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How You Can Have a Healthier Relationship…with Food!

A healthy relationship… with food?

You’ve probably heard of a “healthy relationship” with family, with friends, or with a partner, but we talk less often about our relationships with food in terms of their health — beyond simply what we consume and when. A relationship with food is psychological, financial, social, and cultural as well as physical. Like any other healthy relationship, a healthy relationship with food is free of fear or the feeling of being controlled or out of control.

What impacts our relationship with food?

Our relationships with food are impacted by our life experiences and the systems around us. For example, the fad diet industry often uses body-shaming tactics and capitalizes on our desire to be “good” or “healthy” people in its mission to sell more products. These techniques often also promote the idea that some foods are inherently “good” and others are inherently “bad.” You’ve probably heard a friend say, “I’ve been so bad today — I ate (fill in the blank).”

However, there are no “good” or “bad” foods — and furthermore, what we consume can’t make us “good” or “bad” people! Just like eating kale all the time doesn’t make you somehow better or more moral, a bag of chips doesn’t suddenly make you a “bad” or “unhealthy” person. A healthy relationship with food involves knowing that your morality or value as a person is not determined by what you consume.

Our relationships with food can also be shaped by a desire to attain an (often unrealistic) “ideal” as portrayed on TV, in movies, or through other media. This ideal of “health” or “fitness” often depends on visible body shape/size, and provides a very narrow window of “healthy” shapes/sizes. However, research tells us that we cannot tell how healthy a person is — or how healthy his/her/their relationship with food is — by the size or shape of her/his/their body.

Overall, our bodies need different things at different times. Only you can determine what’s best for you based on your body, access to resources, and belief systems. One rule or set of guidelines does not apply to everyone in regards to diet, and people have many different ways of getting the nutrients we need.

Image from Pinterest

What can I do to have a healthier relationship with food?

  • Remind yourself that your value does not depend on what you eat, and that there are many more ways to be healthy than are shown in the media.
  • Listen to your body. To the extent that you are able, try to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Don’t wait for your hunger or your fullness to “yell” at you – keep in touch with what your body needs to the best of your abilities based on your access to resources. This can take practice!
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself! Being rigid and restrictive about what foods you “allow” yourself to eat can be harmful to your body and your mind. Focusing excessively on what foods you have eaten, or counting calories obsessively, are often a sign of an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • Pick the foods that give you the energy to do what you do during the day. After all, that’s what calories are — energy! The more nutrients that come along with that energy, the better.

Find more information:

Balanced eating as a vegan or vegetarian

Finding balanced and nutritious foods on a budget

Eating intuitively

Nutrition resources at UNC

If you feel concerned for yourself or a friend, or want to talk more about your relationship with food, you can find more information and contact options here.

This article was originally published September 4, 2014, by Mary Koenig, a program assistant for Student Wellness. She was in the school of Social Work and Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill.

Sorting Hat Quiz: Is your Relationship Healthy?

Unfortunately, determining if your relationship is healthy isn’t as easy as finding out if you’re a Gryffindor. If only!  After all, relationships, whether romantic or any other kind of sexual connection, are complex interplays between people, and it can be hard to gain clarity on people and situations closest to us. This is why it’s important to regularly reflect on how your relationship is going and check in with yourself and your partner. Nonetheless, Loveisrespect.org has some great resources including quizzes on whether your relationship is healthy, unhealthy, or abusive that can help you identify  your own behaviors as well as those of your partner(s).

After you check out the quizzes, consider:

  • People in all relationships (healthy, unhealthy, or abusive) can feel love, care, and affection for each other, and enjoy each other’s company.
  • But people in abusive relationships, or what UNC refers to as interpersonal violence, also use a wide range of abusive behaviors against their partner, including physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that cause the partner to feel intimidated, frightened, terrorized or threatened.
  • This abuse may happen during the relationship or after the relationship is over.  
  • These abusive behaviors are rooted in a need to maintain power and control.
  • Often, one partner has and seeks to maintain power and control.  It may also be possible that all partners may be engaged in a power struggle, with the person who has the power changing over time.  Researchers are still arguing about this.
Questions
Photo “Devious Question” by Zita, Flickr Creative Commons

What we do know is that, since abusive behaviors are about exerting power and control, they can be practiced both by those who are granted privilege in society and by those who have been made to feel out-of-control in their lives for some other reason—such as past trauma or oppression—and are seeking to regain a sense of power. Nothing—including past trauma—justifies abusive behavior.  But knowing more about who practices abuse can prompt us to be vigilant about our own behavior in relationships and ensure they’re healthy.
To learn more about how to develop healthy relationships, please see the LGBTQ Healthy Relationship curriculum, regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity.  If you think you are in an abusive relationship, or are wondering if you are, please see the resources at safe.unc.edu.

Anole Halper is a graduate intern with Student Wellness. They are getting a dual Masters in social work and public health. Their research interests include sexual violence prevention and LGBTQ health equity issues.

Supporting Friends Who Experience Interpersonal Violence

Most of us know someone who has experienced interpersonal violence (sexual assault, abusive relationships, stalking, or harassment), and supporting that person can be difficult work.  Watching people who we love and care about suffer is never easy, and we often want to do anything that we can to help them feel better.  This is a wonderful impulse!  It can give us energy to provide lasting and meaningful support to others.  However, it can also encourage us to set up unhealthy boundaries as friends and allies.

The most powerful and generous gestures we can make to individuals who have experienced interpersonal violence are to

1) Listen to the experiences and emotions that they are sharing

2) Validate and Believe what they share and

3) Connect them to reporting and support resources that they feel comfortable seeking

6810854382_5a2e4d0d79_o
“Talk” by Matus Laslofi, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Folks often underestimate how meaningful these seemingly simple actions can be.  They worry that being “just a friend” or “just an ally” isn’t enough and sometimes take it upon themselves to “save” their friend and “fix” their problems for them.

When we feel this impulse to fix or solve, it can be helpful to think about how we are reacting to what is being shared with us.  It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, sad, anxious, afraid, angry or disheartened when our friends talk with us about their experiences with interpersonal violence.  We want to be cautious that we are not taking control of someone else’s experience because we feel out of control in the face of it.

When we take charge of other people’s experiences of interpersonal violence we:

1) Remove their power and control

2) Compromise their healing process

3) Make the situation about us and not about them

4) Force them to rely on us for support we cannot give

Listening, believing, and, sometimes, saying “I may not be the best person to help you with this, but I know someone else who can,” are often the most effective ways to empower our friends as they heal.

Being a helpful friend and ally means setting boundaries with our friends even when they ask us to support them in ways that make us feel uncomfortable or that seem unhealthy.  We cannot support others if we feel exhausted, anxious, angry or resentful.  We simply burn out.  When we are aware of our emotions, acknowledge our limitations, seek support for ourselves, and set boundaries, we ensure that the care that we offer to others is more meaningful and sustainable.  Being an ally doesn’t mean stopping our lives to “save” someone. It means guiding and supporting a friend to the resources they want in order to heal.

For more information about how to respond to and support folks who have experienced interpersonal violence sign up for a HAVEN training or visit the safe.unc.edu website.

This post was originally published October 2013. It has been edited for clarity. 

What is RVAM, and what does my roommate have to do with it?

Ya’ll may have heard (and if you haven’t, scroll on down to the next post) that October is RVAM! Also known as DVAM, RVAM celebrates RV/ DV/ IPV/ FV Awareness Month… basically all of the letters all the time. So what’s going on with this alphabet soup?

  • Relationship Violence: between people in relationships—friends, coworkers, acquaintances, students, professors, roommates, intimate-partners, family members, etc.
  • Domestic Violence: between family members or intimate-partners
  • InterPersonal Violence: between people/ communities
  • Intimate-Partner Violence: between intimate-partners
  • Family Violence: between family members

Here at UNC, we choose to use the term “relationship violence” because it best describes the people between whom violence exists at UNC. However, when you go to the Safe at UNC website to check out the incredible list of RVAM events occurring on and off campus this month, you may notice that our dearly beloved (and sometimes not so beloved) roomies aren’t being discussed in this slew of events. So what’s the deal?

Roommates: an Important Part of the “R” in RVAM

RVAM is motivated by the idea that everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship- and roommates are an important part of that!

Now, we’ve all had that roommate who did some uncool bad-roommatethings and made our life miserable for a semester or two.

But at the same time, roommates can also be kinda great. In any roommate relationship, like in all relationships, there will be conflict.How you choose to handle that conflict is what will make the roommate relationship healthy or unhealthy.

So, how do you handle roommate conflict in a healthy way? Well, remember that long awkward roommate agreement you had to do at the beginning of the year in university housing? Turns out they had a smart thing going there. Communication and setting expectations is key to resolving good-roommateconflict in a healthy way. There are tons of resources available online to help improve you communication skills – even though some might be focused on romantic relationships, those same skills can be used in any setting!

It’s also important to remember that conflict is a normal and natural part of any relationship. However, if you’re constantly fighting with your roommate, and you feel that they have power and control over you, you might be experiencing relationship abuse. It’s never ok for someone to put you down, call you names, humiliate you, threaten you, coerce you, minimize you, or treat you disrespectfully.

Not sure what’s going on in your relationship with your roommate? There are quizzes online, like this one from loveisrespect.org, that can give you some insight. While these tests are geared towards romantic relationships and should only be used as a starting point, they’re a good way to help you get a better picture of what’s going on and start a conversation.

Want to learn more about healthy relationships? Take Sustaining Healthy Relationships, a free online module created by the UNC LGTBQ Center and Student Wellness!

Looking for help/ support on or off campus? Check out safe.unc.edu.

Linda C is a Program Assistant for Violence Prevention at UNC Student Wellness. Read their bio here.

 

RVAM 2016

October is Relationship Violence Awareness Month (RVAM). There are a lot of events and ways to get involved at UNC! The overall theme is love empowers and here are some ways that you can be involved to learn more information about Relationship Violence.

Participate in the Social Media Campaign:

  • Post the RVAM image above to your social love-empowersmedia account to spread the word!
  • Take a photo of your hands in a heart shape and post it to any of your social media accounts. Write “My #loveempowers by *insert your response here* #rvamunc”.
    • Example: “My #loveempowers by making my roommates feel heard. #rvamunc”
    • Another Example: “My #loveempowers by encouraging my friends to follow their dreams. #rvamunc”

Compass Center DVAM Event

Tuesday, October 4 from 4 pm to 7 pm at the Crunkleton

Dos and Donuts of Healthy relationships

Thursday, October 6 from 11 am to 1 pm in the Pit

  • Heels United for a Safe Carolina campaign in partnership with the RVAM committee to hand out information/resource cards and “Love Empowers” buttons!

Ammunitions for Change: Explaining the Surprising Adoption of Domestic Violence and Gun Control Policies Across the United States from 2009 – 2015

Thursday, October 6 from 12 pm to 1 pm in Michael Hooker Research Center, room 3100

  • Lecture by Gender-Based Violence Speaker: Sierra Smucker, MSc, PhD Candidate, Duke University
  • The availability of firearms continues to threaten the lives of American citizens on a daily basis. However, a persistent political narrative suggests that calls for policy change are futile; that any legislation at the national level will be killed by the powerful gun lobby; and because of our permissive gun laws, the United States will continue to have more gun violence than any other developed country in the world. While this narrative is supported by the failure of federal policies that regulate firearms, a significant number of state legislatures have passed gun reforms that protect women in abusive relationships. Since 2013, 18 states, including historically pro-gun states like Louisiana, Tennessee, and Washington, have passed new laws to protect victims of domestic violence from firearms. In a time of deep political polarization, particularly around the issue of firearms, why are some state legislators passing these policies while rejecting other types of gun control policies? Is the change we are seeing in DV and firearms policy evidence of a transformative change in American politics or is it an outlier? Using an in-depth case study approach, this study begins to unravel the puzzle of DV and firearms policy by investigating the passage of domestic violence and firearm policy at the state level.

Film Screening and Panel Discussion: “Behind Closed Doors”

Thursday, October 13 at 6:30 pm (doors open at 6 pm) at the Varsity Theatre.

  • Compass Center for Women and Families is partnering with the Carolina Women’s Center and the Beacon Program to host a screening of the BBC documentary “Behind Closed Doors.” Learn more and view the trailer at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07472y8.
  • The screening will begin at 6:30 pm, with doors opening at 6 pm. A panel discussion will follow.

Safetoberfest

Monday, October 24 from 1 pm to 4 pm at Granville Towers or Thursday October 27 from 1pm – 4pm at SASB Plaza

  • Students will “trick-or-treat” their way around to the different stations, picking up candy and other treats as they interact with various organizations and offices.

These are some of the ways that you can get involved, if you would like to know more about these events or want to check out other events, visit the website: http://safe.unc.edu/rvam-2016/.

Olivia Bass is a Program Assistant for Violence Prevention with Student Wellness.

Where Do You Draw the Digital Line in Your Relationship?

When you’re dating someone or generally boo’d up, it’s natural to want to share things with your partner. Whether you share a lot of personal things about your past or you’re that couple who eats off of each other’s plates at dinner, sharing things with your boo can be a way to show your partner you care about them and is often a positive sign of comfort in a relationship.

Find Love
“Dating Online” by whybealone1, Flickr Creative Commons

There is such a thing as too much sharing however, especially when it comes to your digital privacy. Sharing your Facebook or email password with your partner may be tempting, especially if they are someone you really trust, but that information is not as simple as letting them have a fry off of your plate at dinner. Sharing your password to private accounts gives the person access not only to information you send other people, but also information they share with you. This puts your privacy, as well as the privacy of your friends and family that communicate with you online, at risk. If a partner or hook up buddy pressures you to email or text them super-hot pictures of yourself, take a minute to think about what may happen down the line and how much control that person will have by owning private pictures of you. If your boo is constantly texting you wanting to know where you are or who you’re with, or gets unnecessarily frustrated if you don’t respond to a text or IM within .15 seconds, it may be time to have a real in the flesh talk about digital boundaries.

A healthy relationship allows all people involved to retain some space and independence outside of the relationship. Authentic trust between people does not necessitate constantly checking up on someone or having access to all their digital interactions with others. Even if these kinds of requests come off as concern, trust your instincts if the vibe you’re getting is more one of control than affection. Be clear with your boo about what you are and are not comfortable with when it comes to digital privacy, and hopefully you’ll be able to have an honest discussion about their true concerns and move to a healthy place of resolution.

The bottom line is, if someone is pressuring you to give up your digital privacy in a way that you’re uncomfortable with, you have a right to stand your ground and retain whatever boundaries you’re comfortable with. Your online and mobile accounts are all a part of you, and if a partner is controlling, pressuring, or disrespecting you in those spaces, you have a right to feel violated.

If you’d like to explore issues of digital privacy more in order to assess your relationship, check out www.thatsnotcool.com. If you or a friend is experiencing digital pressure from their partner and you’re worried it may a sign of an abusive relationship, the Compass Center for Women and Families has an anonymous hotline available 24/7 where you can chat with a trained advocate at 919-929-7122. You can also use your digital communication skills to get more information by checking out www.loveisrespect.organd chatting online with a trained representative from 5pm-1am EST.

 

This post was originally published June 2012. It has been edited for clarity. 

Need confidential advocacy? Meet the new Gender Violence Services Coordinator.

holly-lovernPhoto courtesy of Holly Lovern.

This is Holly Lovern, one of the Gender Violence Services Coordinators (GVSCs) at UNC. She works in the Carolina Women’s Center, where she provides confidential support and resources for students, faculty, and staff who have experienced sexual or interpersonal violence, stalking, and other forms of discrimination and harassment. If you want to get a hold of Holly or her co-Coordinator, Cassidy Johnson, send them an email at gvsc@unc.edu.

I sat down with Holly to learn more about her and what she can do for you.

Kelli Raker (KR): Since you’re new to the area, what is your favorite thing about UNC-CH so far?

Holly Lovern (HL): My favorite thing about UNC-Chapel Hill so far is definitely the people I’ve met. The students, my colleagues, and all the campus partners I have the opportunity to work with have been so welcoming and have made Carolina feel like home very quickly!

KR: Tell me about your role as a Gender Violence Services Coordinator. What happens when someone comes to talk to you?

HL: During my first meeting with someone, I’ll explain my role, the kinds of help and support I can offer, and what being “confidential” means. From that point on, it is really up to each person on what they may want to talk about. The same is true for folks who meet with Cassidy Johnson, since we both serve as Gender Violence Services Coordinators (GVSCs) and our roles are the same!

We can talk about what has happened or is happening to them, and how it is impacting them. But we also don’t have to talk about that. We can talk about safety, self-care, the reporting process, resources available on campus and in the community, accommodations they might need, etc. Everyone’s needs are different, so we can focus our conversation to best meet those needs. I’m also here to any answer questions someone may have, and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll try my best to find the person who does.

Based on what someone shares and needs, I offer to connect them to appropriate resources on campus and in the community that can provide additional help and support. I can also facilitate requests for accommodations regarding housing, academics, and interim protective measures. If someone chooses to connect with another resource or report to the University, I can also act as a support person if they would like me to and accompany them to any meetings and hearings they may have.

At the end of a meeting, we can talk about “next steps” ‘if there is something the person wants or needs moving forward. Some people may meet with me once and others may meet with me several times. I’ll offer to follow up with them at a later date if they are comfortable with it to check in. Overall, I’m really here to be whatever the person coming to my office needs me to be.

KR: What does being “confidential” mean?

HL: As a confidential advocate, I am not obligated to report what we talk about to anyone unless someone discloses child abuse, dependent abuse, elder abuse, or an intent to harm self or others. If any of those come up in our conversation, I do need to report it. However, we can talk together about connecting with appropriate resources.

KR: What do you want survivors to know about you and your role?

HL: I want survivors to know that I believe them and I’m here for them.

When connecting with the GVSCs, it’s okay if you know what you want and need, but it’s also okay if you don’t. We can process and work through that together. I want to help empower you to make the best choices and decisions for you and your well-being and success.

KR: What do you do for your own wellness?

HL: It depends on the day! I enjoy being around my family and friends and exploring the community around me. I also like being outside, especially near or out on the water. I can’t pass up a good book or Netflix series either, though!

KR: If you could be a kitchen utensil, what would you be and why?

HL: I’m not a great cook, so this is kind of a funny question. Probably a cheese grater because I love cheese and a good quesadilla.

If you or a friend have experienced or are experiencing sexual violence, interpersonal violence, stalking, harassment, or discrimination, learn about resources and support at safe.unc.edu.

Kelli is the Coordinator for Violence Prevention Programs at UNC Student Wellness. Read their bio here.

Pokémon Go Out and Be Well

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this summer, you’ve probably heard about the new game called Pokémon Go by Niantic Labs. The free-to-play smartphone game is based off the Japanese franchise in which players collect and battle virtual creatures, called Pokémon. Since its release on July 6th, the game has been downloaded more than 500 million times, quickly becoming the biggest mobile game in US history (sorry Candy Crush fans!).

Despite some of its potential risks—do NOT play while driving!—the game has garnered the praise of many experts as a public health boon. Because the app uses GPS technology, players or “trainers” are encouraged to get out and explore the world beyond their computer screens. Whether it’s hatching a 10km egg, looking for the nearest PokéStop, or hunting that elusive Bulbasaur on the in-game tracker, Pokémon Go promotes a more active lifestyle. In fact, Niantic CEO John Hanke confirmed in August that trainers have walked about 2.8 billion miles while playing the game!

Niantic has been very transparent about the game’s health-related components. As Hanke stated in an interview:

“A lot of fitness apps come with a lot of ‘baggage’ that end up making you feel like ‘a failed Olympic athlete’ when you’re just trying to get fit, Hanke says. ‘Pokémon Go’ is designed to get you up and moving by promising you Pokémon as rewards, rather than placing pressure on you.”

But expanding your Pokédex is not the only reward for playing. Several recent studies have shown connections between a sedentary lifestyle and health risks like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

And Pokémon Go’s benefits could be more than simply physical. As other studies have shown, physical activity is likely to have a positive effect on mental health—and shows promise in reducing anxiety as well as improving self-esteem and cognitive functioning. Moreover, Pokémon Go’s more social aspects could help prevent feelings of depression and loneliness. And while Pokémon Go is not a substitute for professional mental health treatments, it can encourage players to improve their own wellbeing by being more active and social.

So, for all those active trainers still out to catch ‘em all, here are several tips to promote a healthier way of playing!

  • Start a Poké-running club – Get a group of friends together to go for a run while keeping those cell phones handy. What better way to alternate between sprints and cool-down walks than by synchronizing your run to all the Pidgeys that appear in your path?
  • Meet new people – Socialize with fellow trainers if you feel comfortable. Many impromptu conversations have arisen from comparing caught Pokémon or working together to weaken a gym. (Go Team Mystic!)
  • Explore new areas – Explore a part of the local community that you may not have visited yet—Coker Arboretum, the North Carolina Botanical Gardens, Bolin Creek Trail. The UNC Visitors’ Center even occasionally runs Pokémon-themed tours that introduce students to new areas on campus (there’s one coming up November 4th!). However, be careful to avoid dark or isolated areas.
  • Put your phone down and look around – Although it can be tough to tear your eyes away from that glowing screen, remember to come up every once in awhile for air and to enjoy your surroundings. Even that real-time generated 2-dimensional Pokémon Go map cannot compare to some of Chapel Hill’s fantastic views!
  • Set a time-limit for playing – Even the greatest trainers need to study before taking on the Elite Four (or an impending Stats exam). Use the app as a micro-break during intense study sessions. Or set a time limit for playing the game if you’re noticing that your Poké-jaunts are turning into Poké-journeys.
  • Wear sunscreen and insect repellant and stay hydrated – While summer sadly is behind us, North Carolina is still sunny, buggy, hot, and humid. Take care of yourself if you are going to spend extended time outside.
  • Manage your privacy settings – Pokémon Go got into hot water in July due to its privacy policy for the iPhone, which allowed the game full access to a player’s Google account. The policy has since been amended, but it is still good practice to be aware of and manage how much personal information will be accessible to the game and other smartphone apps.

Are you playing Pokémon Go? Do you have any other Pokémon Go health tips?

Please share in the comments!

Mark C. is the Program Assistant for the UNC Men’s Project at UNC Student Wellness. Read their bio here.

 

Get outside, UNC! Your outdoor exploration checklist

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” -Edward Abbey

The woods and water can be an integral part of your UNC experience. The triangle region is full of outdoor spaces to camp, hike, run, and paddle.

Ask any outdoor enthusiast and these spots will be on their list of adventures while at UNC. Explore them! We start with those closest to campus and swirl outward across the state.

Learn more about these spots – and then, go play outside! (pro tip:Don’t feel comfortable adventuring on your own? Check out Outdoor Rec’s Expeditions! They provide gear, guides and routes for some of these fantastic adventures.) Continue reading