Eat Less of These Three Foods as Part of a Healthier Lifestyle!

Practically any food will be “bad for you” when eaten in excessive amounts, but there are some foods out there which have been shown to be more harmful to our health than others when eaten often. The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) monitor and regulate food safety, and the Delaney Clause prohibits any known carcinogenic material from being incorporated into any food substances at any amount. However, some foods contain ingredients that can react with our bodies in ways that do not cause cancer, but can increase risk of cancer when eaten often and excessively. For example, it has been shown that diets extremely high in saturated fat increase cancer risk, but this doesn’t mean that the FDA can place a ban making it so that no food can contain any amount of saturated fat, because the fat itself is not an actual carcinogen. (1)

Here are three foods which have been studied and shown to increase cancer or disease risk with excessive intake. This doesn’t mean that you need to cut them out of your diet forever and always and stand ten feet away from them at all times! This short list is simply meant to increase awareness of the harmful potential of these foods at high intake levels and to reinforce the philosophy that all things are usually best in moderation!

1. Hot dogs and other processed meats!


A study completed by Nothlings, et al., entitled “Meat and Fat Intake as Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer: The Multiethnic Cohort Study,” was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2005. This study, conducted over a period of seven years, followed nearly 200,000 people between the ages of 45 and 75 and found that those who were in the fifth quintile of processed meat intake (the people who ate the most processed meat) had a 67% higher cancer risk than those in the lowest quintile (the people who ate the least processed meat)! (2)

Processed meats are those meats that are prepared and preserved using sodium nitrate, and can be whole or chopped and pressed meats. Some examples of processed meats include bacon (gasp!), pepperoni, pastrami, salami, some sausages, bologna, some lunch meats, and definitely and most commonly—hot dogs. When these processed meats are cooked at high temperatures, getting that charred, crunchy effect on the edges (which tastes pretty good to anyone who likes crispy bacon), a chemical reaction occurs between the sodium nitrate used to preserve the meat and the amines that are naturally present in the meat. This reaction forms nitrosamines, which can be harmful when ingested frequently and are associated with cancer and increased cancer risk, as noted by the Nothlingg, et al. study.

Because of these results, the World Cancer Research Fund recommended that individuals eat no more than 16 ounces of red or processed meat per week. Steak-lovers know that it’s easy to find a 16-oz. steak at most restaurants, which would meet the entire weekly recommended intake in one sitting! Instead, it’s best to eat these items very rarely or in small serving sizes.

2. Stick margarine.


Let me first start off by saying that no particular ingredient in margarine is carcinogenic, or even strongly associated with cancer. There was also a rumor circulating for a while saying that “margarine is terrible because it’s one molecule away from being plastic! Run for your lives!” Honestly, I don’t know the recipe for most plastics, so I cannot verify whether or not margarine is “one chemical or molecule away from being plastic.” However, let’s just take a moment to note that whether it is or not, water is also one molecule away from being hydrogen peroxide—but water is not hydrogen peroxide and it’s perfectly safe to drink, clearly. Before you get caught up in food rumors, make sure to check out the facts, or lack thereof, behind them.

Not too many years ago, nutritionists and health news sources were promoting an interesting message: eat less butter and switch to margarine. Rather than cancer, the problem with stick margarine is that it has been repeatedly shown to be associated with increased risk and incidence of heart disease. After many years of observational and randomized controlled trials, the recommendation has switched to say that butter is better than margarine, but should still be eaten in moderation.

There is a drastic difference in the ways butter and margarine are made. Butter is made by churning the fatty cream from cow’s milk for a LONG time until it turns into butter, which in my opinion is awesome and I have to wonder who was the first person to come up with this idea. Real butter should have a maximum of three ingredients: cream (always), salt (optional), and vegetable oil (also optional, but some brands add this to make their butter spreadable). Margarine, on the other hand, has a long list of ingredients, dyes, chemicals most people can’t read, and some preservatives in there too. Margarine is made primarily from vegetable oil, which seems harmless, until they decided to put it through a process known as “hydrogenation,” which turns an unsaturated fat into a saturated fat and makes it solid, for spreading purposes.

Both margarine and butter are high in saturated fats and cholesterol, and an increasing number of studies have been published over the last few years, refuting the previous understanding that these two types of fats increase risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis. However, margarine still has another type of hydrogenated fat you’ll know as trans fats. Trans fats are extremely stable and well-packed together, meaning that they are very solid at room temperature. Trans fats have been strongly associated with heart disease incidence, to the point that many companies have started removing it from their margarine and moving it to a plastic container, rather than stick, form. Even these brands still frequently contain polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids, which can also be harmful and are positively associated with cancer risk when eaten in excess.(3)

When given two options, I choose the one that has only three ingredients, all of which I can read, tastes better, and does not contain ingredients associated with increased risk of chronic disease. If you must choose margarine for some reason, choose one that is free of trans fats, very low in omega-6 fatty acids, and has added plant stanols (they do exist)!

3. Microwavable popcorn!

ID-10067013I can’t lie, I love microwavable popcorn, and when I first heard that it contained potential carcinogens, I was extremely skeptical. I was even more skeptical when I did some research to find that the two most popular people making these claims were Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola. Don’t trust everything someone says just because they have two consonants in front of their name, people.

There were two chemicals that were repeatedly mentioned in these inflammatory articles: diacetyl butter flavoring and perfluorooctanoic acid, which is a component of the microwavable bag liner and can decompose into the popcorn at high heat. By researching these two compounds individually, I was able to get more trustworthy information. We’ll start with acetyl butter flavoring. The CDC has indeed recognized that many employees who worked for snack companies, including microwavable popcorn manufacturing plants, developed a severe lung disease that was traced back to their exposure via inhalation of vaporized diacetyl in their work environment. Inhaled vapor of diacetyl butter flavoring was also found to cause damaged lung tissue and bronchitis-like symptoms in animals. Many popcorn companies have eliminated diacetyl flavoring from their product after this report was released, but not all of them have. I would recommend reading the labels, but you should be aware that even if diacetyl is not an ingredient, “natural flavorings” may be an ingredient heading that includes diacetyl or other flavorings with equally harmful potential. However, if you eat microwavable popcorn rarely, please remember that these workers were exposed to HUGE amounts of vaporized diacetyl for multiple hours per day, five days per week. This is a huge difference between the amount of diacetyl you inhale when you take a single bag of popcorn out of the microwave in your kitchen! You will not develop lung disease because of a single bag of popcorn every week or so.(4)

Perfluorooctanoic acid is typically abbreviated PFOA and is a component of microwavable popcorn bags. The American Cancer Society recognized and published data saying that studies in lab animals increase risk of tumors in the liver, testicles, mammary glands, and pancreas, and that people who have the highest workplace exposure to PFOA have increased risk of bladder and kidney cancer. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has evaluated the carcinogenic potential of PFOA and the consensus is that there is “suggestive evidence of carcinogenicity, but not sufficient to assess human carcinogenic potential.” They will continue to examine more evidence as it becomes available over time. Once again, the increased cancer incidence due to PFOA was found at extremely high levels of exposure. These levels are much higher than most of us will ever be exposed to over our lifetimes, but it’s still good to be informed.(5)

If you love popcorn but want to completely avoid all possibility that you’re eating any diacetyl or PFOA, the answer is simple—make your own! Making your own popcorn takes literally 5 minutes and is cheap and very, very simple. All you need to do is buy popcorn kernels on the same aisle as the microwavable popcorn. You can pop them in an air-popper, or simply heat a big pot on your stovetop. Once it is hot, add some olive, vegetable, or coconut oil to your pot, and then toss in the kernels! Within a few minutes you’ll hear the popping and you’ll have popcorn that you can season exactly as you like it! (By the way, Parmesan cheese on popcorn is really good!).

The Bigger Picture

All in all, eating processed meats, microwavable popcorn, and even margarine will not certainly cause you to get heart disease or cancer. However, because these foods do have higher association with these diseases due to the way they are processed in our bodies, it would be wise to limit our consumption of these foods. As always, it is so important to incorporate whole, unprocessed foods into our diet as much as possible to get a wide range of nutrients and limit unnecessary fat and salt intake! Take time to appreciate the beauty of cooking from scratch this Thanksgiving season and pick up some tips from your mom or dad when you go home to visit next week!

3 Tips For More Fitness In Your Life When You Just Don’t Have Time


“Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Roh

  1. Take the stairs

Choosing the stairs is a simple way to add in a few extra minutes of daily activity, but so many people skip out. Taking the stairs burns 9 times more calories than riding the elevator. reports that walking stairs burns about 9 calories a minute for a 160-pound person, while standing in the elevator burns only one calorie. Two at a time, or one? If you want to maximize activity, take the stairs one a time. Researchers at the University of Roehampton found that taking the stairs one at a time burned more calories than leaping up two at a time. Beyond burning calories, an active lifestyle can help you live longer and feel better.

  1. Flex those abdominals, arms, and glutes

Next time you’re standing in line or sitting at a red light, try this short exercise: flex, squeeze and hold one muscle group for 10 seconds, then rest. Repeat twice more for a total of three sets. This shortcut can help you engage your muscles and sneak in some activity even when life is busy.

  1. Wake up and MOVE!

Tomorrow when your alarm goes off, don’t grumble! Instead see this as an opportunity to start your day off right. Slip in 50 abdominal crunches or 20 pushups. It takes only a couple minutes, and you won’t regret performing these basic exercises. Exercising right after waking up could help you stay awake and not climb back into bed!

These shortcuts can help you amp up your fitness level, but a longer workout is even better. Head over to UNC Campus Rec’s homepage or check out the gym hours.

Wellness Wednesday: 8 Dimensions of Wellness Portrayed by Animals

by Diana Sanchez & the rest of the Student Wellness Staff

UNC Student Wellness believes that student and community health choices involve the integration of eight dimensions of wellness. To illustrate these dimensions, the staff at Student Wellness looked to our pets to bring you examples of how they embody each dimension of wellness.


  1. Cultural wellness. Pictured: Mary’s cats Buffy and Giles helping to create a safe, inclusive space for LGBTQ beings of all species.
    Cultural Wellness
  2. Emotional wellnessPictured: Diana’s dog Bea liking (and licking) what she sees in the mirror, demonstrating her fabulous body image and self-acceptance.
    Emotional Wellness
  3. Physical wellnessPictured: Kate’s dog CJ getting her jump/fly/swim on at Uwharrie National Forest. Pictured: two litters of puppies napping together for their physical wellness.
    Physical Wellness Physical Wellness 2
  4. Environmental wellnessPictured: Diana’s dog Bea out for a fun day of sailing on Jordan Lake. Here, she’s taking in the splendor of the lake and thinking very thoughtfully about air quality. Pictured: Kelli’s former foster dog Kori rolling around in the grass to scratch her back.
    animals5 animals6
  5. Intellectual wellnessPictured: Kate’s dog CJ demonstrating an important part of intellectual wellness: sometimes you need a study break! Pictured: Mary’s cat Giles learning how to play a new game and demonstrating that intellectual wellness can be fun and social!  Pictured: Kate’s dog CJ catching up on this week’s biggest news stories.
    animals7 animals8 animals9
  6. Financial wellnessPictured: Diana’s dog Bea managing her personal finances; setting finance goals for the upcoming year.
  7. Social wellnessPictured: Part of social wellness is also knowing when not to be social by finding time for yourself. Here is Brittany’s cat Noble in a box, finding some time and space to be alone. Or nap. Both are important for maintaining social wellness. Pictured: Mary’s cats Buffy and Giles spending time together and bonding over looking at some birds outside. Pictured: Natalie’s adopted kittens demonstrating some solid peer support — an essential component of social wellness.
    animals12 animals11 animals13 Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 5.35.36 PM
  8. Spiritual wellnessPictured: This is Brittany’s cat Barnes. He like to take time for self reflection every day.  Usually while using his tail as a pillow.  Pictured: Pedro, a recently adopted dog with Triangle Beagle Rescue, looks up at the heavens and smiles.
    animals15 animals16

Wellness Wednesday blog posts are written by Student Wellness or Campus Health Services staff members. Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on

Store Your Health and Fitness Data in Your Pocket with iOS 8

In this time of omnipresent technology, many health-conscious individuals are using their phones to track measures of fitness and nutrition information as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Apps such as MyFitness Pal and Livestrong have made it routine for some people to track their calorie intake, calorie expenditure, active time per day, and even water intake.

If you have an iPhone and you’re running iOS 8, you’ll notice a new default app has been added to your phone. The app has a white background and a single pink heart and it is simply named “Health.”

When you first open the app, it can seem pretty confusing. There are several empty graphs, with options to chart everything from weight, to blood pressure, blood glucose, and even magnesium. There is a main menu of eight categories of measurements that you can choose from, and you’ll definitely want to limit yourself to choosing a handful of them to display on your dashboard, because displaying them all would be completely overwhelming! Most of the category names are self-explanatory, but the “results” category with a little Erlenmeyer flask icon beside of it is for tracking the results of regular medical tests for individuals who require them often, so you can input your results and avoid saving the paper print-outs each time. Instead, you can see your blood alcohol content or your oxygen saturation in graph form over time.


For each category you choose, you can select that category and then turn on the switch to “show on dashboard.” This will show you a graph of any data from this category on your main dashboard next time you open the app! An example of a good set of metrics to show might be “weight,” “active calories,” “dietary calories,” “fiber,” “sodium,” and “blood pressure.”


You can also choose to display certain categories that might be of special interest to you based on your health status, such as “blood glucose,” for diabetics, and “iron” if you are anemic or planning on donating blood anytime soon.

The confusing and slightly inconvenient aspect of the app to many individuals is the fact that you can’t really make the most of the usefulness of this app by inputting data points into the app directly. For example, the app doesn’t track the calories in specific foods you eat or the number of steps you take in a day. Instead, the app is intended to be used in conjunction with other health and fitness apps, which you can set to share their data with the health app to generate your graphs and results automatically.

If you already have and use other fitness apps, linking them to share their data with the health app is simple. All you need to do is launch any of your other health apps, enter the “settings” or “profile” area of that app, and look for the option to “share” information with the Health app. You can also adjust exactly what information from that app will be shared with the health app, such as only calories consumed, or only steps taken per day (which can be configured with the health app if you’re already using FitBit!) The option that says “read” lets you set what information the app of interest can use from what is already in your Health app, and the option that says “write” lets you adjust what information from the app of interest will be shared with the Health app.


This is the view you’ll see from inside “MyFitness Pal.”


And this is the view you’ll see from inside the “Sources” tab in the Health app.

If you don’t currently have any other health and fitness apps but would like to try a few in conjunction with the new Health app, here are the three I would suggest starting with:

1. MyFitness Pal: This is probably, by far, the best dietary tracker app out there. It’s free on the app store and has the nutrition information available for over three million foods, including foods served at specific restaurants and even at Ram’s Head Dining Hall here at UNC. You can also track calorie expenditure with 350 tracking options for cardio and strength training exercises!


2. Withings: This free app features an icon of a person with an overlaid pair of 4-quadrant butterfly wings meant to symbolize four categories of health (weight, activity, heart health, and sleep) that are monitored in the app. You’ll get supportive messages from the app and the butterfly wings will grow and shrink depending on your health status, reminding you that you might need to get some more sleep or exercise tomorrow!


Did you know that your phone’s back camera can measure your heart rate? Whaaaat? Now you have to try it, don’t you…?

3. Cody: This is a free fitness app that encourages you to workout with comments and cheers from other users. The best feature of the app is the collection of exercise instructions with picture, video, and text instruction!


Perhaps the best feature of the Health app has nothing to do with the graphs and data coming in from other fitness apps. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll notice a tab of the menu in the bottom, right corner that says “Medical ID.” By selecting this tab, you can create a personal medical ID where you can input your name, height, weight, blood type, pre-existing medical conditions, allergies, and all medications you take. You choose what information you want to provide and what you do not. You can also link emergency contacts from your phone’s contact list into the medical ID. This is an extremely valuable feature of the new Health app because it can be accessed from the lock screen under the “emergency” option without requiring your phone password. If you are ever in an emergency situation where you are hurt, unconscious, or otherwise unable to speak to the people or medical professionals trying to help you, first responders are aware of this new feature and will check to see if you have set up your medical ID to give them valuable information quickly when they need it. It also doubles as a way for someone to get in touch with one of your linked contacts if you happen to lose your phone with a passcode set on it, without allowing them to access any of your other information. This is a feature that I would encourage every iOS 8 user to set up; you never know what could happen and it’s definitely best to be prepared!

The present is a time of technology, but it is also a time of poor overall health in the United States. Certainly there are more people who use iPhones everyday than people who get enough physical activity each week, or people who eat enough vegetables on a daily basis. I appreciate the fact that Apple has placed a useful health tool in the hands of millions of Americans, reminding them that “heath” is something that requires attention, monitoring, and effort. Perhaps the health app will encourage more people to be aware of the components of a healthy lifestyle, and might even encourage them to download and link other free apps to help them develop healthy habits and personal awareness of where they can work to improve their health in their own life.

Get Fit From Head to Heel: Register for an all-inclusive fitness program

“It is easier to act yourself into a better way of feeling than feeling yourself into a better way of acting” - O.H. Mowrer


Starting a fitter and healthier lifestyle can be difficult. It can be overwhelming to wade through the huge amount of information online to find a program that seems to fit your needs. Luckily, UNC Campus Recreation offers a complete healthy lifestyle program to give you a jump-start. No experience? No problem! Worried that you aren’t in good enough shape? Fret not- this program is for beginners!

“Get Fit From Head to Heel” is the entire package on health and fitness for beginners. The 8-week program is composed of relaxed fitness classes and nutritional guidance to help you get on the right track. The fitness instruction includes cardio and strength training to teach the basics, so no prior experience is required.

When I first started educating myself on fitness and nutrition, there were times when I wished I had guidance. I remember wandering around the gym through the many machines, mind racing and unsure of where to begin.  A program like “Get Fit From Head to Heel” is exactly the course I needed, and this program can make you life so much easier!

The benefits of participating in “Get Fit From Head to Heel” extend beyond basic fitness. You will maximize your physical activity, learn safe, effective body movements (cardio and strength, make healthier eating choices, learn about lifestyle choices, and have fun!!

Ready to begin your fitness journey? Click here to learn more or click here to register right now.

The programs meets only twice a week, so it’s perfect for your busy life!

De-stress and Fire Up Your Week with Wednesday Night Kickboxing at the SRC

This week has been a rough one, as basically every week is at this point in the semester if we’re being honest. After studying frantically for two tests this week, I finished the second test on Wednesday evening and then had to face the mound of homework I had been procrastinating in order to study for the tests. The problem was that finishing my last test of the week had my brain feeling like Jell-O, my neck wound into one big tight muscle knot from hunching over desks, and my entire body feeling the tension of my pent-up stress.

Typically, Wednesday night is my yoga night, but I just knew that I couldn’t get the release I was seeking through a relaxing and focused hour of yoga. As sad as it sounds, I felt the need to sweat out all of my stress in some way that was physically exhausting enough to take my mind off of school and homework and find some clarity. At 8pm, I followed the recommendation of a friend and met her at the kickboxing group fitness class in the SRC, taught by Olivia. It was the absolute best class I could have chosen to get a great workout and mentally reset to face the rest of my week!

The class started with a high-tempo warm-up that got rid of my goose bumps to the beat of 2x-tempo pop music. Within minutes we were punching a mixture of short jabs and hooks into the air, and Olivia started outlining different short sequences, starting off slow and then picking up the speed to tempo and repeating several times. In addition to punches, the sequences added kicks, lunges, jumping jacks, and squats into the mix until we had learned and repeated four short sequences. Just as I’m panting and wondering what the next sequence will be, Olivia announced that next we’d combining all four short sequences into one intense mega sequence. I instantly seemed to forget everything about all four past sequences somehow, but I followed the leader and quickly jumped into one of the most fast paced, varied, and fun sequences to be found among any group fitness class I’ve ever attended!

Just as I was feeling like I might need a water break soon, Olivia promised us that one was coming after the next set. I then discovered that the next set consisted of three spurts of burpees that felt like they lasted about thirty seconds each. If you’ve ever done burpees, you’ll know that they’re one of the most exhausting exercises you’ll find and that thirty seconds gets tiring super quickly! When we reached that water break, I downed half of my bottle before I realized that there was a lot more jumping to come and that maybe I should have considered that before I filled my stomach with liquid.

As I punched, and kicked and laughed every time I got something wrong, the last thing on my mind was homework or tests. I was so happy to be away from a desk and a computer and actually expending physical energy instead of absurd amounts of mental energy on the exercises at hand.

We did another group of short sequences, combined them into an awesome combo, and sweated our way through until Olivia announced “Whew! Good job guys!,” which made me think that maybe the class was already over. FALSE! The clock told me that there were ten minutes remaining, and everyone moving around to pick up their mats from the edge of the room made me realize that it was time for a core workout to round out the class.

We worked through a mean plank sequence that had my ab muscles feeling like they were on fire and my arms shaking. On a side note, during this long period of holding plank position, I actually made the connection between a tip that I gave about proper push-up position in Tuesday’s blog and its application to planks as well. I mentioned that when you do a push-up, you should hold your head such that if you were to lower all the way to the floor, your chin would touch before you nose. When you’re in plank position, especially when you’re holding it for a while, it’s tempting to just look straight down at the floor or hang your head. I tried both ways, and then comparing them to holding my face slightly upward so that I wasn’t looking forward, but my chin was pointed more toward the floor than my nose. The difference was amazing! I could breathe so much better and I didn’t get that hot, headachy feeling that can come from hanging your head and letting too much blood flow to your head and face. Being able to breath also made it more manageable to hold the plank, so I would definitely recommend trying it out next time you find yourself in plank position.

Olivia definitely took the time to go through an extensive cool-down that involved a combination of stretches, deep breaths, and yoga poses that relaxed and stretched the muscles and lowered the heart rate, making the workout feel more complete. We even did one of my favorite stretches, where you lay on your back and place the ankle of one leg over the knee of the other. Then you hold under the thigh of the leg with the foot still on the ground and pull that leg toward you to feel an excellent hip-opening stretch in the opposite leg and hip.

All of this took place in just 45 minutes, which in my opinion was a maximization of my workout time! Olivia even walked around after the class ended to talk to people and she asked me how I enjoyed her class and if I had any suggestions that I would like her to add or change in the future. I appreciated her cheerful, energetic demeanor and the impressive fact that she managed to do the whole workout along with us while still giving clear instructions all along the way. She’s definitely an instructor who I would be willing to attend other classes with, which is fortunate because she teaches Kick n’ Sculpt in the SRC on Tuesdays at 7pm!

If you’re looking for a way to get the most bang for your limited-amount-of-workout-time buck, come to Kickboxing with Olivia next Wednesday at 8pm! I went home both tired and energized, with a clear mind that allowed me to miraculously finish all the homework that I had planned for the day before I went to bed. You’ll be sure to cheer up, leave your stress behind, and appreciate your own strength as you punch, kick, hop, and power your way through this amazing workout class!

Jingle Bell Jog 2014


It may not feel like winter outside yet, but it’s time to start registering for this year’s Jingle Bell Jog! Unbox those winter coats and break out your fluffiest pair of mittens for a chilly run with lots of laughs. This run is open to all faculty and staff of UNC Chapel Hill.

A jog with your co-workers is a great excuse to break from the daily humdrum. You’ll also get the chance to bond and do something good for your body. Register today and plan your jog!

The fun run promotes physical health and well being. Bring a canned food donation when you come for the Glenwood Elementary Family Assistance Program. In addition, pet donations will be given to the Orange County Animal Shelter. After the race free refreshments will be available. Click here for a print-ready version of the Jingle Bell Jog information.

Date: Friday, December 5, 2014

Time: 12:15 pm

Location: Student Recreation Center (SRC A; second floor)


Both individual and team registration forms can be found on the Campus Recreation website or in SRC 101.Individual registration can be completed online while team registration must be printed out, signed by all team members, and turned back in to Campus Rec at SRC 101 or by fax at 962-3621 ATTN: Jingle Bell Jog. Due Wednesday, December 3, 2014. 

Registration Open: Monday, October 27, 2014- Wednesday, December 3, 2014

On-Site registration: Accepted 11:30 am until 12:00 pm race day (individual only)

Registration Location: SRC Room 101 or

Check-In:  11:30 am- 12:00 pm event day

Participant Meeting:  12:00pm event day

Prizes: All participants will be eligible for prize drawings following the run/walk. An award will be given to the team with the most participants. An award will also be given to the team with the most creative costumes celebrating the holiday season.

Donations: Collections will be made for two charities this season: Non-perishable food items will be donated to a local food bank. Non-perishable pet items will be donated to the local animal shelter (food, old blankets, bowls, collars, etc. are all welcome). Those making a donation to either cause will be eligible for a special drawing.

Contact: Lauren Mangili at

Wellness Wednesday: Sexual Health Resources at Student Wellness

by Brittany O’Malley

Previously known as CHECS appointments, Student Wellness offers sexual wellness education appointments with a trained health educator to individuals as well as student pairs. Topics for these appointments include but are not limited to:

  • Contraceptive option consultations and education;
    Photo "Devious Question"  by  Zita, Flickr Creative Commons
    Photo “Devious Question” by Zita, Flickr Creative Commons
  • HIV testing and counseling;
  • Well Woman’s Exams questions;
  • Post-diagnosis STI management questions; and
  • Other concerns or questions relating to sexual health.

When are educational appointments available?

For the Fall 2014 semester, sexual wellness education appointments will be offered:

  • Tuesdays, 1PM-3PM
  • Wednesdays, 10AM-12PM
  • Thursdays, 10AM-1PM
  • Fridays, 10AM-11AM

How does a student make a sexual wellness education appointment?

Because of limited availability and space, students should call Student Wellness at 919-962-WELL ahead of time to schedule an appointment. Depending on demand, there are usually available appointments within the week. Walk-in appointments may also be available if other appointments are not yet scheduled.


Free HIV Testing at World AIDS Day!

Photo "World AIDS Day, December 1" by  Sully Pixel, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo “World AIDS Day, December 1″ by Sully Pixel, Flickr Creative Commons

Every year on December 1, people worldwide write to increase awareness and testing for HIV on World AIDS Day. This year Student Wellness and other campus partners will be celebrating this day on December 2 by offering a free, confidential, fast HIV testing in the Union from 10am-4:45pm. For more information visit the Facebook event for the day.

For further questions about these appointments and World AIDS Day, please contact

Wellness Wednesday blog posts are written by Student Wellness or Campus Health Services staff members. Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on


How to Do Proper Push-Ups and Pull-Ups

Ahh the classic pull-ups and push-ups. These simple and traditional upper-body exercises are beloved by some and dreaded by others, but most of us have been acquainted with them since elementary school gym class. Like many things we have known how to do for a long time, it’s easy to get sloppy with these exercises and to start losing proper form and doing them incorrectly. That’s right, there is a specific proper form for push-ups and pull-ups!

Here is a reminder of how to do them with the form that will protect your muscles and joints from damage while giving your body the maximum workout possible!


  1. Start by positioning your hands and feet. Hands should be either shoulder width apart of slightly wider than this. Feet can be together or apart, whichever is most comfortable or stable for you.
  1. The KEY to a proper pushup is that your body needs to stay in a straight, solid line (plank position) the entire time! Whether you’re pushing up or lowering down, your bum should not be sticking up so that you look like this (^) and your hips should not be sinking down to the floor. It should take legitimate effort just to hold your body in this position before you ever start actually doing the push-up part! If you’re having trouble knowing if you’re in a straight, plank position, ask a workout buddy to check for you or practice in front of a mirror at the gym where you can see your form. If you don’t have either of these options, just get into what you feel is a solid plank position, and then make it even better by tightening your glute muscles and engaging your abdominal muscles. You’ll be feeling the work almost immediately.
  1. For your first push-up, begin to lower down and pay attention to your elbows: are they sticking way out to the side? Try bringing them in closer to your body and the push-up will feel more difficult. This is because you’re doing it the right way, therefore getting your maximum workout! If your hands are directly under your shoulders, keep the elbows hugged in so tight that they brush against your sides as you lower down for an excellent triceps workout!
  1. Don’t keep your chin tucked down and stare straight at the floor beneath your hands. This is not a great position for breathing or blood flow, as you might notice if you find yourself holding your breath without even noticing it and feel your face getting hot. Think about holding your head so that your chin would be the first part of your face to touch the floor if you lowered all the way down instead of your nose touching first. This should open the airway, making it easier to breath and for blood to circulate, as well.
  1. Try to lower until you get your arms to form angles (with your elbow as the vertex) that are 90 degrees or less. If you can only do 5 push-ups when you lower to 90 degrees but you can do 10 push-ups if you just don’t lower down so far, it’s still better to just stick with the 5 push-ups that you can do with the best form. This will increase your strength, and even if you only add one push-up at a time, you’ll clearly see yourself progressing as you can do more and more per set.
  1. It’s fine to start with push-ups with your knees on the floor as long as you still keep your body from the knees up in a tight, straight line. Allow your feet to lift off of the floor as you lower down with your knees on the ground, because otherwise your arms aren’t supporting much body weight at all.


A proper pull-up should be an exercise primarily targeting your arm muscles, right? Actually, no! Pull-ups are targeting the back muscles when done properly, not to mention the fact that anyone looks pretty impressive if they know how to do them right.

  1. A proper pull up has an overhand grip on the bar and hands spread wide.
  1. Elbows don’t need to stay super close to the body, but they do need to be controlled. Keep those guys under the bar at all times!
  1. Before you even start your pull-up, become familiar with what it feels like to have your shoulder blades pulled back and together, like you’re trying to hold a pencil by squeezing it in the upper middle of your back. You want to reset to this retracted position before every pull-up to activate your back muscles. This means that you won’t be stick straight and vertical because there will be a slight arch in your back if you’re doing it right. That’s ok, because if you stay completely straight you’ll feel like your chest is coming up into the bar before you pull all the way up and you’ll be using your arm muscles more than your back.
  1. Reach your full range of motion by fully extending your arms straight every time you finish a rep. Don’t keep that partial bend in your arms or, once again, you’ll be relying on your arm muscles more than working your back. Yes, it makes it harder because you have a longer distance to pull up per rep, but doing half-reps is cheating if you’re trying to make some progress here.
  1. You might want to consider crossing your ankles and keeping a slight bend in the knees. This keeps your legs from feeling awkwardly heavy and dangling wildly beneath you.
  1. Personal pet peeve: Doing “momentum pull-ups” is also cheating. If you’re using your arms or legs to swing or pop yourself up every rep, you’re not doing proper pull-ups. Proper pull-ups are not done at a rapid pace; they use controlled, paced movements. If you can do twenty-five pull-ups because you’re heaving your legs up to your chest every time to gain momentum on your upward pull, it’s still less impressive that the person who did three of them using pure muscle effort.

That being said, learning how to do proper pull-ups is extremely difficult because you’re literally lifting your whole body weight against gravity! If you don’t regularly lift weights, this is a huge feat! The first time I tried, I could barely do one of them. I was taught that to work your way up to being able to do a few proper pull-ups, you can use the assisted pull-up machine in the weight room (which offsets some of your body weight with the amount that you set on the machine), or simple looped resistance bands along with your pull-up bar. Simply loop the resistance band around the pull up bar and pull one end through the other end of the band so that you have a sturdy loop around the bar and one end of the band is dangling downward. It has to be a band that makes a continuous circle, so that you can put one knee in the loop that is hanging down. Now, as you try to pull up, the resistance band will give you a little lift as it shrinks back to the length it prefers to be once you pull up! Gradually decreasing your assistance level will have you on your way to doing an extremely impressive pull-up before you know it!

Now you’re on your way to strengthening your whole body with proper form and control. Even with the simplest exercises, don’t forget to learn the form and precautions you should use when doing it before you decided to go for it regularly!

Monday Morning Motivation

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Take this chance to set the tone for an exciting and healthy week. We’ve written this article to help YOU the reader identity why you should give your best this week. And Monday is the best time to rev up your figurative engine and approach this day to the best of your abilities.

  1. Identify your emotional triggers

Everyone has their own reasons to exercise and live a healthy lifestyle. Instead of telling you what you should think, we implore you look within and explore your personal drives. Is it the desire to put your best foot forward and look your best? Is it the hope that you will be there to hug and laugh with your grandkids? Or is the fear of losing yourself to a preventable disease like atherosclerosis? Whatever makes you feel supercharged can be channeled into exercise and activity.

  1. Envision your future

It may sound cheesy but this strategy works. Create a mental picture of where you want to be in a year. Get specific… carve out where you will be, what you will look like, who you will with, and what you will be doing. Are healthy habits and a capable body part of this image? If you want to a be a 5K master, a Crossfit warrior, or a gym-goer, start your journey today and soon you will arrive.

  1. Stop thinking with an “all or nothing” attitude.

Perfectionists and the detail-oriented among us… this one is for you! Fitness and health aren’t about checking every box off the list or following a detailed series of steps. Instead, it’s about making small changes and moving differently, like reaching for a glass of water instead of juice, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or heading to the gym in between classes. Custom-build your life with little tweaks to become healthier starting today.


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