Flashback Friday: How to be social without drinking

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

Feel like social life revolves around drinking?

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Here are 10 alcohol-free ways to have fun in the Triangle.
(TIP: Always ask about a student discount!)

  1.  Host or attend a game night FREE
  2. Join an intramural sports team FREE
  3. Group outing to the theatre! FREE-$$$
  4. Go ice skating or bowling $$
     
  5. Join a student organization FREE
  6. Check out a local farmer’s market over the weekend FREE
  7. Attend local community events FREE-$$$
  8. Check out student group performances (search category: performance) FREE-$
  9. Learn a new dance/go out dancing (all types of dancing) FREE-$
  10. Watch an outdoor movie or a CUAB movie (seasonal) FREE-$
“Movies Under the Stars” in Downtown Chapel HIll

Or, maybe you want to go to parties and just not drink!

Have you ever been out trying to have some alcohol-free fun, and people won’t stop  bugging you? Here are some ideas of things to say, but they are dependent on your personality type, individual needs, or safety/comfort concerns!

  1. “I’m not drinking tonight, but thank you!”
  2. “I’m good for now, I just had one.”
  3. “I’m taking it easy tonight.”
  4. “I have to wake up early tomorrow/study, etc.”
  5. “I’m driving home tonight.”
  6. “I’m the designated driver tonight.”
  7. “I’m just trying to be a bit healthier right now.”

Not a talker? No worries! There are other ways to ward off peer pressure, again – dependent on your personality type, individual needs, or safety/comfort concerns. For example, some people have suggested holding a drink in their hand and not actually drinking, drinking alcohol-free drinks (like a rum and coke….minus the rum), or attending a party as a sober attendee and playing the games either with water or an alcohol-free drink!

Being healthy is more about what you do than what you look like

This blog post was originally published on March 5, 2015.

If I asked 10 different people what physical health looks like, do you think I would get the same answer? My guess is I would actually get 10 different answers largely because there is no one right answer.

The purpose of this blog is not to try and change your mind about what it looks like to be physically healthy, but rather to suggest that using body image and weight as an indicator of health is misguided. Being healthy is not about how you look, but rather what you do. What you do in your everyday life often plays a very large role in determining your what the real important health indicators like blood sugar levels, triglycerides (fat content in blood), LDL cholesterol, and many others will be.

I think it is time that we start to shift our attention from what people look like to what they do when we think about health. There are so many factors that contribute to health and there are also many things out of our control, but what is in our control, at least somewhat, is whether you try and live a healthy lifestyle.

Body Snark Free Zone Sign by Treacle Tart (flickr creative commons)
Body Snark Free Zone Sign by Treacle Tart (flickr creative commons)

So what does this mean? This means that you cannot always tell if someone is healthy or not by just looking at them. But—and I say this with a big but– the majority of research shows that being extremely overweight or extremely underweight can be very harmful for your health. We also should maybe rethink how we look at individuals whose weight falls somewhere in between these two extremes and even reconsider what we would be considered overweight. I say this because last year, a large study showed that people that are overweight actually live longer than people who are “normal” weights. I also say this because in the middle of these two extremes is a very large group of people that could, or could not be very healthy but we really cannot tell just by looking at them. What it comes down to is that the deciding factor is what people do in their everyday lives (and genetics), not what they look like. I think if we started to be more concerned with things like how physically active people are, how much sleep they get, and the food they eat (in addition to many other things) instead of what they look like, we as a society could do a better job at not stigmatizing people for being either over or underweight.

I would like to emphasize that I am not saying to be whatever size you want because as I said earlier, there is very good evidence to show that this can be very harmful to health. What I am saying is let’s worry more about eating real food, food that has not been overly processed, and exercising in moderation among many other daily activities, and let’s worry less about what size we should be. This means that being “skinny” even if you can eat whatever you want without exercising, does not make you healthy. But it also means for people that get the recommended amount of exercise and eat real food in reasonable amounts, but still weigh more than society says you should, that’s ok.

I think the bottom line is we need to be real with ourselves, and stop using what we look like to determine our health. What we look like in a mirror is meaningless if we are not doing what we should be doing to promote physical health, and vice versa. Let’s start trying to live our lives in a healthier way and use that to measure our health instead of the numbers we see on a scale.

What to Expect From Your First Gynecologist Appointment

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Dentist by Lee Mack (flickr creative commons)

For many people, seeing a gynecologist for the first time can be a nerve-wracking and scary experience. However, it doesn’t have to be—the more informed you are, the less scary it is. Knowing what to expect means you can advocate for yourself and be an informed patient. So why see a gynecologist, you may ask? Perhaps you are thinking about having sex and want to discuss contraception or you want to talk about pain during sex. Maybe you have an infection and want to get it checked out or your periods are irregular and you want more information. As you can see, there are so many reasons people go to the gynecologist! You don’t have to be sexually active to see a gynecologist, either. The most recent recommendation is that people see a gynecologist for a first pap smear at 21 and every three years after. Here are some things to know ahead of time:

  • Schedule an exam during a time when you are not menstruating
  • You can request a provider of the same gender if you want
  • It can be helpful to write questions down ahead of time in case you forget anything
  • When you get there you will fill out some forms answering questions about if you are sexually active, the date of your last period, and what brings you to the appointment
  • Wear comfortable clothing because you may have to remove them (including underwear) to change into a gown

Once you get there, you will have a conversation with a healthcare provider about why are you there and about your sexual history. Being honest is important and this information helps inform the provider about what kind of care you need. Their job is to provide care, not judge you. While people don’t always talk openly about gynecological health, your doctor has heard every question out there and seen many patients for gynecological exams. Nothing is too embarrassing or uncomfortable. Remember, it’s their job and they see patients with similar concerns all the time! If you have experienced trauma, this can be a time to tell the doctor that you might be nervous and discuss strategies for getting through an exam (here is an article with some tips to help you through the appointment).

Depending on why you are there, here are some things that could occur:

  • The provider performing a breast exam
  • The provider having you lie you down and put your feet in stirrups to examine the external genital area
  • The provider using a speculum, an instrument that allows for the provider to view inside the vagina and see the cervix, to perform the internal exam
  • The provider taking a swab of your cervix
  • The provider inserting a gloved finger into the vagina while feeling your abdomen—this is to examine your internal organs that they can’t examine with the speculum (the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes)

Throughout all this, nothing should hurt. You may feel some discomfort and pressure, and if you are feeling pain you should tell your provider. While it can be difficult, the more relaxed you are the more comfortable the exam will be. Taking deep breaths can help you try to relax. While it sounds like a lot, this part of the exam only takes a few minutes and will be over before you know it. Sometimes people like to know what is going on, have a conversation with the provider, or not talk at all. It’s up to you! It’s also totally fine to ask the provider to talk you through what they are doing.

Also, remember to speak up–you have the right to ask for explanations or stop any part of the exam at any point. It’s your body and you have the right to advocate for yourself! If you have questions, you can email Student Wellness at LetsTalkAboutIt@unc.edu to set up a sexual health appointment with our trained health educators. We are here to help make you feel as informed as possible when you seen a gynecologist for the first time!

Being healthy is more about what you do than what you look like

If I asked 10 different people what physical health looks like, do you think I would get the same answer? My guess is I would actually get 10 different answers largely because there is no one right answer.

The purpose of this blog is not to try and change your mind about what it looks like to be physically healthy, but rather to suggest that using body image and weight as an indicator of health is misguided. Being healthy is not about how you look, but rather what you do. What you do in your everyday life often plays a very large role in determining your what the real important health indicators like blood sugar levels, triglycerides (fat content in blood), LDL cholesterol, and many others will be.

I think it is time that we start to shift our attention from what people look like to what they do when we think about health. There are so many factors that contribute to health and there are also many things out of our control, but what is in our control, at least somewhat, is whether you try and live a healthy lifestyle.

Body Snark Free Zone Sign by  Treacle Tart (flickr creative commons)
Body Snark Free Zone Sign by Treacle Tart (flickr creative commons)

So what does this mean? This means that you cannot always tell if someone is healthy or not by just looking at them. But—and I say this with a big but– the majority of research shows that being extremely overweight or extremely underweight can be very harmful for your health. We also should maybe rethink how we look at individuals whose weight falls somewhere in between these two extremes and even reconsider what we would be considered overweight. I say this because last year, a large study showed that people that are overweight actually live longer than people who are “normal” weights. I also say this because in the middle of these two extremes is a very large group of people that could, or could not be very healthy but we really cannot tell just by looking at them. What it comes down to is that the deciding factor is what people do in their everyday lives (and genetics), not what they look like. I think if we started to be more concerned with things like how physically active people are, how much sleep they get, and the food they eat (in addition to many other things) instead of what they look like, we as a society could do a better job at not stigmatizing people for being either over or underweight.

I would like to emphasize that I am not saying to be whatever size you want because as I said earlier, there is very good evidence to show that this can be very harmful to health. What I am saying is let’s worry more about eating real food, food that has not been overly processed, and exercising in moderation among many other daily activities, and let’s worry less about what size we should be. This means that being “skinny” even if you can eat whatever you want without exercising, does not make you healthy. But it also means for people that get the recommended amount of exercise and eat real food in reasonable amounts, but still weigh more than society says you should, that’s ok.

I think the bottom line is we need to be real with ourselves, and stop using what we look like to determine our health. What we look like in a mirror is meaningless if we are not doing what we should be doing to promote physical health, and vice versa. Let’s start trying to live our lives in a healthier way and use that to measure our health instead of the numbers we see on a scale.

You Hear That? That’s Your Body Speaking…

“You can do it…push yourself…keep going…DIG DEEP!” says the super pumped professional fitness class instructor, as I vigorously take breaths to sooth the discomfort that my chest is in from working out. I hear him telling me to ‘keep going’, even though my legs are ready to buckle from exhaustion and constant beads of sweat find their way into my eyeballs causing more discomfort. I am fatigued and my body is aching and all I can think to myself is, “No, Super-Pumped-Professional-Fitness-Class-Instructor—I cannot keep going…aaaand because you are going to keep my $10 for this class, I am just going to leave now.”

This, my friends, is a prime example of me listening to my body. I could have ‘dug deep’ and continue to push my body, but it was clear that my body was telling me to stop. Listening to your body, pretty much means being aware and in tune with how your body is feeling and reacting (usually physical, but not all the time). How did I know my body was screaming at me to stop? Or that doing an extra rep could cause me injury? Welp, not being able to breathe was one sign.

Joe Vennare, from Greatist.com , lists some common warning signs to ‘listen’ for to prevent three problematic conditions that occur often while working out:

  • Overtraining: Take time for your body to rest and recover!Listen1
  • Injury: Be sure to stretch, take breaks, and get doctor check-ups often!listen2
  • Disordered sleep: There is nothing wrong with an ‘adult bedtime’. Good sleep is needed to function!listen3

Yes, physical wellness is important to consider when thinking about positive health and wellness. Yes, we know that there are things in life that have to be done like….right now, but just pause for a second! Let your body in on the conversation and listen to what it is saying to you.

CMMR♥

Sit Up Straight, Like Your Mama Told You

Recent research (some conducted right here at UNC!) has shown that sitting for long periods of time can be detrimental to your health, and that using laptops can cause wrist, shoulder and neck problems that can lead to headaches and other issues.  Studies also show that generally poor posture can be linked to chronic back pain and can cause long term spinal damage down the road.

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