Supporting Healthy Bodies at UNC: Navigating Obesity, Eating Disorders, and Weight Bias

When discussing health, you’ll notice a trend between two approaches – weight normative and weight inclusive.

aha-screengrab
Screenshot from American Heart Association, 1/25/2015

The weight-normative approach includes the many principles and practices that emphasize achieving a “normal” weight when defining health and well-being. This approach rests on the assumption that weight and disease are related in a linear fashion, with disease and weight increasing in tandem. Under the weight-normative approach, personal responsibility to make “healthy lifestyle choices” and maintain “healthy weights” are emphasized.  The approach prioritizes weight as a main determinant of health and as such, weight management (calories in/calories out) as a central component of health improvement and health care recommendations.

weightinclusive
Photo Credit: Prevention Magazine

Instead of imagining that well-being is only possible at a specific weight, a weight-inclusive approach includes research-informed practices that enhance people’s health regardless of where they fall on the weight spectrum. Under this paradigm, weight is not a focal point of treatment or intervention. Instead the weight-inclusive approach focuses on health behaviors that can be made more accessible to all people. These are behaviors such as exercising for pleasure, eating when hungry and stopping when full.

So is one better than the other? We’ll look at three questions to figure that out:

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The Importance of a Training Log

It’s a rare occasion for me to walk into the SRC or RHRC and see people working out with a training log.  Why is that?  Writing down and keeping track of each workout is so important to your success.

A training log can really be whatever you want it to be.  If you are always in the weight room, record the exercise you did, how many reps of how much weight and how many sets you performed.  Then, set a goal to lift more and see yourself progress over the weeks.  If you are an elliptical hog (that’s me!), write down the level of intensity or your estimated calories burned (although the machine is not completely accurate!), and set a goal to do the same routine at a higher intensity or burn more calories in the same amount of time.

Here are some reason why keeping a training log is worth doing:

Motivation: After a few weeks, being able to look back on how far you’ve come is so encouraging.  Maybe you can bench press 20 extra pounds or you can run a mile 25 seconds faster.  Looking over your progress will give you the confidence to push even further.

Keep You On Track: If you have a specific goal in mind, keeping a training log will hold you accountable to it.  Sometimes, people will even write down their daily workout routine a week in advanced so that they won’t skip their gym time for a nap or a repeat episode of Jersey Shore (am I the only one who is guilty of this?).  Write down everything so you can push yourself.

Evaluation:  A log will help you see what worked and what didn’t.  Maybe you’ve been stuck doing the same number of deadlifts at the same weight for weeks or your three-mile run hasn’t been getting any faster.  You can evaluate what you need to do to get to your goal, so next time you throw in some extra sets to your routine or do a few sprints during your next run.  And if you are seeing the results you want, perfect!  Keep going!

Help You Switch Things Up: After doing the same routine for a number of weeks, your body gets “used to” the workout.  This can lead to a plateau in your results.  Seeing that you’ve been doing the same old thing for the past month may encourage you to change it up – maybe the order that you typically do each exercise or even the workout entirely.  If you’ve been running a lot, try a spin class.  If you’ve been doing regular pushups, try triceps (aka triangle) pushups.  Keep your muscles guessing!

Reality Check: Let’s be honest – sometimes we don’t train as hard as we think we do.  You were at the gym for an hour, but spent three minutes between each set so it wasn’t that intense.  Writing down everything will help you see what you’ve really done.  You might realize that you do a lot of arm exercises but not enough lower-body exercises.  A log will help you see what you need to do more or less of.

Check out the few examples of training logs below!  But feel free to find one that fits YOU and your routine best!

 

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

Exercise While Studying!

It’s exam time and that means hours and hours of sitting while staring at a book or computer screen. Taking short exercise breaks is a great way to refresh your mind and feel rejuvenated. Hopefully, you can still make it to the gym like usual. But if you feel trapped in your room or the study lounge, don’t hesitate to push out some of these moves!

For these moves, you don’t need any equipment – you can just use your bodyweight! You can tone from head to toe by just taking a few steps away from your desk.

ARMS: Dips, Push-Upsguy_pushup_down_position

LEGS: Wall Sit, Lunges; SquatS

ABS: 
Bicycle Crunch, Plank

 

Just remember, both gyms are operating have different hours during exam time. Click here for the schedule. Also, there are fewer group fitness classes then normal so check out those updated schedules as well! While you’re studying, don’t forget to eat healthy snacks for focus, take breaks here and there and stay hydrated (especially if you’re drinking a lot of caffeine!).

 

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

Pre- and Post- Workout Nutrition

Protein shakes, whey protein powder… But when do you use these?  Before or after exercising?  How do you fuel up for a workout and how do you help your muscles recover?

Ms. Mary Ellen Bingham, MS, RD, CSSD, head sports nutritionist at UNC, recommends “book-ending”.  This means you eat something small both before and after your workout.  To fuel up and in order to have enough energy to get through your time at the gym, eat within about an hour prior to exercising.  Then, eat again within 30 minutes – don’t wait until lunch or dinner time to eat.  These don’t have to be complete meals, but more so, snacks.

Check out the image below on nutrient timing that Ms. Bingham created. (Click for larger image).

For pre-workout, carbs will give you the energy to push yourself and not get exhausted.  Try crackers or toast with peanut butter, fruit, a small granola bar or a handful of pretzels.  Post-workout, you want to refuel your muscles.  First and foremost, make sure to drink water!  All that sweat is going to leave you dehydrated, so you need to be drinking before, during and after your workout.  Additionally, have a combination of both carbs and protein such as trail mix, a sports bar, a smoothie or – the classic drink that promotes fast muscle recovery – low-fat chocolate milk.

Previously, I interviewed Dr. Abbie Smith, an assistant EXSS professor.  If you read this interview (I don’t want to repeat it all!), you’ll find other similar advice.  Dr. Smith gave me nutritional advice for those trying to gain muscle, those trying to lose fat, what “cheat days” are all about and supplement information.  That blog post is extremely informative and can clear up some further questions you may have about nutrition for athletes.

So, if they’re right for you, continue with your protein shakes, nutrition bars or whatever your usual pre/post workout snack may be!  Remember – carbs before and a combination of carbs and protein after.

 

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

Power Poses to Challenge Self-Doubt

This blog post was originally published on March 24, 2015.

I’ve heard it called Impostor Phenomenon or sometimes Impostor Syndrome, but it tends to announce itself more like…”OH MY GAH, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE DOING DO YOU?! SOMEONE ELSE WOULD HAVE KNOWN EXACTLY WHAT TO DO AND WOULD HAVE DONE THIS WAAAAAY BETTER. THEY’RE GONNA KNOW! THEY’RE ALL GONNA KNOW!” …At least that’s how it shows up in my head.

But whatever you call it, false feelings of not-good-enoughness are pretty common. Google it. Some researchers estimate that as many as 70% of people feel this way at some point in their lives. And while it can happen to anyone, researchers find this phenomenon especially common in women, people of ethnic and racial minorities, and anyone who’s trying something new or who feels different from the people around them.

Common or not, these automatic thoughts of impostordom can stall or stunt a person’s progress in life in major ways. And fears of having one’s “shortcomings” “found out” can keep folks from reaching out and connecting with others who could help.

There are a lot of theories out there about where this comes from and lots of advice for what to do about it, but I happened upon a TED talk the other day that gives scientific evidence to something I’ve learned doing theater.

ITC ensemble members using Image Theater techniques.
ITC ensemble members using Image Theater techniques.

With Interactive Theatre Carolina, we use a range of theatrical tools to help folks better understand themselves and discuss the world we live in. One technique we use is Forum Theatre—sometimes called a “rehearsal for real life,” which seeks to empower regular folks to make courageous and healthy choices by practicing changing the outcomes of problematic scenarios. Another technique we use is called Image Theatre, in which participants strike poses and audience members discuss and analyze the stories and associations the body postures convey. A “picture’s worth a thousand words,” right?

This TED talk references a study in which Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and researcher at Harvard Business School, reports findings that support that rehearsing for real life…is also real life. She finds that changing our body language not only influences the messages we send to others but also the messages we send to ourselves at the chemical level.

In short, striking powerful poses (poses that open the body and take up space) alters hormone levels—increasing testosterone and decreasing cortisol (a stress hormone)—which results in a person actually feeling more powerful. The opposite happens, as you might imagine, when a person strikes a low-power pose (body closed off and made small). These changes are measurable and almost instant; Cuddy’s subjects only held the poses for 2 minutes.

Will striking a power pose and altering my brain chemistry suddenly make me capable of being the next president? Highly unlikely. But could striking a power pose for a few minutes before leading a presentation help me interrupt some negative self-talk that might otherwise hold me back? Probably.

Check out some of the articles embedded and below for other strategies to get past fears of being an impostor in your own life. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to stand like a starfish for the next 2 minutes and have a brave afternoon.

The Best Time of the Day to Work Out

So when is the ideal time of day to exercise? In short – there isn’t one. The answer for YOU depends on an array of factors. The American Heart Association recommends “at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.” However, there are benefits for working out at certain times. Let’s break it down.

Silhouette woman run under blue sky with clouds

If you have trouble falling asleep at night, then a morning workout could help. A recent study from Appalachian State University revealed that moderate-intensity exercise at 7am can help adults (and perhaps college students too!) sleep longer with deeper sleep cycles. And sleep is the ultimate restorative mechanism. When resting, your body repairs muscles, sorts through memories, and maintains heart health. Also – morning exercise can help with consistency. If you make the habit, you will be much likelier to stick with it. Maybe your friend who swears by a 6am run is onto something.

If high performance is your goal, then an afternoon exercise session could be the best fit. Using a group of cyclists, researchers found in another study that 6pm workouts resulted in higher performance than 6am workouts. What does this mean for you? If your preferred form of exercise is walking on the treadmill, then you can likely work out at any time of the day without much difference. However, afternoon running, biking, or swimming workouts could give you better results.

Ready to get your work out on? Check out all of the UNC fitness opportunities, including facility hours, on the brand new Campus Rec Interactive Calendar.

 

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

Club Sports and Intramurals: A great way to get some exercise and become involved!

This blog post was originally published on December 9, 2014.

With the end of the semester come finals, and often, lots of stress. But the good news is at the end of the week you are done (congratulations)! Whether you finish strong or limp across the finish line, the semester is over and you cannot change the past. What you can do is enjoy your time off, get some rest, and look to the future and a fresh start in January. And if I may, I would like to make a recommendation for the spring semester: do something new and something that will help you with all that stress that school can bring. Become part of some sort of extracurricular physical activity, preferably one that gets your heart rate up.

Photo: Going up for the frisbee in the fog by Nathan Rupert, Flickr Creative Commons.
Photo: Going up for the frisbee in the fog by Nathan Rupert, Flickr Creative Commons.

Now before you say, “I don’t have time for exercise,” or “but I don’t like to exercise,” stop. One, you do have time for a little exercise, but often you will not do it unless you set aside a time for it. If you continually say, “I will exercise when I have free time,” you will always find something else you could be doing. Additionally, if you have hours and hours each month to check Facebook, tweet, Instagram, watch movies, online shop, play video games, or any other things that your normal day entails, then you likely have time for some exercise. Second, exercise will help all the other parts of your life as well. So many studies show that exercise not only improved physical health, but mental health as well including stress and depression. And if you don’t like to exercise, fear not! There are many options for exercising that don’t feel like a chore, including many club sports and intramural activities.

For me, physical activity means getting into the Carolina North Forest for runs, and joining road bike group rides in Chapel Hill. In addition to this, last year I joined the UNC Cycling Team, which includes a wide variety of individuals who have all different ability levels and who enjoy all different types of biking. Maybe this is something you would like to try, but if not, there are so many opportunities to participate in club sports, and intramural activities here at UNC. These include: basketball, soccer, tennis, ultimate Frisbee, football, rugby, and so many more. These are great opportunities to meet people, create social networks, and get exercise at the same time. These also can be really helpful for motivation on those days when you would rather just curl up in bed, but you know that getting some exercise would be good for you and you would enjoy doing it once you got out there. Not everyone is self-motivated, however, how or why you get out there is not the important thing, but rather that you get out there.

Olympian Tours Colorado Trip (by Jed Hinkley)
Olympian Tours Colorado Trip (by Jed Hinkley)

So, if you’ve wanted to become involved with some sort of sport or activity, there’s no time like the present. This is the perfect time and there are so many options to choose from. After all, college is about trying new things and meeting new people. It is also about becoming immersed in the culture and involved with the school. What better way to do that then with a bunch of other students, faculty, and staff that like doing the same things that you do. Your heart, your head, and your grades will be better for it.

Spring Break Fitness Reboot

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No matter how true our intentions are, sometimes we fail to stick to our healthy habits. Be it daily exercise, vigilant hydration, or eating enough fruits and vegetables, it can be tough to stick to our positive habits. With Spring Break around the corner, this is an opportune time to re-dedicate to health and fitness habits.

Here are a few simple tips to get back on the fitness bandwagon:

  1. Go slow! Give your body time to readjust to the fitness habit. If you push yourself too hard too soon, you risk injury. Start with a vigorous walk or a light jog. If you are lifting weights, start each set with lighter weights than you’re used to, so your body can adjust to the movement.
  1. Focus on flexibility. Light stretches help increase blood to target muscles, while assisting with joint mobility and range of motion. This can help you avoid injury when starting to exercise anew.
  1. Do what you can, and forget the rest. In huge mega-gyms, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the multitude of machines and weights. Instead of taking it all in at once, create a simple plan for yourself within your limits. Look beyond the super-fit triathletes and the 20-something bodybuilders to your own capabilities. An all-or-nothing mindset may discourage you.
  1. Begin with an easy goal. Employ “SMART” goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
  1. Hydration: take a water bottle with you wherever you go, and drink often. A good rule of thumb is to drink a glass right after you wake up and before you go to bed, a glass between meals, and a glass before meals.

 

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

Ease Your Way Back Into Working Out With Campus Rec

At this time of year, there are plenty of things that could be keeping you from working out regularly. Midterms and projects are beginning to sap away all of your free time to be used for studying and various sicknesses are striking down students on campus left and right. Thankfully, I don’t get sick very often, but this year my immediate family all had the misfortune of passing some week-long terrible cold or flu virus from one to the other in the past month. I typically work really hard to make room in my schedule for exercise several days each week, but working out was the very last thing on my mind while I was sick.

It’s amazing how much of an effect ten days of sickness or of no exercising in general can have on your body when you try to start exercising again! The feeling of trying to catch up to your former fitness level can be discouraging and exhausting, especially if you make the mistake of trying to jump right back into your routine!

Luckily, Campus Rec offers so many fitness options that you can use to help you build up your endurance again after a workout hiatus for any reason!

Group Fitness Options:

Aquatics

  1. Start with yoga or Tai Chi. You probably don’t want to jump back into intense cardio or strength classes immediately. Both classes still provide great workouts that will increase your strength and help you feel active again without requiring any jumping around, weights, or heavy breathing.
  2. Next, try pilates! Pilates uses a lot of similar movements to yoga, but provides a slightly faster pace, more strength exercises, and increases the cardio intensity just a bit.
  3. Zumba is a great option to start re-building your cardio endurance. You’ll be up on your feet and moving around during the entire class, but there are no weights involved and no specific intense cardio intervals that could send your recovering lungs into a tizzy.
  4. Barre is a great option for increasing your strength, because you literally have a ballet barre to hold onto for support during the class. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that this class won’t offer a great challenge and leave you feeling strong and accomplished, though!
  5. Upper body conditioning and lower body conditioning are great classes to focus on strength exercises while incorporating only short bursts of cardio. Prepare yourself for some sore muscles after these classes, though! You may want to choose lighter weights than usual if you’re still trying to recover your strength!
  6. You’ll want to save Kickboxing, 3-2-1, BOSU Strength/Cardio Circuit, Muscle Cut, Absolution, KickHIIT, and Cycle classes until you’re feeling completely healthy, energized, and up for a challenge! These classes will push you to your limits and really help you gain both cardio and strength endurance after only a few classes!

Find the group fitness class schedule here!

Non-Group Fitness Options:

Group Exercise

  • First, remember that your own health and fitness is not a competition, so don’t worry about feeling like you have to keep up with the people around you in the gym! After being sick for a week, I couldn’t work out nearly as hard as most other people in the group fitness classes I attended, and that’s ok! What matters most is respecting how your body is feeling, so you don’t push yourself too far and make matters worse!
  • Instead of running, try just walking on the treadmill and then gradually increasing your speed to a short run when you feel like you can! Stationary bikes are another great option because they allow you to sit down while you get in an awesome cardio workout.
  • Just because you could lift a certain weight or do a certain number of squats last week doesn’t mean that you have to do the same amount this week! Accept the fact that you may need to work your way back up to your goal.
  • Create your own workout in the studios upstairs in the SRC! Grab a mat, listen to some music on your phone, and create a self-paced workout using dumbbells, steps, and the big exercise balls – all available to you in the studios when group fitness classes aren’t in progress!
  • Go for a swim! Sure, it’s definitely chilly outside, but Bowman Gray Pool is heated, and swimming is wonderfully easy on your joints and muscles. Bundle up, grab a friend, and head to the pool, or go on your own and enjoy the quiet and the feeling of the water supporting your weight!
  • Remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and to take days off as you need it if you become sore or you didn’t get enough sleep the night before!

Judging by the constant sounds of coughing, sneezing and sniffling present in all of my classes lately, I know I’m not the only one who has been feeling a bit under the weather! If you’ve been sick lately, or you just haven’t been able to get comfortably back into a fitness routine in the midst of another busy semester, consider giving yourself a chance to ease into working out with Campus Rec. Our fitness facilities and group fitness classes are waiting to help you establish healthy habits and reach your fitness goals!

 

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

News Roundup: what’s more important – exercise or sleep?

This blog post was written by Emily Wheeler and is published as part of our blog exchange with Tar Heel Tone-Up

alarm-clock

Today we are tackling an important – and probably relevant – question raised by some of our readers. We have 24 hours in a day, but for those of use who want to pack in as much as possible, it may not be possible to do it all. In some situations, we have to forgo study time, sleep hours, or a night out with friends to make it all work.

If it comes down to it– what’s more crucial: an hour of exercise, or an extra hour of sleep?

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/ask-well-sleep-or-exercise/

The New York Times polled two physicians and learned that sleep and exercise share a “bi-directional relationship.” They write that exercise can actually lead to deeper, more restorative sleep. But they warn that sleeping for less than seven hours is a risky path to go down, possibly resulting in next-day drowsiness and lower motivation.

http://www.shape.com/celebrities/star-trainers/ask-celebrity-trainer-should-you-skip-sleep-fit-workout

A Shape.com article emphasized the absolute necessity of getting enough sleep at night, particularly if your goal is to maintain a healthy weight. The trainer featured in the article said that her opinion is that sleep is more important the exercise.

http://greatist.com/fitness/dear-greatist-which-more-important-sleep-or-exercise

Greatist.com makes a key point that not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. Not to mention – if you exercise more during a given day, your body might need more sleep time to repair and recover. They write that a key factor in workouts is their duration, and to aim for anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour, depending on your personal goals.

Sleep well and be active, my friends 🙂

image from theeffect.net