of the semester rush. Finals week is approaching, and most of us are probably more than ready to feel the relief of being done with the school year. Springtime also ushers in April, the Month of Stress Awareness.
With “exam cram season” just around the corner many of us will experience increased levels of anxiety and stress related to the added pressures of school work. At GVSU Recreation & Wellness our goal is to provide students with the knowledge and tools necessary to account for and improve their overall wellness, as well as in specific domains of wellness. Aligning our goals at Rec & Wellness with the month of April’s Stress Awareness, our aim is to present you with the knowledge and techniques that can help you manage the added stress from the end of the academic year.
To understand why coping with stress using healthy practices is important, we should understand why stress is aversive to our physical and mental health, especially as it’s related to the added pressures at the end of the semester. Stress that stems from the “exam cram season” is typically linked to decreased sleep, internalized expectations/pressures, lack of positive coping techniques, and/or a combination of these. Experiencing these types of stress can be a hindrance to our mental and physical wellness, causing various physiological systems and emotions to become dysregulated. Some of these symptoms may be reported as:
- Increased irritability
- Increased anxiety or depression
- Feelings of anger, sadness, loneliness
- Decrease in sleep, focus
- Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
- Muscular tension, discomfort
- Changes in appetite
- Vomiting, nausea
- Illnesses become more common as immune system becomes less effective
As we continue to progress closer towards our final exams, most of us may begin to notice and account for more of the feelings or sensations that are described above. Being able to identify and attribute your stressful symptoms to the correct source is the first step towards being able to identify and apply a coping technique that is effective and healthy for you. Although it may seem overwhelming to address these stressors during such a hectic time, the CDC explains that healthy coping mechanisms can reduce stressful feelings and sensations, whether they are physical and emotional. In short, finding ways to deal with stress that elicit positive emotions and improve physical and psychological wellness are the best ways to decrease stress.
Dealing with Stress
Because some stressors present themselves on an individual basis (not every stressor is universal to all) it is likely that one form of coping is not going to be a universal solution for everyone experiencing stress. One practice each of us can apply on an individual basis, however, is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the process of connecting and becoming aware of the changes in your body in response to different situations/sensations. This process is a very grounding experience and has been linked to decreases in stress, anxiety, and depression.
Here are a few short mindfulness exercises you can do wherever you are to be able to identify and listen to your bodily sensations:
Box Breathing: An exercise used to regulate blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, stress, and anxiety. This exercise targets our respiratory system to actively reduce the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) in our blood stream.
- To do this exercise sit in a chair with good posture (spine in alignment) or lay down flat.
- Follow the graphic at the bottom of the blog post, begin in the top left corner and follow the instructions on the outside of the box as you move along. Repeat these steps, and imagine the circle moving along the perimeter of the box as you go, taking 3-5 minutes or until you feel relaxed and refocused.
5-4-3-2-1: This activity allows us to make time to account for ourselves and our environment, deepening our connection to our bodily sensations.
- In your immediate surroundings, without moving where you are name
- 5 things you hear
- 4 things you see
- 3 things you can touch
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
STOP Practice: A 4-step technique to reduce feelings of overwhelm, stress, and anxiety.
- S: Stop whatever you are doing, stop whatever you are thinking, and dedicate yourself and this moment to practicing mindfulness.
- T: Take a deep breath in and out. Slow down, you may count up or down as you breathe, or even combine other breathing techniques for even better results!
- O: Observe your body. How do you feel physically? Mentally? Observe your surroundings. Focus on small details, like the texture of an object across the room, the unique noises you can hear, etc.
- P: Proceed with intention. Set a time limit for your study session, make sure you’re hydrated, grab your favorite snack, and practice listening to what your mind and body are telling you.
Now that we are aware of how our body might react to the added stress of final exams and how we can use mindfulness to identify those reactions, we can be attentive in our care for ourselves. This time of year is busy for almost all of us, and taking time to hear our body and mind is very important to managing the intense and sometimes overwhelming amount of stress we experience. As you move forward this exam season, I encourage you to use the resources provided in this article to help you, but also refer to more of our great campus resources, as well as experiment with other things that may help you like journaling, exercise, and getting adequate sleep.
Here are some on-campus resources that are here to serve you during this April Month of Stress Awareness:
- GVSU Counseling Center - Especially around this time of year the GVSU Counseling Center hosts events and activities that are inclusive and educational, and are specifically catered towards dealing with the stresses of exams! GVSU Counseling Center also coordinates with West Michigan Therapy Dogs to bring some support pups to the library, this is a personal favorite and a must for any animal lover who needs a break from their studies. In addition there is an emergency/crisis response available for students.
- GVSU Student Academic Success Center - Success coaching is a great option for those of us who may be looking for more personalized help in approaching their learning. The SASC also coordinates with the other campus resources to organize workshops catered to end of the semester learning.
- GVSU Rec & Wellness - GVSU Rec & Wellness is a multi-faceted resource that offers support to students in multiple different ways. There are free group fitness and yoga classes focused on providing students with a positive outlet for reducing stress. GVSU also offers personalized, individual consultations with Wellness Navigators and Wellness Coaches who aim to help students manage different aspects of their overall wellness like nutrition, time management, and stress.
By: Kameron Kempker, WIT Peer Educator
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Combating Stress with Emotional Wellness on April 13, 2023.
Permanent link for Press Pause... and Get Outside! on April 7, 2023
It is that time of the school year again for finals, but don’t let studying take up too much of your time! It is important to balance school and time for yourself. The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and the birds are calling your name! But don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
What the outdoors can do for you!
- Helps motivation and physical health
- Lowers stress and anxiety levels
- Improves sleep
- Stronger immunity
- Supports positive mental health
- Better breathing and sight
Tips for getting outside!
- Make plans with a friend
- Block an hour out of your schedule
- Set a time limit for studying
- Make a reminder
Things to do outdoors on campus!
- Hammock in the arboretum
- Go hiking on the trails behind campus or near Laker Village
- Set up a slackline with a friend
- Have a picnic
- Play sand volleyball
- Read a book or make friendship bracelets on a blanket
- Eat lunch with a friend on a bench
- Ride your bike
- Take a nap under a tree
- Go on a scavenger hunt
- Roller Skate or skateboard on the sidewalks
- Set up your yoga mat in the sun
The outdoors improves your overall health! There are many ways to get outdoors on campus. And remember to treat the outdoors with kindness. We want our favorite places to last a long time!
By: Ruhi Khanna, WIT Peer Educator and Climbing Center Staff
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Press Pause... and Get Outside! on April 7, 2023.
Permanent link for Sexual Health Education is A SHORE Bet! on March 31, 2023
When I was 11 years old, I was channel surfing and came across something I had never seen before: A group of people at a beach house, drinking, having sex, and fighting with weird accents. This mess of a show was the MTV hit, Jersey Shore. Watching this crazy gang of 20 somethings party in their beach house was very interesting, but extremely complex for my 11 year old brain. What were they doing? I knew I probably should not be watching it, but I didn't know why. As I got older, abstinence sex ed was taught at my school. A quote that closely describes my experience is a classic from Mean Girls, “Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die.” I thought about Snooki and the gang, and from what I was being told, they definitely were not following “the rules.” From then on, my brain put an unfortunately false puzzle together: sex must be a shameful thing that only leads to chaos. I stopped watching Jersey Shore after that.
Yes, I acknowledge that Jersey Shore is probably not the best influence when it comes to safe sex and healthy relationships (especially for an 11 year old). But looking back, that group was a lot better off than I was. Throughout high school, I continued to view sex as a shameful thing. It wasn’t until college that I started to understand the construct around sex and the importance of safe, inclusive, and empowering sexual education.
What is Sexual Education
Sexual education is the teaching of a large variety of topics surrounding sex and sexuality. This can include safe sex, STIs, relationships, consent, LGTBQ+, and many more topics! Most middle and high schools provide sexual education, but a large majority of schools in the United States do not teach all aspects of sexual health. According to Planned Parenthood, In the 37 states that require sex/HIV education, a majority stress abstinence, even if that means the curriculum is not medically accurate. Only 18 states require education on birth control. Only 10 states require education on LGBTQ+ sex and relationships (Planned Parenthood, 2023). Most students are not being given the well rounded sexual education that they deserve.
So why does this matter? Safe, inclusive, and empowering sexual education gives students the knowledge and skills necessary to express themselves, create healthy boundaries, be safe, and understand their bodies!
Sex Ed in College
Sexual education is very important in college, because students can gain knowledge they may not have received in high school. For a large majority of students, college is a time for self exploration. Students are given the space to learn more about themselves, their values, beliefs, and are able to explore their sexuality. Due to this, it is important that students are given sexual education tools that promote safety, respect, pleasure, and fun. Not all people choose to engage in sexual activity, and that is okay. All students, whether sexually active or not, deserve to be given safe and inclusive spaces to learn and grow in their own sexuality if they choose to do so.
Sexual Health at GVSU
Grand Valley offers an abundance of sexual health education opportunities. The Wellness Information Team (WIT) is a team of GVSU students that provide education and resources on sexual health (as well as general health and nutrition). We provide a large variety of programming, presentations, and supplies to aid students in their sexual health and overall wellness. We can even take the educational fun on the go with our WIT Cart. This cart has tons of safer sex supplies, including a variety of condoms, dental dams, internal condoms, and lube. We also have candy, stickers, fidgets, relaxation aids, and so much more! To find the WIT cart’s location, check out the RecWell Instagram! We always post where we are around campus.
Sexual Education is A SHORE Bet!
Sexual health education is extremely important to have on college campuses. Since many students come to college without comprehensive sexual education, the information and tools need to be provided to help students make empowered and safe decisions about their sexual health. Grand Valley was able to provide this for me as an awkward, abstinence-only scarred, jersey shore loving, freshman. And I could not be more grateful! With that, I will leave you with an inspirational quote:
“Yes, I had sex. Like, hello, you can have sex if you're into somebody. It's natural.” — Sammi “Sweetheart” from Jersey Shore
By: Annie Seeber, WIT Peer Educator
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Sexual Health Education is A SHORE Bet! on March 31, 2023.
Permanent link for The Power of Meditation and How to Use It on March 22, 2023
Meditation is a powerful tool that can help you achieve mental, emotional, and physical wellness. As a college student, you may face many challenges, such as stress, anxiety, and a lack of focus. Meditation can help you overcome these challenges and improve your overall well-being.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice that involves training your mind to focus on the present moment. It can involve different techniques, such as deep breathing, visualization, and mindfulness. The goal of meditation is to quiet the mind and achieve a sense of inner peace and calm.
How can meditation benefit college students?
- Reduces stress and anxiety: College life can be stressful, and it can lead to anxiety and other mental health issues. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, and improve overall mental health.
- Improves focus and concentration: Meditation can help you improve your focus and concentration, which can be beneficial for your academic performance. By training your mind to focus on one thing at a time, you can improve your productivity and efficiency.
- Enhances self-awareness: Meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions. By observing your thoughts without judgment, you can develop a better understanding of yourself and your feelings.
- Improves sleep quality: College students often struggle with sleep issues, such as insomnia or sleep deprivation. Meditation can help you relax and calm your mind, which can improve your sleep quality and quantity.
How to get started with meditation?
- Find a quiet and comfortable space where you won't be disturbed.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and your eyes closed.
- Take deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
- Focus your attention on your breath, and try to keep your mind from wandering.
- If your mind does wander, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
- Practice meditation for at least 5-10 minutes a day, and gradually increase the time as you become more comfortable with the practice.
In conclusion, meditation is a simple yet powerful practice that can help college students achieve mental, emotional, and physical wellness. By incorporating meditation into your daily routine, you can reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus and concentration, enhance self-awareness, and improve sleep quality. Give it a try and see how it can benefit you.
By: Abdul Ciise, WIT Peer Educator
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for The Power of Meditation and How to Use It on March 22, 2023.
Permanent link for Eating as a College Student on February 3, 2023
As college students, many of us are short on time and long on the grind. We have papers piling up, clubs to attend, hours to clock, and so it can be difficult to find time to sit down and nurture our bodies with all of the nutrients that we need. Last year, I found it difficult to find the time to eat, especially being on a budget and being obsessed with eating the ‘right’ way. Sometimes we make a full meal with vegetables, sometimes we have a donut with our coffee. I’d like to discuss the obstacles that come with food when you’re busy and how to improve our relationship with it.
Eating On the Go
First up, addressing the big time constraint. If you’re like me, you’re taking classes full time, working part time, and pulling off multiple extracurriculars and side projects. When you’re busy and on the go, it’s hard to maintain an eating schedule, let alone finding time to eat. You’ve heard it from your friends, you’ve done it yourself; you’re running off a large cup of coffee and nothing else. We are human, we aren’t perfect. However, keeping our bodies nourished should be a top priority. Every meal may not be a five-course endeavor, but you can start by implementing snacks and simple meals. If this means taking a half hour to make some pasta and add some spinach to the sauce, go you! If this means driving to a drive thru before class instead of skipping a meal, still, go you! Making the time, and making the choice, to eat when and where you can will make a difference. You do not want your stomach rumbling in a silent lecture room.
I’d like to address and acknowledge the prevalence of food insecurity when it comes to trying to eat and maintain health. According to Basic Needs at GVSU, more than 1,000 students here at GVSU struggle with food insecurity. Food insecurity is the lack of access to nutritious food on a consistent basis. For college students, this might look like not having enough meals on our meal plans or living off of a few packs of ramen for a week. Food insecure college students don’t have enough food to properly sustain themselves through the week and their grades (and health) may suffer from this. While food insecurity is a broad issue, there are some resources out there and even some on our campus.
Replenish is a basic needs center on campus with three different locations. One location is on the lower level of Kirkhof center, in room 074. The other two locations are on the downtown campus located at the Steelcase library building A of the DeVos Center and room 347 of the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Science (CHS 347). Students are welcome to stop in during open hours, check in with staff, and get the food or basic need items they need.
SNAP benefits, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provides supplemental income via a Bridge card to lower-income individuals. While there are eligibility requirements, students can and should consider applying for SNAP. Students can apply for SNAP online and will later be contacted to complete a phone interview. There is no downside to applying for SNAP, the worst thing that can happen is you get denied and the best is that you are approved for benefits! If you need help applying, reach out to the CARE team by filling out a report for yourself.
There are many food pantries across the towns surrounding our campuses, including Love Inc., The Other Way Ministries, and more. Students can search for resources using the Feeding America resource map.
There is nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to experiencing food insecurity as a student. Many of us come from different backgrounds and experiences and it’s important to recognize them and help one another when we can. If someone you know is experiencing food insecurity, consider finding ways to help them like sharing the resources above. If you are experiencing food insecurity, ask for help and take advantage of the resources available to you. While folks who are experiencing food insecurity have a more difficult time with accessing nutrient-dense foods, it is so important to do your best to eat the food that is available.
When you don’t have the time or the resources to eat the “right” foods, you might fall ill to food guilt. Food guilt is when you obsess and feel ashamed over the food you eat or think about eating. Sometimes this may look like eating a bag of chips instead of a salad, but the reasons may vary: the chips might be cheaper, the chips might have a higher calorie count and might be more filling, or, simply, you might be craving some chips. All of these reasons are completely valid, and what’s important is that you are eating. The way that diet culture has infiltrated our minds (and bodies) has made us believe that skipping meals is healthier than eating “junk” when in reality, skipping meals has faster, more harmful consequences than eating something unhealthy. Just checkout this resource.
Tips and Tricks
- Eat the foods that make you feel good: try to balance foods for your soul and foods for your gut (instead of chips or salad, why not both, if you can). You do not need to give up any category of food- try to add vegetables and fruits when and where you can. It’s about adding nutrients, not taking them away.
- Have specific foods ready for on-the-go like protein bars, muffins, and yogurt. On busy mornings, afternoons, or evenings- it is helpful to have something ready to grab and take with you. To cut costs, some of these on-the-go items can be meal prepped and ready to have on hand.
- Let go of the stigma surrounding different foods. Every food has its place.
- Have ‘backup’ foods for low-energy days like instant noodles, freezer meals, or even a gift card for a restaurant. It’s better to eat “unhealthy” than nothing. Having easy foods available to you when you’re not feeling your best can help make sure you’re still nourishing your body.
- Experiment with recipes in your free time, and find out what foods you like. You can find recipes online, from family and friends, and even on the RecWell instagram. Budget Bytes is a great resource for cheap and yummy recipes.
- Try to attend a farmer’s market for fresh produce, such as the Fulton Street Farmers Market, a SNAP certified market!
- Try food-prepping meals or try to create a “grazing” plate in the fridge with things like cheese, veggies, crackers, and your favorite proteins (nuts, seeds, meats, meat alternatives, etc.).
What to Avoid Eating
- Foods you have a life-threatening allergy to
- Foods that you dislike
- Inedible objects
- Foods that go against your values (if you’re vegan, religious, or otherwise)
To wrap things up, take care of yourself. I know it can be hard to maintain balance, especially as a student- and even more so if you’re a student with additional barriers. But it’s so important to make sure you’re eating consistently, even if what you’re eating is not always the ‘healthiest’ option. Don’t listen to diet culture and remember to prioritize food.
Additional Links and Resources
By Rowan Armour, WIT Peer Educator
Posted by Maddie Vervaeke on Permanent link for Eating as a College Student on February 3, 2023.
Permanent link for WIT Blog Series is Back! on January 25, 2023
The WIT Peer Educators are back again this semester to share about their favorite topics in nutrition, sexual health, pressing pause and so much more. WIT members are GVSU students from a variety of majors and backgrounds. They are brought together by their passion to support their fellow students in pursuing health and wellness.
Stay tuned every Thursday for the latest blog entry. Have ideas for a blog post? Submit a question to our Ask WIT Form and we'll get one written just for you!
By: Katie Jourdan, Assistant Director RecWell
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for WIT Blog Series is Back! on January 25, 2023.
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!
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
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.
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 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 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
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*:
- “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
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Microaggressions on April 15, 2022.