Four ways to love yourself unconditionally #UNCbodybeautiful

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Health comes in every size. You are an individual. Unique. No need to compare, photoshop or filter. Be you.

This week UNC Campus Rec is spreading awareness with National Eating Disorders Week. You may not know that nearly 10 million females and 1 million males have a form of anorexia or bulimia in the U.S. As this issue impacts so many of us, it’s important to value yourself and those around you as you are, and learn to love yourself unconditionally.

We’ve done our research and come up with the top four ways to love yourself unconditionally:

1. Eliminate and stop believing your negative self-talk

“I’m not good enough.”
“I’ll never be as smart/pretty/happy as him/her.”
“I am a failure.”

The above quotes are examples of negative self-talk. Progressing through life with your own negative self-talk playing on repeat is a pretty miserable journey, so give yourself a break. It’s human nature – a survival mechanism – to focus on the negative qualities, while minimizing positive ones. To counteract negative self-talk, think of specific instances where the negative thought was disproven. Finally, create positive self-talk to replace the negative thoughts. Day by day, work to train your brain to regard yourself more positively.

2. Create reasonable expectations

Striving to be better can improve your life, but realize that falling short of perfection is inevitable – but it is NOT a failure. In fact, your most cherished moments of self-discovery may come during times of turmoil. Instead of focusing on failure, practice resilience – bouncing back with a renewed sense of purpose.

3.Change your perspective

“There is no reality – only perception.” This quote from Dr. Phil sums up much of our perceived positive and negative events. You are only able to experience the external world through your own created perceptions. Your life events helped form your own “filters” through which you view the world. It’s dangerous to treat your filters as absolute fact, as you will be unable to look beyond your own perspective. Practice examining situations from multiple angles.

4. Respect your body

It’s trite – but you only get one body. One brain, one heart (usually), and one set of organs (also usually). As such, treat your body as a valuable commodity – the way you might treat a new laptop. Recognize that you are strong, capable, and enough. One popular phrase is: “I have everything I need inside of me to take on the day before me.” Take the time to educate yourself on how your body works, but also learn what works best for your body and your life.

Carry these four tactics into your weekend, and remember that YOU are #UNCbodybeautiful.

Your Body is Beautiful

This week is Body Beautiful Week here at UNC Campus Recreation and it’s also National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. The purpose of the Body Beautiful project is to break the trend of most marketing campaigns these days by “promoting positive body image and holistic perspectives of health.”1

Survey findings show that “80% of women say that the images of women on television and in movies, fashion magazines and advertising makes them feel insecure.”2 This is not surprising given that “most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women.”2 This trend is not just limited to women; media also creates an unrealistic expectation of males as well, telling them all that to be attractive they need to be tall and have airbrushed abs and huge biceps.

These. Are. Lies. The world wouldn’t be half as beautiful without the amazing diversity that lives within us all. As the video below shows, we do not all look perfectly poised, muscled, balanced, or pretty when we exercise (or most of the time, as a matter of fact, because we are not perfect beings). We are not all the same color, size, or shape, but we are all powerful, amazing creations capable of more than we could ever imagine. We are well-oiled machines, working hard to achieve amazing things, and we should all be proud of who we are, what we do, and how we look.

As a reminder of the importance of loving yourself and your body, I’ve been asking friends to tell me one thing that they love about themselves or their bodies. Their responses have been fantastic, and I appreciate them each taking a moment to honestly express one thought about just how wonderful they all are. Here is what they had to say:

“My boobs look awesome, even in a sports bra.”

“I like the way my legs look when I’m wearing heels.”

“I like when I post a picture on Facebook and my friends and family back at home notice or comment on my fitness progress! My brother said “arm gains bruh, ‘mirin hard,” and it brought a smile to my face.

“I love how powerful I feel when I hold a plank long enough that my sweat drips on the floor.”

“I think my patellas are pretty cute.”

“As far as my body goes, I love how vascular I am; I try really hard to maintain that. As far as myself I am glad that I am nice enough to other people that they will reach out to me when I’m going through a difficult time.”

“I love the way my toes look in my favorite pair of orange Chacos.”

“My hips don’t lie.”

“When I’m genuinely smiling, my whole personality shines through.”

“I love how strong my body is and that it can get me through teaching a class!”  ~A group fitness instructor for Campus Recreation!

“I like the way that the long scar on my stomach makes me unique.”

“I love how confident I feel when I run just a little further than I thought I could.”

“I love my legs because they are strong as well as sexy.”

“I love that my body is strong enough to do martial arts submissions even though I don’t have a six pack.”

“I like that my hands are both big and strong but still soft and not coarse.”

“I love the way I look in my little black dress.”

 Now it’s your turn: I challenge you to think of one thing that you love about yourself. This is your moment to be vain and shameless; say it out loud if you can! You are beautiful and strong, and you should love yourself for it.

“You are an individual. Unique. No need to photoshop or filter. Be you.”

~Tagline of the UNC Body Beautiful 2015 Campaign

 

UNC Campus Recreation seeks to provide a healthy, safe and inclusive recreational environment where the University community can be active, work, learn, and develop skills to succeed at Carolina and beyond. The organization offers numerous activities, including group fitness programs, intramural sports, outdoor recreational opportunities, special events and sport clubs. For additional information, visit campusrec.unc.edu.

Sources:

  1. UNC Body Beautiful 2015 Campaign press release.
  2. www.findyourtruebeauty.com/statistics

Coming up this week at UNC – #UNCbodybeautiful

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Health comes in every size. You are an individual. Unique. No need to compare, photoshop or filter. Be you.

#UNCbodybeautiful #nofilter

Embrace yourself and love your body as it is this week. UNC Campus Rec is spreading the messages of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW) with tons of events, educational activities, and freebies. It’s all about YOU and your journey to loving yourself as you are. Your mental health takes priority this week – ignore the numbers, negative thoughts, and stress. It’s time to care for what’s truly important.

You may not know just how prevalent negative eating attitudes are:

  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.
  • Nearly 10 million females and 1 million males have a form of anorexia or bulimia in the US.
  • 17% of men are on extreme diets.

Join us at any of the events this week. Try to come to at least one – you will learn new strategies for approaching your body that will no doubt improve your life.

Click to view full size:

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Colleen Daly, fitness instructor and positive body image advocate, has dedicated herself to promoting body positive messages.

“I love NEDAW because it brings an issue to light that is extremely important and all too often falls to the wayside,” said Daly.

In the past, Daly has been front and center as a motivator for students struggling with body image issues, leading groups like Embody Carolina.

It’s important to realize that NEDAwareness week is beneficial to everyone, not just those suffering from negative body image. “Sometimes we can’t understand what others are going through – eating disorders are no exception. In order to be an effective ally, we have to acknowledge the problem and utilize the resources that are available.”

Colleen is right – these issues deserve our attention to help the millions who are suffering.

YOUR CHALLENGE: Choose TWO events this week that seem most interesting to you (see the calendar above). Go to both of them with an open mindset. Take the first step to digging yourself out of negative thought patterns. See you there!

UNC Campus Recreation seeks to provide a healthy, safe and inclusive recreational environment where the University community can be active, work, learn, and develop skills to succeed at Carolina and beyond. The organization offers numerous activities, including group fitness programs, intramural sports, outdoor recreational opportunities, special events and sport clubs. For additional information, visit campusrec.unc.edu.

Five Delicious Soups Perfect For a Cold Winter’s Night

As outdoor temperatures have hovered in the single-digit range and ice has covered the sidewalks this week, I have been in the mood for some delicious soup to warm me up every single evening! Soups are easy to make and can be the perfect dinner on cold day when all you want to do is bundle up and stay inside. Here are five super easy soup ideas! I’ve tested and approved them all myself, including three (#2,3, and 4) recipes from my own lovely mother. Give them a try and warm yourself up from the inside out if you’re still shivering from such a cold day of walking to classes yesterday!

  1. Tomato basil with grilled cheese.

I got this recipe online when I was looking for a tomato-basil soup recipe that includes cream, but not enough to make the soup taste more like bisque than tomato soup. They key to having a delicious tomato soup that has the sweet tomato-y taste you love instead of the more acidic flavor of tomato juice is to look for a recipe with cream and a bit of sugar.

For this recipe, you’ll need:

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

If you’re not interested in eating soup for a week, you can always feel free to only make half of the recipe. The recipe also suggests that you add fresh parsley, which I do not like, so I choose to leave it out. Using canned tomatoes simplifies the recipe and with the help of a blender, you can make the soup as smooth or chunky as you like!

The recipe site suggests that the soup be topped with croutons and shredded Parmesan cheese, but in my opinion a delicious tomato basil soup wouldn’t be complete without a warm, melty grilled cheese sandwich to accompany it!

  1. Cheesy broccoli potato

I was super excited to make this soup on Monday evening after classes were cancelled early! This recipe may require two pots, but believe me, it’s not complicated at all!

In the first pot, combine:

  • 2 cups cubed potatoes (I usually cube two whole potatoes instead of measuring)
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 3 ½ cups water
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli florets
  • 4 chicken bullion cubes or a spoonful of chicken base

In the other pot, combine:

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese

When the potatoes and broccoli are tender and the cheesy mixture is all smooth and combined, just pour the contents of the cheesy pot into the first pot and stir the entire mixture together and simmer for a few minutes to get a thick, creamy, and delicious soup!

  1. Crock pot (or not) easy chili

This is probably the easiest of them all, and if you don’t have a crock-pot you can easily make this chili in a giant pot on the stove if you just give it plenty of time to simmer while you’re at home!

Combine all of the following ingredients in a crock-pot or big pot on the stove:

  • ½-1 pound of cooked ground beef
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes (I usually do one spicy can with chili peppers and one without)
  • 2 cans of red kidney beans
  • ~1 cup of chopped bell peppers and onions (I usually buy them frozen and pre-chopped for chili)
  • 2 packets of chili seasoning mix

That’s it! Just cook all day in the crock-pot on low, or for about an hour on medium heat if you’re doing it on the stove! Top your delicious bowl of chili with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream if you’re into that.

  1. Vegetable beef (or just vegetable)

Once again, you can make this soup with or without a crock pot!

You’ll need to combine:

  • ½-1 pound of cooked ground beef (optional)
  • 2 cans beef broth/stock, or 2 cups water plus 2 spoonfuls of beef base
  • I large bag or 2 cans frozen mixed vegetables, including carrots, corn, green beans, peas, and potatoes. (Often called “vegetable soup mix”)
  • 1/4 cup uncooked barley
  • 1 can of tomatoes and okra mixed
  • 1 can “triple succotash” (a mixture of tomatoes, corn, lima beans, and okra, usually labled “triple succotash”)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Chicken tortilla soup

This is yet another recipe where you can use a crock-pot for added convenience, but you can just as easily cook and shred your chicken separately and make it in a big pot on the stovetop! I found this yummy recipe on Pinterest about a year ago!

Throw these ingredients right into your pot!:

  • 4 uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (10 oz) can red enchilada sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 chopped medium onion
  • 1 (4 oz) can chopped green chile peppers
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 package frozen corn (about 14 oz)
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Simply cook until all of the flavors are combined and the chicken is cooked and just remove the chicken, shred it, and add it right back into the soup! I add the “tortilla” part by adding tortilla chips and I like to top mine with cubes of avocado and a dollop of sour cream as well!

If your heart is still aching from the stress of that Duke game Wednesday night, take the time to embrace your inner chef and make a frigid week better with a bowl of delectable homemade soup.

Wellness Wednesday: Compete to WIN a GRAND Prize at LDOC HeelFest–Auditions start this Week…

LDOC HeelFest is an end-of-year talent show extravaganza. This is the first year UNC is doing this event and it is a collaboration among multiple campus departments and student groups. It will be held at Ehringhaus Field from 4-8pm on LDOC, which is Friday April 24th. The talent show will feature a showcase of UNC student talent, and the students at the event will get to vote on the winning performer/group. The Grand Prize will be a cash amount, TBD.

Come to auditions this week and next…Let’s see what you got!

LDOC HeelFest audition schedule

Written by: Natalie Rich

Weathering the Winter Weather

As most people from the western U.S. will tell you, here in North Carolina we have a tendency to treat winter weather like the tiniest snowflake is the beginning of an unavoidable spiral toward an impending snowpocalypse.

Image courtesy of WRAL.com’s 2014 Raleigh snowpocalypse meme competition

I made the mistake of going to the grocery store yesterday, thinking that it would basically be like a normal day because no precipitation had yet begun. Instead, I was stuck swimming upstream through a crowd of people waiting in checkout lines just to get to the shredded cheese I needed to make broccoli-cheese-potato soup. There was so much talk about the “winter weather” that was coming that people felt the need to go stock up on unnecessary quantities of milk and bread.

However, instead of running to the grocery store the moment your weather app teases you with its’ little snowflake symbol, there are other key items that you can work to stock up on year-round so that you can be prepared for any unexpected circumstances, including snow and ice, wherever you live!

Emily’s Emergency Preparedness Items List:

  • Bottles or gallons of water. Most houses, dorms, and apartments have “city water” in Chapel Hill, which means that even if the power goes out, you will still have (cold) running water. However, having extra water is always an excellent idea just in case you have a pipe burst or some other circumstance that could require you to need more water to drink or simply brush your teeth.
  • Foods you can make and eat without a heat source. If you’re suspecting that you might be stuck at home for a few days, make sure that you have easy things like PB&J or other sandwich essentials in case you do experience a power outage.
  • Non-perishable bulk food items. You never know when something could happen that may really cause you to be unable to leave your house to buy more food. Keep some simple items such as dry rice, beans, and oatmeal in your cabinets in case of emergency.
  • Enough blankets or clothing to keep you warm without central heating. As you’ve noticed, one of the biggest concerns of inclement weather is a power outage. You’ll want to make sure you can stay warm and have enough to eat and drink if it does happen!
  • A non-electric light source! Anything from flashlights, to candles, to oil lamps will make a huge difference if your power goes out at night. Make sure you keep extra batteries as well! They may be old school but a classic oil lamp can provide many hours of light and can brighten a room better than a regular candle. Note that these are NOT allowed in dorms, however.
  • A back-up power source for your phone. If you feel uncomfortable not having a live phone at all times, it might be a good idea to keep one of the back-up battery packs for your phone, just in case. You can also find these in the electronics section at Wal-Mart, Target, and UNC Student Stores.
  • A non-electric heat source for cooking! If you’re also into camping, then a propane powered camp stove will have double-time benefits. These compact little Jetboil “personal cooking systems” are great, but a bit expensive. If you’re only keeping one for indoor emergency situations, I’d suggest something cheaper along these lines. With one of these little guys, you can move on to canned soups and mac and cheese when you get tired of the sandwiches.
  • Some common sense. In the case of any unusual weather situation that may occur, perhaps the most valuable thing you can have to be prepared is some simple common sense. Here are a few common sense things to remember on this snow day!
    • If you can avoid it at all, stay inside and don’t drive if the roads are icy. You may think you can drive in the snow without a problem, but chances are that other people on the road cannot, and you can’t control them.
    • If you’re too afraid to drive, don’t expect anyone risk his or her safety to deliver pizza to you.
    • If you live in a house, keep the indoor temperature above 68ºF when temperatures are below freezing outside to protect your pipes from freezing and bursting.
    • If you’re still worried about the pipes, especially if the power goes off, open the cabinet doors below the sinks to expose the pipes to warmer air, and turn on the water to just a tiny drip. Even a small flowing motion can help to resist freezing.
    • Get some extra sleep; we all need it.

If you’re the kind whose emergency preparedness habits include running frantically to the grocery store to buy milk and bread, consider stocking up on some of these emergency supplies to ease your mind and keep you ready in the case of any unexpected weather events! By stocking up a little at a time throughout the year, you can keep your wallet happy and can make space for these supplies in even the smallest of living spaces (including dorm rooms).

Enjoy this snow (a.k.a. deceptively white, super slippery ice) day everyone!

Chill out! Cold temperatures, weight loss, and your fat cells

This week, Chapel Hill is experiencing freezing conditions and snow. Before you bundle up and head outside, you might want to think twice about how many layers you put on. A growing body of research is changing the way we look at body fat – specifically “brown fat,” as it’s called.

Brown_Fat

Darker areas indicate the presence of brown fat tissue – a super calorie burner. Image courtesy of NIH.

Babies, hibernating mammals, and lean adults have more of this than other people – what is it? “Brown adipose tissue” or “brown fat” is the less-common type of fat cell found in the human body (1). Brown fat helps the body stay warm by acting as a “super vacuum” to suck up glucose in the blood and using it to create heat – a process called thermogenesis. Babies have about 5% brown fat, which is used to create heat when shivering just isn’t an option for their tiny bodies (2). This small percentage may not sound like a lot, but it is highly effective.

“Brown fat” is getting a lot of attention lately, namely because of its role in the body– but also because scientists have only recently discovered the presence of brown fat deposits in adults. There are two types of adipose (fat) cells: white adipose cells, which store energy, and brown adipose cells, which generate body heat from glucose.

Researchers were surprised to find that lean adults had a much higher activation of brown fat than obese adults (3). They also found that cold temperatures induced the brain to increase brown fat activity – thus burning up more calories and increasing body heat. In fact, brown fat revved up 30-40% more when participants were exposed to cold conditions.

Wait a second – this means that we can shed all of excess our body weight just by braving the snow, right?! It would be unwise to jump to such a conclusion when the research is at such an early stage. Researchers have suggested, however, that harnessing brown fat could be used as a means to control diabetes, due to an insulin-brown fat connection (4).

Other researchers have suggested that exposing overweight people strategically to cooler temperatures could pose a future tactic in promoting weight loss (5).

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24954193

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2446425/

3. http://www.nature.com/jcbfm/journal/v34/n6/full/jcbfm201450a.html

4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24954193

5. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/278646.php

Celebrating the Lives of Our Three Winners and Our Beloved Dean Smith

In light of this emotionally taxing and shocking week, I felt that it would be unfit to pretend that today is just another Friday for another health or fitness article typical of the Tar Heel Tone Up. Instead, I’d like to write about some things that we have all felt and learned this week from the loss of four members of the Carolina community.

As we are all already far too aware, three members of the Carolina and greater Triangle community were killed in Chapel Hill this week on Tuesday night. Deah Shaddy Barakat, a UNC dental student, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, a recent graduate of NC State University and an incoming UNC dental student, and Yusor’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, a sophomore design student at NC State, were the victims of the terrible crime.

In all seriousness, and I promise that this is relevant, one of my favorite quotes comes from the book “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” In his address to the students of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore says: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” While this certainly is one of the darkest of times for our community, and especially for the close friends and family of the victims, there have been so many who have had the strength to find and share happiness and light in the midst of this heavy darkness we face. I admire their fortitude, courage, and faith. Following are some of the words that have inspired us the most:

“I think we would all encourage people to not have those feelings [about the crime] pushing toward hate but toward cooperation and understanding and love. That’s really what Deah and Yusor and Razan would have wanted.”

-Maryam Ahmed, friend of Yusor and Razan Abu-Salha.

“ All of us belong to God, and to Him we will return.”

-Omar Rezk, friend of Deah, quoting a verse (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:156) often said in the Muslim community when someone passes.

[About Deah]: “He was a lovely, compassionate human being. Every time he saw me, he gave me a hug and a smile. He knew I was Jewish; I knew he was Muslim. It didn’t matter.”

-Jay Mosesson, Physical Therapist, UNC Hospital Spine Center

 “Do not fight fire with fire. Do not reply to ignorance with ignorance.”…

“Praise be to God. We say that in good and in bad, knowing that God is the most wise. We depend on God the wise in this time.”…

“Life is a bridge. You odn’t want to build on the bridge; you want to build when you get there. They got to their destination. They are home. He beat me home.”

-Farris Barakat, Deah Barakat’s older brother at Wednesdays’ vigil.

“They loved each other—and not in the classic, ‘That’s a little much, get a room’ sense. They just made the other person light up. They were great together. The combination of them was even better than the things you heard about them separately.”

-Abdul Salem, longtime friend of Deah

Amidst all of the pain of this incomprehensible tragedy, it may seem almost strange to speak about the fact that we lost not three, but four members of our Carolina and world community this week. On Saturday night, the beloved Dean Smith, former UNC men’s basketball head coach from 1960-1997, passed away in his home, surrounded by his family of his wife and five children.

Photo courtesy of UNC Student, Victor Sanchez.

The circumstances of their deaths are so different, it almost seems wrong to sum them into one group of loss. Deah, Yusor, and Razan were young, healthy students. They were on promising and fast-paced journeys to success and adventure, and Deah and Yusor were newly married. Their lives were taken swiftly and harshly, without warning and without answers. Dean Smith, on the other hand, lived a long life full of countless notable successes. Not only was he one of the most known and loved basketball coaches in the country, but he was also a civil rights activist and great teacher. In a statement about Dean Smith’s passing, President Obama pointed out that Dean Smith graduated 96% of this players, taught them to point at the person who had passed them the ball when they made a basket, and showed us all how to fight a terrible illness with “courage and dignity.”

With such different circumstances of death, why do I speak of the deaths of Deah, Yusor, Razan, and Dean Smith together?

I do this because the loss of these individuals revealed the character and unity of the Triangle community this week in a way that amazed me. Between us Tarheels here at UNC, those wolves at NC State, and those Demon Deacons eight miles away, we talk a lot of smack about each other. In the events of this week, however, we came together when it really mattered. Students and community members celebrated the life of Dean Smith down at the Dean Dome on Sunday night and Coach K even wore a Carolina Blue tie to his funeral, for heaven’s sake. I never thought I would say it, but that man earned some major respect points from me for doing that. On Wednesday night, thousands of students and community members filled the pit and the quad to remember Deah, Yusor, and Razan. Only one of the three was a student here, and most people outside of the dental school never had a chance to meet him, but at the vigil, it felt like they were all UNC students that we had lost. There were students from all three Triangle schools here, standing together to mourn our collective loss and to realize and remember that it doesn’t matter what shade of blue (or red) we wear in times like these, but it matters that we are all people and that the lives of every single kind of person matter equally.

Surely this has been a week of so much loss, but I have witnessed so much strength and beauty in it as well. May we remember the lives of Deah, Yusor, Razan, and Dean Smith as examples for our own, and may we all remember and learn to love other despite any differences we may have. Life isn’t easy and life isn’t fair and there are a lot of things about it that I don’t understand, but I do know that it is still a beautiful life.

The quotes used in this blog came from the individuals who spoke at the vigil held on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Wednesday, February 11, at 6:30pm. Additional quotes came from articles featured in The Daily Tar Heel on Thursday, February 12, 2015. Specifically, quotes were pulled from the following articles:

Deah: “People really loved the guy.” Written by Zoe Shaver, Assistant City Editor.

“He beat me home.” Written by Claire Nielsen, Assistant City Editor.

“A Triple Tragedy.” Written by Holly West, City Editor.

Wellness Wednesday: “Guys Nights” and “Girls Nights” (time with friends) are Good for Your Health

I know a lot of couples who do everything together and never hang out much with friends outside of their relationship. I also know couples that only hang out with friends of one of the partners in the relationship, or only engage socially with other couples. I have also noticed since becoming a parent that often social engagements can center around children and events with other parents. Some fathers, mothers, and partners may feel guilty about participating in things like “Guys Nights” or “Girls Nights” or “sports nights” or “movie nights” outside of their relationship, and I have heard people say that they cannot understand why their partner would want to do things without them. These scenarios can lead to tension, unhappiness, pressure, poor communication, and even resentment, none of which facilitate a healthy relationship.

"Ishod, Theotis, & Elijah" by  mor gnar... ,flickr Creative Commons

Turns out however, that hanging out with friends is not only fun and rewarding, but actually helps you not get sick, can actually increase life expectancy , and benefits seem to happen for both menand women. You can check out the links, but the gist is, hanging out with friends increases beneficial hormones, boosts immune function, reduces stress and depression, and improves overall mental and physical health. It also appears that these benefits occur when the socializing occurs with members of the same sex, and part of this could be due to biological hormonal differences (oxytocin vs testosterone) and likely are also due to shared experiences of what it means to be a man or woman. I am certainly not suggesting that all members of the same gender have the same life experiences, but society certainly treats men differently than women, and sometimes people need a space to be with others who have similar experiences and interests. Hanging out with members of the same gender also can remove some of the pressure associated with socializing with members of the opposite gender.

So time spent with the same gender is good, but there is an important caveat. Male bonding, “Guys Nights” or “bromances” if you will may be good for health, but not if they are promotinghegemonic masculinity, or somehow reinforcing male privilege and a gender hierarchy. Guys can hang out together and do “guy things” and not have this result in devaluing typical “feminine characteristics.” Not being a woman, I will not speculate about “Girls Nights” but it is important to makes sure that either gender’s bonding is not causing resentment of the opposite sex. The socializing is about recognizing that, whether socially constructed or biological, there are differences between people and those differences are ok and do not need to be removed.

"Smiling at the sunset (friends)" by Sarah Ross, Flickr Creative Commons

Which brings me to my final point. Hanging out with friends, whatever gender or sex they are, is healthy and does not devalue a relationship. The idea of “partner social exclusivity” (I just made up that term but I kind of like it) seems ludicrous, and I believe it is unreasonable to expect one person to meet every single need that you might ever have. People are dynamic and multifaceted, and so relationships should be the same. I also want to say that though the paragraph above is somewhat heteronormative with regards to life experiences, same sex couples also include people with varying experiences and interests and time outside of the relationship can help to validate those experiences and interests.

I do know couple friends who seem to have the exact same interests and are completely happy doing everything together, but I think these are few and far between and part of most healthy relationship is still holding onto individuality. It is about finding that balance between time together and time apart, and the time apart can be a sign of strength, not a deficit in the relationship. So go hang out with your friends. Have a “Guys Night” or a “Girls Night” or a “whatever your interest is night.” It is good for you, and part of finding the balance between partnership and individuality, and also about respecting and valuing both commonalities and differences.

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Many of us know someone with, or have at least heard of lactose intolerance. People with lactose intolerance often explain it to other people as “oh I can’t eat milk and cheese because it makes my stomach hurt,” but there is a bit more to understanding what lactose intolerance really means!

What is the difference between an intolerance and an allergy?

Having an intolerance to a food means that your body has trouble digesting that food, often because your digestive system lacks a necessary enzyme. An allergy is when your immune system doesn’t recognize a food substance as something harmless and decided to react to that substance as if it was harmful. Intolerances do not involve an immune response.

In the case of lactose intolerance, people are lacking an adequate amount of a necessary enzyme that allows their body to digest milk. If a person has a milk allergy, a substance in the milk such as whey or casein, is seen as foreign by the body and the body basically goes into attack mode against that “foreign” substance.

What are lactose and lactase?

Lactose is the specific part of milk that causes lactose intolerance, as you might guess from the name. It is often referred to as “milk sugar,” because it is a sugar that is mostly found only in dairy products. Although it seems surprising to some people, the body can only absorb carbohydrates (sugars) when they are broken down to just three individual carbohydrate molecules: glucose, galactose, and fructose. Many types of carbohydrates found in food are a combination of two or more of these sugar molecules linked together, but these complex sugar molecules must still be broken down to the three simple sugars to be absorbed.

Lactose is a disaccharide, which means that it is made from two of the simple sugars, glucose and galactose, linked together. When you consume dairy, your body must break the lactose molecules apart into one glucose molecule and one galactose molecule for those carbohydrates to be absorbed into the bloodstream and provide you with energy. The breaking apart of a lactose molecule can only be accomplished by a digestive enzyme called lactase. If a persons’ body doesn’t make enough lactase, only part of the lactose they eat in dairy products can be broken apart and digested.

The rest of the undigested lactose will enter the intestine as an undigested sugar, which might not feed our bodies overall, but it will feed the necessary bacteria that live in the gut (intestinal tract). As the bacteria feed on the lactose, it can create some very uncomfortable side effects as byproducts, including gas, diarrhea, constipation, and general tummy discomfort.

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How can you know if you are lactose intolerant?

For starters, if you’ve never considered the fact that you might be lactose intolerant, you probably aren’t. People who are lactose intolerant experience some pretty uncomfortable symptoms, which usually lead them to change their eating habits or seek help and answers.

If you frequently have stomach discomfort and you think it could be lactose intolerance, it’s pretty simple to do some preliminary tests for yourself at home. The Lactaid website suggests the following test: on the first day, eat a breakfast that includes a full serving (8 oz.) of regular milk, whether you drink it or eat it in cereal. Record how your stomach feels that day. The next day, try the same breakfast with a dairy-free milk, such as Lactaid, soy, or almond milk, and record how your stomach feels again throughout the day. You should try to avoid all dairy products for the entire second day in order to really be able to tell if lactose is causing your tummy troubles. On the third day, decide if there was a noticeable difference between the way your stomach felt on the two days. If there was a big difference, there is a good chance that you might be lactose intolerant.

Whether or not you notice a difference between the days, you should still consult your doctor for further (but still simple) tests to decide if you are lactose intolerant and need to make some dietary changes, or if some other digestive problem is causing your discomfort. You need to consult with a medical professional to determine if you could have a milk allergy or a more general digestive problem such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) before you diagnose yourself as lactose intolerant.

If I am lactose intolerant, what should I do? I really love eating milk and cheese!

Have no fear! While lactose intolerance isn’t “curable,” it is extremely simple to treat. There are two options to help you enjoy your favorite dairy foods without the discomfort:

  1. Your first option is to eliminate dairy products from your diet and replace them with very similar dairy-free products. I’ve already mentioned soy and almond milk as good alternatives, but let’s face it—neither of them taste quite like “real” milk. Luckily, there is a brand known as Lactaid, which makes a 100% lactose-free REAL milk! How is this possible?, you might ask. Well, I promise they are not sponsoring me to talk about their products in any way, shape, or form, but I just think that their products are really interesting and such a simple, but brilliant idea! The only difference in “regular” milk and Lactaid “real” milk is that Lactaid milk already contains added lactase, which is that enzyme mentioned earlier which breaks down lactose sugar for digestion. Therefore, the active enzyme already cleaves the lactose into its’ two constituent sugars, making the milk lactose-free and easy for you to digest. Viola! Real milk for everyone.
  1. You can still consume regular dairy products if you take a small lactase supplement with every dairy-containing meal or snack. These small pills contain lactase and allow your body to digest the dairy as if you were not lactose intolerant. This, however, is another reason that you need to check with your doctor before you start taking these supplements, even though they are bought over-the-counter, because you always need to make sure that they won’t interfere with any other medicines you take or conditions you may have.

Because our bodies are so amazingly adaptable to our environments, populations in cultures that typically eat less dairy tend to have a higher percentage of lactose intolerance. For example, many Asian and African countries and cultures eat a lot less dairy than we do in the United States, and evolutionarily, it has not been important for them to maintain high lactase production levels. The US has a lower percentage of lactose intolerance in general due to our love of cheesy, creamy foods, but people of Asian, African American, and Jewish decent still have a higher rate of lactose intolerance than individuals of other races. The human body sure is a crazy and amazing machine!

The great news for people with lactose intolerance is that it doesn’t have to interfere with your ability to eat and enjoy delicious foods; you can take advantage of the beauty of modern medicine as you have your mac & cheese and eat it too!

Shout out to two great nutrition professors at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Dr.s Beck and Styblo, for teaching me everything I needed to know to write this article. Have a great Tuesday, everyone!

Images from freedigitalphotos.net

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