Fuck, Do I Really Look That Fat?
Health |  Source: L. Smith, Shutterstock

Fuck, Do I Really Look That Fat?

Dealing with body image is never easy.

According to Do Something Campaign, 58 percent of women in college feel pressured to be a particular weight. Also, 91 percent of women are unhappy with the way they look, and as a result, they will resort to dieting to achieve their goal body weight. Sadly, only five percent of women often portray the body weight shown by our media today.

Why should people, especially girls, have to constantly worry about how they look like at all times? Do you have to be supermodel thin? No, absolutely NOT!

As you continue to read this article, you may think I am talking out my ass, but I am not (also, that may look a little weird).

Let's go back a few years ago to when I was in middle school. I had a little bit extra weight on me. I was not obese, but I was in the 150s with a horrible BMI (Body Mass Index). I just did not like the way I looked. As time went on, I struggled to lose the weight because I just never became determined to get rid of it.

Now, it is the summer before my freshman year of college. At this point, I slimmed down some, but that was because I grew. I still was not happy. So, I said to myself, "Let's lose this damn weight once and for all!"

Before going to college, I weighed myself, and I ended up losing a total of 30 pounds! I was ecstatic! I was able to keep the weight off for a long time, but then life happens and I started to gain some of it back.

Now, I look in the mirror and I will either like the way I look or I don't. That is human nature. We ALL have those moments. The biggest thing about why I am writing about this topic is for awareness of your POSITIVE body image.

No one, and I repeat, NO ONE should tell you how you should feel or how you should look. That is determined by you and you alone! Love who you are. There is no need to please people just for them to like you. They should like you no matter what.

If you struggle with self-image, there are always resources on campus that can help you! I know that at my school, there is a group related to wellness. A big part of the group is related to talking about self-image and why you should love yourself. They can help you get on the correct path, whether it is how to make you feel good about yourself, wanting to eat healthier, working out, etc. So, go to your local health center or your schools' website and look up what resources they have that can help you.

Here are some tips that really helped me get to the point I am at today to be a healthy and active woman:

1. Write down what you eat. I use an app on my iPhone called "MyFitnessPal", and have been using it for almost a year now. It has helped me keep track of all the food that I eat daily.

2. Meal prep. Meal prepping has helped me not only save time during the week, but has also kept me to eating clean and healthy. I like to get my errands done early Saturday morning so that I have the weekend to relax. Go food shopping in the morning and then meal prep after.

3. NEVER go to the grocery store hungry. It will result in you wanting to get unhealthy foods.

4. Work out at least three to five times a week. I took a couple months off from working out. Now, I am getting back into the swing of things and got back to my love for working out. I even started working with a personal trainer who kicks my ass, but also helps me do exercises correctly.

5. Stay positive! Staying positive is key when you want to have great body image. If you are sad and down in the dumps about how you look, you will only become discouraged. So get that ass out of your seat and do something POSITIVE about it!

Lastly, I want to end with this: you ARE beautiful. It does not matter about anyone else's opinion but your own! So go out there into this world and flaunt your stunning bodies!

Image Alt
Health |  Source: livescience.com

A Discussion on Eating Disorders and Athletics

Sports hurt--and helped--my health.

FlockU Presents is a new vertical we've launched for longform pieces about topics you care about - everything from sex and body shaming to the history of beer pong to how terrorism affects you as a college student.

Sports have always been an incredibly important part of my life. They've provided an outlet for my stress and helped me form so many lifelong relationships and memories. But because sports are sports, competition is fierce, and sometimes the pressure to perform and succeed takes a severe toll on personal health. It happened to me (and many others).

What started as a watchful diet turned into a life-consuming eating disorder, and I'm sadly not alone in this experience. According to a 2006 survey by the National Eating Disorders Association, 20% of college students said they have or have previously had an eating disorder. Eating disorders and subclinical symptoms are most prevalent among female college students, with 91% of female students surveyed saying that they have tried to control their weight through dieting, and 25% stating that they've binged and purged.

Female athletes in particular are at some of the highest risks for developing eating disorders due to the "perfection" we seek in our sport. A study by the NCAA found 33% of Division 1 female athletes have symptoms that place them in the high-risk category for anorexia. In sports that have a higher emphasis on appearance, such as gymnastics and figure skating, 62 percent of female athletes were reported to have eating disorders. These numbers are alarming, but from personal experience I can attest that these documented cases are only a fraction of the reality.

In high school I was in field hockey, swimming, and track, but focused primarily on the two individual endurance sports (both high-risk categories). I excelled at swimming at a young age and was regionally ranked by the time I was 12, but began lagging behind when I started playing multiple sports. I distinctly remember one of my coaches telling me "You just need to practice more," as the cure-all solution.

It was a seemingly basic comment, but one that piled on to all of my other anxieties. I was obese in elementary school, something that contributed to my parents' fighting and their eventual divorce. I began losing weight in middle school by avoiding sugar and fat, and counting calories--habits that grew exponentially worse in high school. I was also a straight-A student and academic perfectionist, a characteristic that put me at risk. I never partied because I always had practice or games. I just wanted to keep improving, and I thought training and watching my diet would do the trick.

I remember starting every morning by stepping on the scale. It was my own little competition that I thought would improve my appearance and athletics. I prized myself for shrinking down to 107 lbs. For breakfast I only allowed myself a bowl of plain oatmeal and one cup of coffee; for lunch, some raw veggies, two slices of turkey, and an apple (300 calories max). I would be exhausted by the end of the day, my stomach groaning and head spinning, but once my body adjusted it seemed normal. Occasionally I would ask to eat my friends' leftovers, only to feel guilty later.

During hockey and track, I trained directly after school on an empty stomach. I would leave my hockey practices and games only to go run another two to four miles. Bear in mind that I was a midfielder, already running upwards of four miles in a game.

During winter when I went home before swim practice, I always checked the scale first. Depending on the number, I would scarf down entire bags of chips and pots of stew only to force myself to puke them up before practice.

The NCAA reported that 45 percent of swimmers surveyed felt that the revealing nature of a swimsuit created an additional stressor in the sport. I would constantly check myself in the mirror from all angles, over-analyzing every bulge and bump that my tight suit seemed to highlight, jealous of the "perfect" bodies that some of my competitors had.

My body and weight soon became a widely discussed topic. I constantly received mixed comments from everyone-- friends, family, teachers, coaches, even strangers. I was either "gorgeous and strong" or "so skinny." It messed with my head, but ultimately I remember being proud of my smaller size. And for track, I was performing too. I won races, went to states, and ran a 5:25 mile. But my body was breaking down-- literally.

Eating disorders deny your body the nutrients it needs to function properly, and as a result your body responds by slowing down to conserve energy, leading to fatigue, muscle loss, irregular heartbeats, hormonal imbalances, and numerous other health consequences. I began losing my hair in chunks and had two stress fractures in high school from over-training. That's eight to twelve weeks each time that I wasn't allowed to do anything. For someone who lives to compete and was afraid to gain a pound, this was devastating. I also stopped having my period. That's when my parents stepped in and forced me to see a doctor.

I was diagnosed only as "high risk," because I lied answering a majority of the questions. "Have you ever forced yourself to purge?" "No." "How many calories do you eat in a day?" "Over three thousand".

Denial with eating disorders is extremely common for athletes, who often deny physical pain and injuries in order to continue competing (been there, tons of times). Ever heard of "No pain, no gain"? I would chant that to myself as I ran on stress fractures and pulled muscles, popping everything from ibuprofen to oxycodone before competition. My parents made me quit swimming for a while until I gained weight. Swimming used to be the one thing that got me through each day. Being forced to quit was miserable.

But during this time, I learned about the female athlete triad, which includes three distinct, interrelated health concerns: eating disorder, amenorrhea (irregular or no menstruation), and osteoporosis (low bone density from lack of nutrients and over-exercise). 25% of female athletes have at least one of these symptoms, but I had all three, and even bragged to my friends that I never got my period.

While initial improvement occurs for many athletes with eating disorders, they don't last long. Turns out, not having your period negatively affects your athletic performance and bone growth. One study found female athletes with ovarian suppression performed 9.8% worse than their peers with normal menstrual cycles. Amenorrhea also directly causes an irreversible reduction in Bone Mineral Density, a serious concern considering 90% of our bone growth occurs before we turn 18, putting us at a higher risk for stress fractures, osteopenia, and osteoporosis. With five stress fractures and counting, it pains me to know I will forever live with the consequences of my unhealthy past.

#injuniored

A photo posted by Taylor Swift (@tayraeswift) on

I started gaining weight the end of my senior year and into college, but still had relapses. I remember my freshman year when I joined Oberlin track and everyone asked me if I ran the 400m. Their faces were shocked when I told them I ran distance, because "I didn't look like it." I was too big for their category, and it made me feel awful. I had another stress fracture that year, and that's when I quit track to pick up lacrosse.

When I switched to focusing on field hockey and lacrosse, two team sports, that's when I officially became healthier. I had to shower naked with my teammates every day, and their supportive words and emphasis on body positivity stuck with me. My coaches no longer forgot about or ignored me if I didn't perform as well. The individual pressures were gone, and It was the first time I felt beautiful and proud of my body for all of its athletic strength.



I'm proud to say that I now weigh around the 140s (I don't step on scales), and can almost bench my weight and squat well over it. I still have days when I overly criticize my body--things like this don't just go away. But it's nothing like it was before. I'm determined to keep healthy so I can compete and be an athlete for the rest of my life. I'm done with the damn boot.


Image Alt
Health |  Source: thetenmost.com

Our Obsession With Weight Loss

There's healthy weight loss, and then there's unhealthy.

"This Is How To Lose Weight and Keep It Off!"

"Lose Weight In Your Sleep - Seriously!"

"17 Days to Significant Weight Loss."

"26 Tips to Help You Lose Weight and Feel Great."

I browsed Shape.com for fitness and health articles, and these are the titles and headlines that I found. Noticing a trend? I do too, one that isn't unique to this one fitness news outlet. Our society has become obsessed with the idea of losing weight.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Weight loss can be empowering, rewarding, and healthy, of course. Bodybuilding.com has an incredible section on their website dedicated to people transforming their bodies. Being a dedicated follower of the bodybuilding and fitness industry, I love reading this page. These stories, like this one I read recently, are motivational and uplifting.

The facts and sources don't lie. The CDC notes the numerous health risks associated with being overweight or obese, including hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, and the CDC reports that 38 percent of adults and 17 percent of teenagers are obese.

Now why would I have a problem with our society's weight loss craze after reading these scary numbers? It would certainly seem that America needs to lose weight. But my problem with the weight loss craze doesn't have to do with physical health. I'm not discouraging people who have weight to lose from pursuing weight loss plans and diets in a safe way. My big issue with our society's obsession deals with the effects of body weight struggles that are invisible but very real: the mental and emotional aspects.

We associate weight loss with success. Fitness. Happiness. Beauty. Power. Weight gain, on the other hand, is rarely ever something to be celebrated. It's inherently a bad, negative, stigmatized concept (refer again to those scary statistics above). I'm horrified that things such as fat shaming and body shaming exist nowadays, and are accepted. Perfectly normal, beautiful women are labeled as "plus-size" and "unhealthy" simply because they don't match society's definition of fitness and typical body shape (slay, Ashley Graham, slayyyyyy).

I have witnessed firsthand the growing stigma surrounding weight gain, especially among young women. For a long time, I was blinded by the tempting headlines and weight loss articles. I drove myself mad stepping on the scale each morning until I became a slave to the practice. I worshipped my mirror. I ate less and less each day, striving to make that accursed little number shrink. My calorie intake was likely close to or even less than 1100 per day. I justified my obsession with becoming skinny and thin by promising myself I'd be a happier, more athletic, fit version of myself. This was going to make me amazing. Pretty. Strong. Confident. But I was I wrong.

I eventually met with a dietitian and was talked into sanity...a sanity that unfortunately did not last long. I traded starvation for the pursuit of a very strictly healthy diet, to the point where I completely swore off certain foods. No eggs. No red meat. Definitely no sugar. I couldn't eat out at restaurants and would fall into panic mode if I couldn't get out of the situation. I had to cook everything for myself, because there was no way I'd really know what other people put into my food. I fell back into the pattern of weighing myself until the scale became my captor again.

These thought patterns crept into my exercise habits as well, until I hated myself on days I didn't work out. I lost 11 pounds from freshman to sophomore year of college, and in the summer of 2014, I was diagnosed with orthorexia nervosa and OCD. Orthorexia is, quite simply, the unhealthy obsession with a "healthy" lifestyle and diet, to the point where everyday life is disrupted. I correlated my diet and weight to my emotional well-being; if I was skinny and eating a perfect diet, then I was happy.

I was involuntarily sidelined from playing college volleyball in the spring of 2015. The sports physicians discovered that I had a dangerous iron deficiency, one that would have required an emergency blood transfusion had my levels been any lower. I wasn't allowed to practice. Lift. Run. For two and a half weeks. Even when I returned to practice, I wasn't allowed to jump, power lift, or sprint. On top of that, I weighed 139 pounds, which, for a 6-foot Division I athlete, is severely underweight. I had a choice. I could sit the bench, or I could gain weight and play. For me, there wasn't a choice. This was the sport and the team that I loved.

So, the campus dietitians put me on a 3,000 calorie-a-day diet, which horrified me at first. At our weekly team weigh-ins, I had to watch all my teammates smile proudly if their weights had dropped, or roll their eyes and mutter "damn!" if they'd gone up. I felt incredibly self-conscious and odd stepping on the scale, seeing a three-pound increase, and having to remind myself that this was good. This was making me strong. This was making me better.

In all, I gained 11 pounds, and I now sit comfortably at 150. I've finally learned to love myself and my body, and I could not be happier. I'll say it again...I'm the happiest and healthiest I've ever been in my life, and this was only after I'd gained 11 pounds. I lift heavier and run faster than I ever thought I could. I found the stronger, happier, more confident, vibrant version of myself at 150 pounds, and looking back, I know now that the 139-pound girl was a skeleton, a ghost, unhappy and sick. I had to reverse my way of thinking and separate what society thought about weight gain from what was actually true for my health. And I am so glad that I did, for the mental and emotional reasons, as well as the physical.

Lose weight if you need to, or most importantly, if you want to. Gain weight if you want to. Do it because you want to, not because you feel forced to by others or by an ideal image of fitness or beauty. You and only you get to decide what makes you happy. Take it from someone who had to make the journey and break away from a misconstrued view of fitness. Loving yourself and being healthy - truly healthy - is more important than any health craze.

Image Alt
Health |  Source: FlockU, Twitter

Why Kim K's Tweet About Weight Loss Is Problematic

Eating disorders are not a joke.

I can't lie, I am a big fan of Keeping Up With The Kardashians and following all the drama and escapades of that outrageous family. I don't think they're always the greatest of role models, but they are entertaining and for that reason have garnered a huge following.

That said, I am incredibly disappointed in Kim's latest distasteful tweet about weight loss tips.

The tweet has since been deleted, but it said that the flu was an amazing diet, and helped her drop six pounds before the MET gala. She followed up with this:

She immediately received a ton of backlash on twitter and with reason, which we assume is why she later deleted the tweet.

For one, it's absolutely horrible to glorify getting an illness as a way to lose weight, particularly from someone who is followed by millions of young girls and women. It is very likely that girls will see this as inspiration to catch the illness themselves, following in West's footsteps and down a destructive path to eating disorders.

That may seem like an outlandish statement, but when you consider the facts it's sadly realistic. The United States has an alarming rate of eating disorders, with 20 million women and 20 million men having a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their lifetime.

These are only the reported cases, which are estimated to be much lower than the actual total. Women in particular are affected, with girls as young as age six admitting concerns about their weight or becoming fat, and up to 60 percent of all elementary school girls admitting the same.

Even if Kim wasn't directly telling her followers to "go out and get the flu", the way she casually discusses weight loss only contributes to the obsession our society and the media has with body image.

The fact that she adds "lol" to the end of the tweet shows her attempt at poking fun at the situation, but eating disorders are not a joke. An off-handed comment can be triggering to the many individuals who go to extremes and harm themselves in order to lose weight.

Despite the frequency of cases, eating disorders are in fact considered a mental illness. I can say from personal experience that having an eating disorder isn't something you can just talk yourself out of.

While it's taken me years to get to a point where I actively try to live a healthier lifestyle and am less critical of my appearance, there are still days when I hate how I look and am unkind to my body. It's impossible to know what will set off these feelings, but the media and thoughtless tweets like Kim's sure don't help.

Part of the issue is how much we've normalized these conversations focused on weight and appearance, making it seem almost customary to have an eating disorder or try out different weight loss fads.

However, as stated by Lauren Smola, director of helplines services for the National Eating Disorder Association, "Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, so unintentionally causing more suffering can have deadly results."

At the end of the day, we all have a responsibility to change the conversation surrounding weight and appearance. It should start with celebrities like Kim who have the power and following to spread these messages.

Image Alt
Health | 

What It's Really Like to Have an Eating Disorder

Hungry, felt to me, like strong.

Before I even was thinking about what college I wanted to go to, I had already developed a fear of the Freshman 15. But it wasn't just a fear of gaining weight in college. It was a fear of gaining weight at all.

As with any fear that goes unaddressed, it grew. Eating disorders don't develop overnight. Someone doesn't just wake up one morning and decide to stop eating or work out excessively. Factors such as peer pressure, outside influences, stress, and body image all play into developing an eating disorder.

When I look back on the time in my life that I struggled with anorexia, I don't remember much except for food. My whole mind revolved around the idea of burgers, pasta, or salads. Thinking of them constantly and feeling my body ache and groan for nutrition made me feel as though I was in control, like I was strong enough to resist. I could control what I ate, and that made me feel good. I felt strong.

Hungry, felt to me, like strong.

But I wasn't. In reality, I was weak and sick. Focusing on school or even my friendships was exhausting because my thoughts always came back to food. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw myself bigger than I actually was. I was mentally ill, and in the process of making myself physically ill, as well.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) reveals some statistics that show just how much young women and their body images are being affected by media, "Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69 percent say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47 percent say the pictures make them want to lose weight."

These numbers reflect what I felt. Not only did constantly seeing magazines or ads with drop-dead gorgeous women with perfect bodies make me feel insecure, but being around my peers did, too.

I instantly felt lesser than anyone who I considered to be "skinnier" than me. I was constantly attempting to make myself look like models who had been Photoshopped and edited--but I didn't know they were.

I really didn't know. And I thought it was attainable.

I was willing to starve myself to attain something that wasn't even real.

I also didn't know that anorexia doesn't just make you thin. It can cause slow heart rate and low blood pressure, hair and muscle loss, dry skin and hair, and other long-term side effects.

I didn't know a lot of things. I was so young. I still am. My quest to get control in a stressful time of life led me down a destructive path. But I am so thankful I got help. I was lucky. I had support from family and friends and found a way to deal with my diagnosis through therapy and hard work. I still work on it today. But I am healthy.

If I could go back and tell myself one thing it would be that the things you see are not always real. The flawless skin, white teeth, skinny bodies--they are Photoshopped, glossy, edited versions of people. They aren't real.

Don't harm your body and your spirit by trying to attain the unattainable.

If you feel like you might have a problem or the start of one, talk to your campus health center. You can get help anonymously. Take healthy control over your body and your life.

If you or a friend need help, please call the NEDA's toll free, confidential helpline: 1-800-931-2237.

Image Alt
Health | 

Hunny of the Week 3/8: Ashley Graham

Hunny /[huhn-ee] / noun: a badass bitch who's not just hot: she's funny, smart, strong, and\or ambitious.

With her debut as the first plus-size cover model to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Ashley Graham has taken the modeling industry by storm by challenging the industry's "ideal" body type. Not only is she absolutely stunning, but she is confident, bold, and unafraid of the haters who try to put her down for being a full-figured model.

The most recent put-down came from former SI swimsuit model Cheryl Tiegs, who criticized the magazine for "glamorizing" full-figured models. She also said Graham's weight wasn't "healthy" and that her waist "should be smaller than 35 [inches]."

Talk about NOT COOL. In an industry that is already incredibly competitive and focuses on image, it's pretty shitty for one model to hate on another's body. That's why we are absolutely LOVING Graham and naming her Hunny of the Week for her kickass response to the negativity in her interview with E!.

"There are too many people thinking they can look at a girl my size and say that we are unhealthy. You can't -- only my doctor can! "Cheryl Tiegs may have said what she said, and it may have hurt a lot of people's feelings, but my skin is so thick, I kind of rolled my eyes, I was like, 'Oh, whatever, another one of these ladies.'"

Preach.

And on Ellen, she just kept on spreading that body positivity love: "I've always been told that plus size starts at a size 8 and goes up to a size 16. So the majority of this room is considered plus size. Hope you feel better about yourselves (laughs). That's the problem. We're telling women that they're plus size, but for me, I just like to call it 'curvasexalicious.'"

Tiegs finally wrote a letter of apology to Ashley last week.

I think we can all agree on one thing: Ashley is a killer role model for all of us, and is bringing to light the importance of body positivity.