The “Baby Carrot” Cycle
I’ll admit it, I did it too. You know, the endless cycle of wanting to eat more vegetables, buying that one bag of baby carrots (you know the kind) or a bag of fresh lettuce, and eating maybe half the bag just to forget about them. Once I do remember, I find them hidden in my fridge and realize they don’t look nearly as good as they did when I bought them. Not to mention the guilt I feel when I realize nothing is salvageable and I have to throw it all out. If you are anything like me and feel this guilt (about the money I just wasted and the food waste I just created), the first stage is acceptance. The second stage though is using some of the tips I have below for navigating how to eat healthy, sustainably, AND on a budget.
Why Does Food Waste Matter?
So we know food waste is bad, but why? According to the USDA, 30-40 percent of the food supply is wasted. This adds up to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010 alone.
Not only is food waste contributing to inefficiency and negative environmental effects, but it is costing us money too. The USDA also estimates that the average American family of 4 loses $1500 to uneaten food every year. From an ethical perspective, much of the food being wasted that is still safe to eat could be going towards addressing food insecurity. On the same note of ethics, wasted meat products also means that an animal that has died in order to provide food, has now died with no purpose. For more information about how GVSU is addressing food insecurity on our campus, read about Replenish below!
Make Frozen Vegetables Your Best Friend!
Eating healthy for one person in college (on a budget) is not easy, but it can be done! The first step is to break the stigma around frozen vegetables. I have heard a few times from other college students that “frozen fruits and vegetables aren’t as healthy” or “I only buy fresh vegetables.”
It’s time to dispel these rumors once and for all. Frozen vegetables are healthy and contain just as many nutrients as fresh, if not more than fresh store bought since they are usually frozen while they’re in their prime. When shopping for frozen fruits and vegetables, pay attention to the labels to check for those that do not have additives. Of course frozen vegetables can still age in the freezer and may not be as nutritionally dense after a year, but it will last you much longer than the few days you get with fresh.
It is also important to note the”best if used by” dates on frozen fruits or vegetables. These dates are only usually recommendations based on when the food tastes best and can still be safe beyond this date, but it is usually better to buy food that does not expire for a while to avoid this. So if this happens, don’t stress! It is probably still safe to eat as long as it is cooked thoroughly.
Maximizing Shelf Life (How to Store Fresh Fruits/Veggies Properly!)
Grocery shopping for fresh AND frozen fruits and vegetables is a great way to limit food waste and still eat healthy. When we are buying fresh fruits and vegetables, there are ways to store them properly to extend their shelf life. This NY Times article outlines a few really great ways to do this, but I will summarize for you here. First, start fresh! Even though frozen fruits and vegetables are just as good for you, there might be times when you prefer fresh options. Make sure when shopping for fruits and vegetables, that you are shopping for the freshest ones and that they don’t have any signs of aging already. Next, consider the conditions of how your food is stored. The author suggests considering “temperature, ethylene, and airflow.” This just means gaining a better understanding of what causes fruits and vegetables to go bad prematurely. Ethylene is a gas released by some fruits/vegetables that causes produce to ripen faster. Some may be better at room temperature, others in the fridge in a container rather than the produce bag it comes in. I recommend checking out the full article for specifics by the type of produce you are storing.
Freeze Your Bread & Leftovers
Something I have learned when it comes to grocery shopping and eating just for one person is how quickly bread and leftovers go bad. But there are solutions to these problems!
First, refrigerate (or freeze) your bread. You can just throw the bread in the original packaging and throw it in the fridge or freezer (depending on how quickly you tend to eat bread). For those of us (myself included) who like to bake, homemade bread loaves can be stored in the freezer as well. To freeze store bought or homemade bread loaves for longer periods of time, make sure the bread is cooled and sliced then wrap first with plastic wrap then with foil or freezer paper. This link discusses more about the correct way to preserve homemade bread loaves.
Second is leftovers! If you make a meal with lots of leftovers, but you’re not the kind of person to eat the same thing multiple times that week before it goes bad, freeze your leftovers! Your food will taste fresher and you will have the option of a quick homemade dinner or lunch later on. The USDA outlines safe ways to freeze, thaw, and reheat leftovers here.
Stir Fry, Pasta, & Curries
Cooking for one person without tons of leftovers can be hard,especially when you’ve just gone grocery shopping and need to use up a lot of the fresh vegetables you bought. An option for this is to cook things like stir fry, pasta, or curries. These can not only be relatively easy and quick to cook, but allow you to add whatever you might have laying around in your fridge. It’s relatively easy to make these recipes your own and tweak them to the foods you like or already have. Here is one idea for a veggie stir fry recipe. For other recipes, check out the One Dish Kitchen for single serving recipe ideas.
Start a Compost
While limiting food waste sounds great in theory, we’re also human and it happens. So what can we do with our food waste when it does happen? The answer is COMPOSTING! We see the compost trash bins on campus, but what is compost you may ask? Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow, according to the EPA. Making compost takes food waste out of our landfills where they take up space and release methane which is a greenhouse gas. The EPA outlines the basics of composting if you’re interested in learning more. NPR LifeKit also published a great guide on how to compost at home.
Replenish at GVSU
If you are a student at GVSU experiencing food insecurity at any level, Replenish is our on campus food pantry. There are three locations: Kirkhof 074 - Allendale Campus: open weekdays from Noon to 5 pm, Steelcase Library - DeVos Campus (1st floor entrance): open during library hours, and CHS 343 - Cook-DeVos Center for Health Science building: open 8 - 5 (CHS location is currently unavailable). Replenish is a completely free resource available for all students. Students are permitted two visits per month but emergency accommodations can be made. All you need to bring is:
- Your student ID;
- A passed daily Covid-19 assessment;
- and a reusable grocery bag.
Replenish also collects donations of pantry stable foods, hygiene items, household cleaning supplies, and new or lightly used school supplies. The Allendale location accepts walk-ins.
As I mentioned before, eating healthy for one person in college on a budget is not easy, but it can be done! Just take it one step at a time.
By: Sofia Hessler, WIT Peer Educator
Jessica Epplett, MPH Candidate at GVSU shares about her MPH practicum project - planning Sex Ed Week at GVSU.
Sexual health is an important topic that is not talked about nearly enough and has been made to feel taboo in our society. Because the topic has been made to feel so taboo, schools are afraid or not allowed to teach all of the elements (or anything besides abstinence-only) of sex ed that should be taught and too many students have gaps in sexual education. These gaps can be dangerous.
In 2014, a study done by the CDC found that 76% of students were taught that abstinence is the most effective method in preventing pregnancy and STIs and only 35% of students were taught how to use a condom properly. Only receiving this level of education can leave many questions unanswered and can leave people at risk once they decide to start having sex. An article written at Columbia University’s School of Public Health helps to outline this. They have found that abstinence-only education is harmful and does not delay when people start having sex or reduce risk behaviors, like having unprotected sex (Santelli & Berger, 2017). They have also found that this type of education reinforces gender stereotypes, isn’t always medically accurate, and makes a large number of students feel excluded (Santelli & Berger, 2017). Comprehensive sex ed, on the other hand, shows improvement in contraceptive and condom use, reduced number of sexual partners, lower rates of STIs and pregnancy, and a decrease in sexual risk behaviors (Santelli & Berger, 2017). This is why we planned a Sex Ed Week at GVSU.
Sex Ed Week has been my Master of Public Health practicum project since September, and it’s been exciting to work with a topic I care so much about! I have put in many hours doing research and looking into issues that college students face when it comes to sexual health because it is a topic that I believe is extremely important and needs to be talked about, especially at colleges and universities. Sex isn’t taboo and I am a strong believer in ensuring that everyone should be given all the information they need to take control of their health, including their sexual health. I was fortunate enough to have a sex ed in middle school that was comprehensive, interesting, and didn’t pretend that students weren’t going to have sex, and I’m excited to give students at GVSU a fun, sex-positive sex ed experience, too! This week of events is tailored to the GVSU community and has topics that are important to students and that have been left out in the previous education that many students. This week is a fun way to learn more about sex positivity and be empowered to make the right choices for you!
We created an exciting variety of event types to make learning more about these topics entertaining and less awkward. I know that it can be hard to discuss some of these topics and feel a little uncomfortable because this could be the first time some are learning these things or maybe they just feel taboo because they aren’t talked about as often as they should be, but our hope is to create a fun, welcoming environment where everyone can feel comfortable asking questions and learn something along the way while we work on normalizing sexual health and giving students the tools they need. Some of the topics that are covered during the week include how to use condoms properly, consent, how to have healthy relationships, LGBTQ+, and many more!
I encourage everyone to join us for this week of fun and to step out of their comfort zone!
By: Jessica Epplett, MPH Candidate and RecWell Intern
I think we’ve all done it before: the mindless, endless scrolling when we get that spare chance to take a break from work or school. A few minutes of liking Instagram pics on the bus, or maybe a quick look at TikTok during lunch (with the realization that “oh crap!” it's actually been nearly an hour!). Sometimes if I’m in an awkward social situation I even pretend to be interested in my phone (wow, the weather app looks SO interesting all of the sudden). It adds up; so what are we losing to screen time?
Saying what most already know: technology and social media aren’t the best for us.
I look at my screen time and am always surprised by how much time I actually spend on social media. Yet I feel like I never have free time! I’m not alone in this. In a short survey I created last semester, I discovered that of the 45% of GVSU students that reported having no regular leisure time in their schedules, 62% also reported spending 1-6 hours each day on social media (some even said they spent 6-9 hours). It seems that many of us don’t consider social media as “leisure time”. Last year’s Unplugged blog by Sofia talked about how technology use can affect our physical and mental well-being. Today, I’d like to talk more about social media use and the need to constantly be checking our screens.
Screen addiction is a new concept; much of the science around it is from within the last 10 years. But here is something we are starting to realize: experts from recent studies say “the question of whether an adult, or a child, has a problem with technology can't be answered simply by measuring screen time. What matters most… is your relationship to it” (Kamanetz, NPR). Technology and social media use is linked to decreased psychological well-being, signs of addiction, and even physically changing your brain matter.
- Are you troubled, restless, or otherwise unhappy when unplugged?
- Is your technology or social media use increasing over time? Have you tried to limit yourself and been unsuccessful?
- Does your technology or social media use interfere with relationships, job, or school?
- Do you ever feel guilty about your technology or social media use?
If you answered yes to most of these questions you may be struggling with screen or social media ‘addiction’. It’s ok, many people are in the same boat. So what can you do?
What would you do right now if you didn’t have your phone or computer with you? Pretend like you don’t have responsibilities for a moment: the group chat isn’t blowing up, you aren’t waiting for that important email, that assignment isn’t due at midnight. What activities and experiences would you explore? This could be the time to revisit an old activity you used to love or try something new. When I was little I used to pull all-nighters in order to finish a book- I realized that in recent years I had essentially stopped reading for fun. Now that I limit my social media use, I found I truly do have the time to read (even if it’s just for a half-hour each night).
Here's what I did that may help you as well:
- Set screen time limits for some of your apps, especially the ones that are eating up most of your time or don’t make you feel good (hint: it’s probably the social media apps)
- Write blocks of time into your schedule where you can allow yourself to unplug. Often if I don't explicitly give myself time for leisure or unplugging, I don’t do it.
It doesn’t have to be reading. You could try a new workout, like yoga or kickboxing; pick up knitting; get lunch with a good friend (no phones at the table, of course). And try to resist the urge to constantly check your phone. I don’t think the world will end if you accidentally make eye contact with someone in public.
Speaking of eye contact, keep an eye out these next few weeks: I’ll be walking around asking GVSU students how they “unplug”. Share your answer with me and you could win an awesome Unplugged t-shirt from RecWell! Hopefully this gives you some inspiration to get off this webpage and try something new!
By: Stella Sterling, WIT Peer Educator
We’ve all heard the expression, “It’s all in your head,” but is that true?
We experience stress and anxieties through school, work, and/or our social lives, almost on a daily basis. Usually we think about stress-relievers or self-care strategies to help with these feelings, but by learning how these processes work on a physiological level in our own bodies, it can help us discover ways to decrease these negative feelings in a different way. Our mood, emotions, and stress levels tend to be correlated with, and are thought of coming from our brain in the central nervous system. However, our nervous systems consist of more than just the central and peripheral nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord and the nerves, respectively. The enteric nervous system, which governs the gastrointestinal tract, also plays a very important role in communicating with the brain in order to regulate cognition, immunity, hormones, and emotions. By looking into how the gastrointestinal (GI) tract works, it can help bring understanding on how there’s a connection between our brains, our mood and our food.
Gut Bacteria and Our Mental Health
An important aspect for the GI tract to function efficiently, that is not necessarily a part of our own bodies but still very important, is gut bacteria or the microbiome. These little organisms have such a large impact not only on the enteric nervous system, but the central nervous system as well. On the intestinal level, the gut flora can prevent dysfunction in the gastrointestinal tract and affect the nutrient availability in the food we eat. In a study conducted on ‘germ free’ animals, the findings supported that gut flora influences memory, anxiety, and stress. Stress and inflammation can be closely linked together. Stress can be in response to our body’s ‘fight or flight response’ and releases specific hormones and neurotransmitters which also activates inflammation. Yet, many people, such as students, experience chronic, or long lasting, stress and inflammation, which negatively affects the whole body. Microorganisms in the gut have been shown to decrease inflammation. In these studies, probiotics have also decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression, similarly to prescription medications.
Flawed Gut Bacteria: Help it with Fiber
However, not all microorganisms should be viewed equally and can vary based on diet, medications, environment, or even what season it is. Some common examples of manifestations of a flawed gut that may occur can be bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or cramping. It is important to have specific microbes rather than others to support a healthy GI tract. A very important aspect within one’s diet that can support the gut flora is fiber. Most people only get about half of what their fiber intake should actually be. Fiber is so valuable, as the microbes essentially eat and thrive from it. Fiber is also important for many other different things in addition to gut health such as lowering cholesterol, blood sugar and reducing risk of heart disease.
How to Increase Microorganisms in your Gut
- Increase intake of whole plant-based sources for fiber: legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Incorporate some fermented foods into your diet: yogurt, kombucha, or kimchi, or even supplementing with a probiotic (always ask a healthcare professional before supplementing your diet).
- Get enough sleep: 7-8 hours a night
- Exercise regularly: a few days a week
- Reduce stress
These habits, in addition to gut health, can also benefit your overall health and wellness.
Our Body Systems Work Together
The body is made up of many different systems, but that does not mean they work independently of each other. These systems and processes work together in order to keep our bodies running smoothly. The digestive system illustrates this very well, as it impacts immunity, hormones, mental health and more. Even though it seems like we don’t have enough time and energy to be 100% perfect all the time, little changes in choices can help us in more ways than one.
By: Claire Latourell, WIT Peer Educator
What Is Sexuality?
Sexuality is a concept that has infinite definitions and forms. Its meaning is abundant, but is often defined by society as something extremely clear-cut and particular. For example, the dictionary defines sexuality as a “person's identity in relation to the gender or genders to which they are typically attracted to.” Sexuality goes much deeper than attraction though.
The Deep Dive
The RecWell webpage “The Facts About Sexual Health,” explores the differences between sexual health, sexuality and sex according to the World Health Organization. “Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, practices, roles and relationships.” While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed at the same time. Sexuality is HUGE and we all have sexuality. You do not need to be in a relationship or engaging in sexual activity to have sexuality, because it is such a broad and fluid concept (remember, your values/beliefs around sex are part of your particular sexuality, too). Sexuality includes our bodies, our hormones, our feelings, our values, our gender identity, our sexual orientation, our relationships, and our culture. (Check out Scarleteen's great blog post that really dives deep into sexuality)! Let's talk about just some of these aspects:
Feelings: Feelings and our emotions have an influence on everything we do in our lives. How you feel about an experience can change future decisions as well as perceptions on the things around you. So naturally, when it comes to sexuality, feelings play a large role. They can make you happy, excited, embarrassed, nervous, eager, anxious, giddy and so much more. It’s important to be in tune with and take care of our emotions (positive and negative!), recognizing them and honoring them when it comes to our sexuality and sexual health.
Hormones: When it comes to hormones, the pituitary gland releases estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. These hormones affect sex drive in different ways depending on the amount of each hormone. Libido, meaning sexual appetite or sex drive, is affected by these hormones. For example, estrogen has a major role in increasing libido, while an imbalance of testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone can decrease libido.
Gender Identity: Gender Identity is how you feel on the inside and how you express your gender to others through clothing, behaviors, and personal appearance. Gender identity shapes a person’s sexuality because who we are influences our own unique sexuality. For example, a person who identifies as a woman may feel confident in their sexuality when they dress feminine, while a different person who identifies as a woman may feel confident in their sexuality when they wear masculine clothing. Even though some people may share certain identities, their sexuality is unique to them.
Sexual Orientation: You may already be familiar with the acronym LGBTQIA+ when it comes to gender identity and sexual orientation, but the two concepts are distinct and different.. Planned Parenthood uses the acronym LGBQQAS (lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, asexual, and straight), which specifically highlights sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is who you are attracted to and want to have relationships with. Want to learn more about each of these sexual orientations? Check out this Planned Parenthood article.
Culture: Simply put, culture is the ways or norms of life in a particular population, that are typically passed down from generation to generation. These can be based on geography, nationality, religion, political affiliation and so much more. Sexuality can be influenced by culture because a person may be raised to express their sexuality in specific ways. Culture can also highly influence a person’s specific values and beliefs about sex and sexuality. Being aware of society’s (or your particular cultural) influence can help you understand what your own feelings are compared to what the world is telling you to feel.
How Can I Explore My Sexuality?
It can be easy to find yourself lost in it all, and if you “stray” from what society sees as the “norm,” it is common to feel that something is wrong. Who you love, how you love, as well as a relationship with yourself, can seem all mapped out by the world around us; in reality, the only person able to navigate this journey is you! Like any self exploration, there is not one way to figure out what you like or dislike. A good place to start is by writing down what comes to mind when you think of your own sexuality. Remember, sexuality is more than just sexual attraction - it involves our emotions, hormones, relationships, identity, culture and more. From there, you could talk to a trusted friend or do some research online. There are many books and podcasts that delve into all things sexuality. An insightful podcast that explores pleasure, identity, sexuality, and healing is, The Sensual Self Podcast with Ev’Yan Whitney. Ev’Yan Whitney is a sexuality doula who helps people explore their sexuality! Another way to explore your sexuality is to experiment with self love. This can come in many forms and is not strictly sexual for every person. For example, a person may feel physical attraction and enjoy holding hands, hugs, or cuddling. This is a good way to find what feels good to you, so you not only learn what you like, but communicate that with future partners if you wish. There are many more ways to explore, so make it your own and do what works best for you! Grand Valley also offers many resources. The Milton E. Ford LGBTQ+ Resource Center, located in Kirkhof, has many programs and events regarding all things sexuality. There are always new events coming up, which you can find on their website or in person at their office.The Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity has lots of programming around healthy relationships and preventing gender-based violence. And, Recreation & Wellness has lots of information on our website - WIT peer educators can answer questions and we have lots of resources for safer sexual health, no matter your sexuality!
Sexuality and exploration can feel daunting at times, but know you are not alone. Discovering the things you enjoy, the way you like to be loved, and the way you love others can take some time. The journey is for you and each path is individually beautiful and unique. You got this!
By: Annie Seeber, WIT Peer Educator
“Wellness” has become a bit of a buzzword lately. We’re bombarded with ads for wellness products, we see the term tied to fad diets, and we’re told to buy items in order to practice self-care. But, do we really need all of that to be well? Unfortunately, it feels like the word “wellness” is being used to market consumerism rather than what its true meaning is...
According to the National Wellness Institute, wellness is a life-long journey; "a conscious, self-directed, and evolving process of achieving full potential.” And if you look even bigger, the Global Wellness Institute says wellness is “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.”
There’s no purchase necessary when it comes to wellness. (But, there may be some reading and learning!)
Nowadays, a lot of us want short and simple information that we can read quickly and keep scrolling. But, there are some topics that require just a little more attention than a social media post.That’s why our WIT peer educators are going to be writing blog posts this semester to dive deeper into topics of general wellness, nutrition, sexual health, and rest. All of these areas can help you on your well-being journey.
If you want to check out previous posts written by the team, we’ve got plenty on the RecWell blog already (you can filter the posts by topic!). This is also where the new posts will show up each week - or you can just click the link on our Instagram stories each week.
Follow along with us this semester as we focus on what wellness really means, how we can improve our lives, and why learning about these topics is so valuable!
By: Ryleigh Emelander, MPH Candidate, Health Promotion Assistant and Katie Jourdan, Student Health Promotions Coordinator
Part of our Sex-Ed Series
Happy summer GVSU! We can’t believe this semester is already at its end. This winter we have been so excited to bring you all weekly content for our first ever Sex Ed Series, because we think this information is so important for everyone to know. All of us on the WIT Peer Educator team are so passionate about sexual health, and we hope that these blog posts over the past 15 weeks have sparked interest in you all to learn more. Now that we’ve made it to the end of the Sex Ed Series, we want to leave you with a sex-positive and empowering recap of everything we’ve touched on this semester so you can have the safest and most fun summer possible!
It’s Nothing To Be Ashamed Of
Many people are uncomfortable talking about sex, but these conversations are so important for normalizing sexuality, as well as sexual autonomy. Shame and embarrassment are closely related and are both due to the lack of cultural acceptance and the taboo surrounding sex and masturbation. It is so important for kids, teens, and adults to receive proper sex education to prepare them for any and all future sexual encounters they may have. Overcoming the associated shame and stigma is the first step to owning your own sexuality and having a great sexual experience.
In the Mood
Next, is embracing your own desires. As you become more comfortable with your sexuality, you can learn to explore these desires. Whether you’re with a partner(s) or by yourself, sexual pleasure is about understanding your own sexual needs, and knowing the right ways to satisfy them. When it comes to sex, it’s not always about penetration, but it is always about what makes you feel good! Here are some ideas to get you in the mood:
- Foreplay: Foreplay helps warm up your bodies for the fun to come - physically, mentally, and emotionally. This is the time to build up the sexual tension and desire between you and your partner(s) to have the best, most pleasurable sexual experience possible.
- Masturbation: Touching yourself in the comfort of your own home is the best way to explore your body and find what you like (or don’t)! Masturbation is not only a fun way to pass the time, but it lets you take your sexual pleasure into your own hands--literally!
- Sex Toys: Whether you’re being intimate with your partner or having a solo sesh, sex toys are a great way to add some spice to life! Before buying toys, it's important to know what places and techniques you enjoy when masturbating so you know what kinds to get. Check out Planned Parenthood’s information on sex toys.
- Trying Out New Erogenous Zone: Erogenous zones are those places on your body that feel ~extra~ good when touched. Places like ears, neck, nipples, inner wrists, the vaginal or penile region, and inner thighs are some common ones that could be fun to explore!
- Porn: Watching porn can help some individuals feel more empowered and less stressed. It can also give ideas of some fun things to try in bed.
Some people believe that because they’re menstruating that they have to give up sex for a week, but that couldn’t be less true! There are SO many benefits of having sex on your period, like period cramp, headache and migraine relief, shorter periods, natural lube, and an increased sex drive. Period sex can be a fun way to make the most of your time of the month in the bedroom, so don’t be afraid to embrace your sexuality and add some spice to your sex life!
Pain During Sex
Feeling some sort of pain when engaging in sex? It’s called dyspareunia, and it's not uncommon, but it's important to know what’s going on down there:
- Pain For Vulva Owners: The muscles of the pelvic floor play a big role in sexual function and sensation. Sometimes these muscles can tense up during arousal, resulting in the same sort of pain as period cramps. Other causes of dyspareunia could be vaginal dryness, a yeast infection or urinary tract infection, irritable bowel syndrome, or STI’s.
- Pain For Penis Owners: There are many possible reasons for pain during sexual activity, but most common are excessive friction, urinary tract infections, prostatitis, or STI’s.
A one-time pain during sex is not normally a cause for worry, but if pain during sexual activities is a common occurrence, then it is highly recommended that you see a health care provider. While it can be embarrassing or uncomfortable to talk about your pain, for most people this is not a lifelong concern, and getting treated can have you feeling better in no time.
When engaging in sexual activity with someone besides yourself, it’s good practice to use some method of protection to prevent pregnancy (if that’s a goal of yours) and transmission of STIs.
- External Condoms: covers the shaft of the penis or toy (have some fun with different flavors or glow-in-the-dark condoms!)
- Internal Condoms: sits inside the vaginal canal
- Dental Dams: small sheets of latex or polyurethane plastic that cover the genitals to protect you during oral sex
- The Pill: an oral contraceptive containing hormones to prevent ovulation. This is 99% effective with perfect use and 91% with typical use.
- The Implant: a rod surgically inserted into the upper arm that releases progestin to prevent ovulation. This is 99% effective.
- The Patch: looks similar to a bandaid that sticks onto your skin and delivers hormones into your bloodstream to prevent ovulation. This is 99.7% effective with perfect use and 93% effective with typical use.
- The IUD: a tiny T-shaped device inserted into the uterus by a healthcare provider to prevent ovulation. This is up to 99% effective.
- The Vaginal Ring: a flexible ring containing estrogen and progesterone that you insert into the vagina for 3 weeks at a time. This is 99.7% effective with perfect use and 93% effective with typical use.
- The Shot: an injection of hormones by a healthcare provider. This is 99.8% effective with perfect use and 87% effective with typical use.
- Emergency Contraception: a pill you can take after having unprotected sex, aka the “morning after” pill. This is between 75% and 85% effective.
If you’re looking to get started on birth control, do your research to see what fits you and your lifestyle best. Set up a meeting with your healthcare provider, and make sure to voice your birth control goals: wants, needs, questions, and concerns. From there, you will work together to find the best method for you.
It is important to remember that the birth control methods listed above do NOT protect against STIs, only pregnancy. If you don’t use barrier methods, consider participating in routine STI screenings. Getting tested is no big deal, and if you happen to test positive, it's important to know what next steps to take to keep yourself and your partner(s) healthy.
COVID-19 has affected us and our sex lives for over a year now, but those who are dealing with the stress and trauma from COVID-19 after already having suffered from sexual or relationship violence are some of those individuals being impacted the most. To read more about the connection between COVID and sexual violence, check out the guest blog post from Ariana Deherder, Violence Prevention Student Assistant with the Center for Women and Gender Equity.
Sex and the LGBTQIA+ Community
Sex education in America often excludes the teaching of LGBTQIA+ identities and relationships, leaving youths across the country uninformed. As a marginalized population, LGBTQIA+ people have an even greater need to know about themselves, their community, and how to safely and consensually participate in relationships (sexual or otherwise). When looking at the sexuality of the LGBTQIA+ community, it is best to use a holistic approach. This view intertwines sexual identity, gender identity, sensuality, sexual health, and more to have an encompassing perspective on the individual. We live in such a heteronormative society that sometimes we say things that negatively effect those around us unintentionally. Ways that people can be more inclusive and respectful towards the community are simple, like using “folks” instead of “ladies and gentlemen,” or using the term “partner” instead of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” This is all just a surface level recap, so please read our “Sex and the LGBTQIA+ Community” blog by WIT Peer Educator Beck Lukins (they/them) for an extremely comprehensive and informational post.
Sex and Disability
The World Health Organization lists three dimensions of disability: impairment, activity limitation, and participation restrictions. People with disabilities aren’t always thought of as beings with feelings outside of their disabilities, but they are not defined by their disability. There are so many myths surrounding sex and disability, such as people with disabilities can’t have sex, only have sex with each other, or that they don’t need comprehensive sexual education. But, people with disabilities are sexual and sexy people too! As an able-bodied woman I cannot speak on any experience, so here is a list of educators and influencers to follow on Instagram that have lived experiences with disability and sex:
Sexual Rights Are Human rights
Planned Parenthood uses FRIES to explain consent: Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, and Specific. When it comes to sexuality, it is a human right to decide freely on all matters related to your body, as well as freedom from coercion, violence, or intimidation in all sexual encounters. The definition of sexual autonomy is that you alone have complete control over when, with who, and under what circumstances you engage in any sexual activity. Recognition that all individuals have the right to determine what’s best for themselves is key to living a safe, sexually satisfying life. Even if you decide to never engage in sexual activity, it is important to stay educated in sexual health and the rights you have because there is SO much more than the physical acts of sex. No matter what you decide to do with your sex life, its entirely up to you! Of course, when with a partner, their consent is required too. When it comes to your sexual encounters, no one knows what's best for you better than you! Self-determination over your body leads to an empowered sexual experience.
With all of this being said, we hope you have learned some valuable information, and that you continue to stay informed about sexual education. Happy summer & see you in the fall!
By: Camryn Lane, WIT Peer Educator
Sex and the LGBTQIA+ Community
Part of our Sex-Ed Series
More than 1 in 3 LGBTQIA+ Americans faced discrimination of some kind in the past year, and this discrimination has moderately to significantly psychologically impacted 1 in 2 LGBTQIA+ folk. This discrimination can occur in any sector of a person’s life – at school, at work, or within their own personal relationships. Sex education in America often excludes or even prohibits the teaching of LGBTQIA+ identities and relationships, leaving hundreds of youths across the country uninformed. As a marginalized population, LGBTQIA+ people have an even greater need to know about themselves, their community, and how to safely and consensually participate in relationships (sexual or otherwise).
A Holistic Approach to Sexuality
Holistic Sexuality refers to a multi-dimensional approach towards how one views their sexuality. It encompasses more than just a person’s sexual identity; it also includes a person’s gender identity, intimacy, sensuality, sexualization, and sexual health and reproduction. This is helpful because all of these aspects of a person’s body and soul are interconnected and fluid and can change throughout the course of life. This allows for you to have a better sense of yourself and be more confident in your desires.
This holistic approach is also very useful for some members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Asexuality, Demisexuality and Greysexuality are all sexual orientations on the ace spectrum and are often misunderstood or rejected. However, they are all very real and valid identities which may or may not include physical attraction or sex. Sexual attraction or desire is different from a sex drive, or libido. Everyone is unique; some people may have low or high libidos but will choose to act on them differently. Some people are very interested in sex and enjoy having it, while others may not be as interested or don’t enjoy having it. There is no right or wrong way to do it, and no right or wrong way to be.
Sometimes the words we use can have unintended effects on the people around us. American (and most other) societies have been raised and continue to function on The Binary, which is the concept of a gender structure consisting only of two genders: male and female. This means that almost everything in our world is constructed to fit into one of these two categories, regardless of what it is. Colors, music, jobs, clothes, toys – almost everything can be described as “girly” or “manly”, “pretty” or “handsome”. Everything comes with a predetermined label on it, forcing conformity. Unfortunately, this means that for folks who don’t fit into either of these categories, they are left with a hard decision: to allow themselves to be incorrectly categorized or speak up and inevitably face the challenge of no longer fitting in anywhere. For this reason, inclusive language and acknowledgement of the existence of more than one gender and of same-sex couples is massively important. It helps let LGBTQIA+ people know that they are seen, safe, and welcomed by a particular person or in a particular space.
Some examples of inclusive language include:
- Instead of “Ladies and Gentlemen”, say “Everyone” or “Folks”
- Try not to say ma’am or sir if you don’t know that that is how the person identifies
- Ask about someone’s partner or relationship instead of assuming boyfriend or girlfriend
- Use the terms “people with penises” or “vulva-owners” instead of saying men and women, since not all people who have a penis or vagina will identify as a man or woman
- Introduce yourself with your pronouns and ask other people for theirs
The Acronym: Labels and What They Means
What does LGBTQIA+ stand for? Here are the letters from the acronym and some of the most common labels used in the community.
- Lesbian: a woman who is attracted to other women. The label is also used by gender-nonconforming folks.
- Gay: someone who is attracted to those of their same gender. Can be used as an umbrella term but is also sometimes used to specifically refer to men who like men.
- Bisexual: someone who is attracted to those of their same gender as well as people of a second, different gender. Can be used as an umbrella term for anyone who is attracted to more than one gender.
- Transgender: Someone whose gender identity differs from the one that was assigned to them at birth. Many transgender people identify as either male or female, while others may see transgender as an umbrella term and identify as gender nonconforming or queer. This term is used as an adjective, avoid using it as a noun.
- Queer/Questioning: Queer is an umbrella term to refer to someone who is not straight or cisgender and is increasingly being used as reclamation due to its past use as a pejorative term. Questioning is exactly what it sounds like; anyone who is questioning their gender or sexual orientation and doesn’t yet have or want a label for themselves.
- Intersex: someone who is born with variations in anatomy, hormones or chromosomes that does not fit within the traditional definition of male or female bodies
- Asexual: someone who experiences little or no sexual attraction, or experiences attraction but doesn’t want or feel the need to act on that attraction sexually
: the plus here refers to any and all other labels
that exist in the community
- Non-binary: someone whose gender identity does not conform to the gender binary
- Pansexual: someone who is attracted to people of any and all genders.
- Cisgender: someone whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth
- Genderfluid: someone whose gender identity or gender expression varies over time
There are many more labels not listed, but you can find them on this glossary if you’re curious. A label is unique and deeply personal, so know that these definitions (while universally accepted) are not definitive and may mean something slightly different to each individual who uses them.
Increased Health Disparities
LGBTQIA+ youth are at a substantial risk for health disparities related to STIs, unplanned pregnancies, and intimate partner violence. Additionally LGBTQIA+ people are up to 30% more likely to be forced to have sex and up to 5 times more likely to consider or attempt suicide. And because the healthcare system is not designed to support those who do not fit conventional molds, queer people are more likely to avoid going to the doctor and therefore less likely to receive quality medical care. Overall, this means people who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community are more likely to need support and education but are less likely to receive it.
When sex and relationships are talked about in the media, they are often talked about in a way that is harmful to LGBTQIA+ people. In songs, movies, tv shows, and social media, the most common representation we see of sex is heteronormative and cisgendered. This means that what is most often shown or talked about is sex between a straight man and a straight woman. Reality is very different however, and we know that there are many people who don’t fit into that model. A lack of representation and visibility in media when it comes to sex and intimacy is especially dangerous regarding the LGBTQIA+ community. People are scared of what they don’t know or don’t understand, and if queer people are not shown to greater audiences than they can never be understood and accepted as normal.
Helpful Barrier Methods
While the traditional condom barrier method is still used by LGBTQIA+ individuals, there are other less common barrier methods which are specifically used by queer couples. These include the dental dam, latex gloves, and finger cots. These can all be used by anyone of any orientation or gender identity, but currently tend to be most utilized by the LGBTQIA+ community. All the common birth control and contraceptive methods are also still applicable to LGBTQIA+ individuals and couples if they are looking to prevent pregnancy and they are engaging in sexual activity involving a penis/sperm and vagina/ovaries. Safer sex is just as important in the queer community as it is for straight couples, and if you’re interested in how to have safer sex with yourself or with a partner, you can find out more at our other blog posts.
What is Dysphoria and How Can You Overcome It
Transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) individuals often experience something called dysphoria, a medical diagnosis for the significant psychological distress a person feels when their gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth. To help alleviate this distress, TGNC individuals may choose to pursue transitioning, which is the process of physically, socially, or medically changing their body to align with their gender. One way to do this is with the use of packers and/or breast padding. These prosthetics can also help in the bedroom, where dysphoria can be extremely hindering during a person’s attempt to be physically intimate with themselves or with another person or people. Packers are silicone penises and come in both soft or erect positions and can be worn during the day or during sexual activity. Breast padding are bra inserts or breast forms made of either fabric or silicone. They can come in any color or size (as can packers) and help enhance or create a person’s chest.
Sex Toys and Pleasure
Sex toys are also a safe and helpful way to learn what you like and experiment with your sexuality. They can help affirm gender identity and relieve gender dysphoria and are a great way to keep sex feeling new. Sex toys can also help take the pressure off performance anxieties and encourage new experiences. Keep in mind that sex toys are not federally regulated and manufacturers are not required to be honest in their labeling, so it is best to buy from well-known, trusted sources. The most common materials are silicone, stainless steel, glass, and hard plastic. Not all lubes will work on all materials so make sure you read the instructions before using. Toys should be cleaned before and after every use and should be stored in a cloth or plastic bag between uses to avoid bacteria. If a toy is being shared, change condoms before the toy touches someone else. Additionally, if you are using the toy in more than one location on your own body, you should also change condoms before you use the toy in a different orifice. For anal activities, all toys should have a flared base to ensure it is not lost inside the body - and as the anus is not a self-lubricating area, lube is your friend!
Many couples have their own definition of what sex is, and how they have it. This is particularly true for LGBTQIA+ couples who don’t fit into society’s definition of a traditional couple. Everyone gets to decide what counts as sex for them, and what sex means for them. Make sure you know what you want or what you’re open to before you start something. It’s only fair to yourself and anyone you may be with that you’re in the right headspace. Be open-minded and communicative. Talk with yourself or your partner(s) so you know what’s happening and if everyone is liking it. Lose all expectations; a certain act or position doesn’t have to mean anything, and liking or not liking something doesn’t make you more or less of who you are. And finally, sex is not necessarily all about achieving an orgasm. It’s about finding pleasure and having fun. Not everyone needs or even wants to achieve orgasm – sometimes, having sex is just about the experience of sharing intimacy, learning what you or your partner(s) like, and building a bond.
Know Your Rights
LGBTQIA+ people don’t have all the rights that their straight, cisgendered peers do. However, LGBTQIA+ people do currently have:
- The right to change healthcare providers at any time and for any reason
- The right to accurate and uncensored information
- The right to affordable healthcare
- The right to free speech and free press
- The right to autonomy
A Personal Note on Freedom and Expression
I would like to take a moment here to address something. During this article, I have talked about things that range from “vanilla” (by which I mean relatively accepted within the realm of the normal societal mainstream) to things more traditionally unconventional. Therefore, I want to end this blog with a short aside on the LGBTQIA+ community in relation to sex. Sometimes, when people think of gay people or trans people, they may think of sodomy or of how or who that person engages with in sexual activity. I want to note that when people make this association, they are perhaps unknowingly engaging in a homophobic implicit bias against queer people. They are not acknowledging the full humanity of the queer person - only their sexual nature and ways in which they find the queer person to be different or lesser than them. Alternatively, I would also like to note that perhaps part of the reason so many LGBTQIA+ people feel free to express themselves in ways that some people find deviant or “unnecessary” is that we as a people have had to fight simply to be ourselves. Some of us have come to a state of mind where we know who we are and love who we are, and refuse to hide or change any part of ourselves any longer - and no longer care what other people think.
By: Beck Lukins (they/them), WIT Peer Educator
A note from the author: If anyone has any questions, curiosities, or would like more information (even if it’s something I didn’t touch on), please feel free to reach out to me! I am a completely open book when it comes to my story and my identity, and I have spent several years now working to better educate myself and others. As a queer and trans student here at GVSU, I take great pride in being a source of information for people both in and outside the LGBTQIA+ community, and I am always happy to respond to folks. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org , or if you are not a GVSU member you can contact me through my Instagram @beck_lukins. Cheers!
You found the perfect trail, but you're not sure what to take? Packing the “essentials'' - plus a couple of other things - will ensure your trips go as planned, and more importantly, you are prepared for whatever the trail may throw at you - including getting lost, a storm, or even (but hopefully not!) an injury on the trail. Even though it may seem unnecessary in the moment, packing the correct items can potentially save your life if things go astray. When packing for hiking it's important to pack not much more than the essentials to avoid increasing weight in your backpack too much. The hardest part is finding the perfect balance between what's necessary and what would end up taking up space and weight. Much of what you bring is determined by the length and location of the hike. For example, a short hike (1-3 miles) may require little gear and can be done without a pack at all, and longer hikes (5-10 miles) may require much more.
There are an unlimited number of factors to consider before setting something into your pack. The crowdedness of the trail, for example, could determine whether or not you bring a source of fire and shelter -there could be fellow hikers there to help in case of an accident. A trail map or map of the area will be of enormous help if you find yourself lost. Most trails will have the map posted at the trailhead,snapping a quick picture with your phone can help you remember where to go. Ultimately it's up to you (the hiker) to decide what to bring, but there are some items that should be heavily considered.
Aside from food and water, the most important piece of gear to bring on the trail is a backpack. It will hold all your gear and keep your hands free when hiking on difficult terrain. Whether you are selecting an existing backpack to bring or if you’re in the market to purchase one, there are a couple things to consider.
- Size - Backpacks are usually measured in liters (how many liters
each pack can carry).
- 10 liters or less: Super lightweight and used for either running or quick fast hikes. Perfect for the shorter hikes (~2 hours). Less comfortable and don’t hold as much.
- 10-20 liters: Tends to be the most popular size for day hikes; a balance between weight and captivity. Can be comfortable depending on the brand and quality. A generic school bag is about this size.
- 20 liters through 80 liters: Built for long days on the trial with the ability to carry lots of gear. Usually used on backpacking trips of multiple days in a row on the trail. Usually pretty comfortable and can hold quite a bit, but are more expensive and heavier.
Now that you have the perfect pack selected for your hike, what do you put in it?
Food and Water
When packing food and water for the hike, it's important to bring enough. It’s better to have more than you need in case of an injury or a wrong turn leaves you out on the trail longer than expected.
Water is the most essential item to bring with you on the trail. Dehydration on the trail is very common and can be a deadly mistake if not taken seriously. For shorter day hikes, bringing around 32oz of water should be enough. Increase the amount of water you bring based on the distance and time you plan to spend on the trail. The temperature on the day you plan to hike will also influence how much water you take. As the temperature increases, so should the amount of water you bring. The amount of water you bring also depends on you, you know your body better than anyone else so pack as much water as you see fit.
Food with a high amount of calories will give you the most energy per gram of food, essentially more bang for your buck. Foods that do not to be refrigerated and are light weight are preferred. Items like beef jerky and granola bars are a staple trail food and for good reason, because they offer a good balance of protein and calories while being small and lightweight. It’s best to stay away from food that’s high in sweets, such as candy bars or bakery items. These simple carbohydrates have high amounts of sugar that will leave you feeling tired later on down the trail.
Clothing and Layers
Nothing is worse than being stuck out on the trail and either a rainstorm or cold front comes and not being prepared. When choosing what clothes to bring, it's important to first check the forecast to give you a general idea of the type of weather you may experience. Wearing layers or bringing clothing that can be layered is the best option for anything mother nature may throw at you. The basic layering system consists of a tighter thermal layer first with, an insulation layer in the middle. A raincoat or windshell is great for wearing on the outermost layer, as it will keep the weather out and the heat in. For warm temperature hikes, something lightweight such a tank top or t-shirt would be great. Packing a raincoat in your bag could be a lifesaver if the weather were to turn sour. A hike boot or hiking shoe offer superior traction compared to a regular tennis shoe on the trail. Wearing thick and supportive socks can help prevent blisters along with other foot pain. Speaking of socks,nothing is worse than walking in a wet cold pair of socks, so if you're going somewhere with water or with high heat, throwing an extra pair could prove to be useful.
Now that you have a basic idea of what to bring, you can start to adapt your own idea of what to bring. Deciding what to take and what to leave is often a difficult task. Countless factors can determine whether you leave something at home or put it in your bag, and ultimately it's up to you, the hiker to determine this. We hope we’ve helped you prepare, at least a little bit! You can also learn more through the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace. Happy hiking!
By: Owen Dingledine
Intramural (IM) Sports are a great way to get involved at Grand Valley, and it’s not only us who would tell you that! Students will testify to the great things happening in Recreation & Wellness, including their experiences with IM Sports. Three of the students we interviewed got involved with IM Sports their first year of college, but it’s never too late to join in on the fun.
Sophomore; played on 8 teams for a total of 17 games in 2020-21.
“Intramural Sports are one of my favorite things that I have done on campus lately”
When did you first get involved with IM Sports?
I got involved with IM Sports right away during my freshman year by making an IM soccer team with high school friends. I even met new friends through the IM Sports platform when we needed more players. I also joined my housing team’s beach volleyball team to connect with other students that lived with me.
What IM Sports do you participate in, which is your
So far I have participated in soccer, tennis, beach volleyball, badminton, indoor volleyball, spike ball, corn hole, and online fantasy sports league (football and basketball) that started this year. My favorite sport has to be soccer but volleyball is a close second. I played soccer for clubs and high school before coming to college and I always enjoy the chance to play soccer. I never played volleyball until my first beach volleyball game and I intensely loved the challenge of using my arms instead of just my feet.
What makes you excited to play your favorite sports?
My favorite thing about playing all these sports is getting my friends active and involved in the sports I love. I also get to make new friends along the way and have a fun break from homework and studying. I love being able to play games with other students here at GV that also like to be competitive and have fun.
Why is it important to play IM Sports right now?
IM sports are so important to be involved in (especially right now) because it is an opportunity to be active on campus and meet new people who have similar interests. Staying fit and being active can happen at the gym and on trails around campus, but these organized sports are a great way to add more sport specificity in one’s life and widen your skillset.
How do IM Sports help you reach your
IM sports have definitely helped me reach my step goals, but they also allow me to connect with friends which makes me happy. If we only meet once a week for a game, I am still very excited to play with them again. As many of my classes are by myself, I don’t get to see the same people every week. My sports allow me to have somewhat of a routine and make life seem more normal. I have found that IM sports are not only helping me reach my physical goals but my mental health goals are being achieved too by being outdoors and spending time with others.
Junior; played on 8 teams for a total of 23 games in 2020-21
“I have so much fun just spending time with my friends and competing in a friendly environment”
When did you first get involved with IM sports?
My freshman year
What IM Sports do you participate in, which is your
Out of all of them, I enjoy playing soccer the most, but the team plays better in sand volleyball so that’s a close second.
What makes you excited to play your favorite sports?
Spending time with my friends having fun and laughing. Also, the competitive nature of playoffs and some regular-season games are a lot of fun.
Why is it important to play IM Sports right now?
To stay active and enjoy time with friends and other students on campus.
How do IM Sports help you reach your
Soccer and football have made me get in better shape because of all the running. It feels great.
Junior; played on 8 teams for a total of 14 games in 2020-21
“I have definitely enjoyed IM sports and recommend it to everyone”
When did you first get involved with IM Sports?
I got involved in IM sports during the first semester of my freshman year. The very first team I joined was a random soccer team as a free agent. I was a little shy and intimidated for not knowing anyone, but I ended up becoming good friends with a majority of the team. I have been doing IM sports every semester since!
What IM Sports do you participate in, which is your
I try to participate in as many IM sports each semester as I can. This semester, I have been a part of sand volleyball, indoor soccer, indoor volleyball, and table tennis. In past years, I have also played spike ball, kickball, softball, ultimate frisbee, and futsal. I think my favorite would have to be sand volleyball because I love diving for a ball and landing in the soft sand. Sometimes I just wish it was a bit warmer!
What makes you excited to play your favorite sports?
The reason I enjoy IM sports so much is because of the people I play with. I enjoy meeting new people on my team and also reconnecting with old friends through the sport. I love the friendly competition that takes place, especially when I am playing against a friend. I also loved trying new sports because it was a great mix of trying new skills but also knowing my teammates had my back if I ever messed up.
Why is it important to play IM Sports right now?
I think playing IM sports right now is important because it gets you active, you are surrounded by new friendly faces. It is easy to be stuck at home with online classes so this is a great opportunity to get out and do something fun with a group of friends. It is also a great chance to meet new people and make some long-lasting friendships. It is also a great time to try something new and to branch out to new hobbies.
How do IM Sports help you reach your
All of the IM sports I have participated in have definitely made me stay on my feet. I feel like I am getting the exercise I want in a fun, competitive way, rather than working out by myself in the gym. It does not only help me physically but keeps my mind sharp as well as I have to react and communicate quickly.
THANK YOU to all of our participants and student employees. We hope you had fun, tried a new sport, and made some new friends! If sports do not interest you, we have many other areas for you to get involved with here at Recreation and Wellness.
By: Caleb Danielson