How Being YOU Can Reduce Stress

I always joke with my coworkers that they have to watch what they say around me because I believe everything that I hear.  And, although I think it is important to draw on other people’s experiences to shape your own success, at the end of the day you are the only person who knows what is best for you.  As a follow up to last week’s stress-free blog, I’d like to leave you with four more tips focused on how being YOU can lead to a productive and carefree school year. Continue reading

Why I love “Y’all”

This post was originally written by Sarah Weller and published on June 23, 2011.

I am not southern. I was born far to close the Mason-Dixon to ever be considered southern, however, as a northern transplant to Chapel Hill, I’ve found myself adopting some southern tendencies (and I don’t just mean my obsession with Carolina BBQ and sweet tea). The longer I’ve been here the more I hear “y’all” edging into my day-to-day vocabulary… to my family, “Are y’all ready yet?” To my friends “Do y’all want to go to the store now or later?” At work, “Have y’all seen the stapler?”

At first it sounded a bit strange coming out of my mouth, but now I like it, especially as I think about why y’all really is a better way to address a group than the alternative, “you guys”. But “y’all,” which is the combination of the words you+all, is gender neutral. Think about it, saying “you guys” implies you’re talking to a bunch of men, it’s not really accurate if you’re addressing a mixed gender group, but y’all it’s all inclusive!

Just look at the multitude of uses of y’all found via the wiki site (that’s right, “y’all” has a wiki!)

  1. A replacement for the plural of you.
    • Example: “Y’all can use the internet at the same time!”
  2. An associative plural, including individuals associated but not present with the singular addressee.
    • Example: “Y’all can come over at around 10:30,” Stephanie says.
      • Stephanie explains to John that John and John’s friends, who are not present at the time, can come over at around 10:30. Stephanie is speaking to John, but treats John as a representative for others.
  3. An institutional plural addressed to one person representing a group.
    • Example: “Y’all sell the best candies, Mrs. Johnson.”
      • Y’all is received by Mrs. Johnson who is the representative of a small candy business.
  4. A form used in direct address in certain contexts (e.g., partings, greetings, invitations, and vocatives)
    • Example: “Hey, y’all!”
      • A greeting that addresses a multitude of people without referencing a singular identity comprising that multitude

Oh and who could forget, the classic… “Y’all come back now, ya hear!?”

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Sexual Health!! Read All About It!

There is a lot of information out there about sex, sexual health and pleasure. But how do you know which resources to trust? Wonder no more! Below is a list of resources that contain excellent, reputable information:

Go Ask Alice!

Go Ask Alice! is a great health resource that is maintained by health educators at Columbia University. The website is set up in a Q & A format and it covers a variety of health topics including emotional health, sexual health and relationships.

Sex Etc.

Sex Etc. is a great website hosted by Rutgers University. All the staff writers for the website are students so it is sex education for students, by students! The website is fun and interactive and once a week, the site hosts chats with a health educator so you can ask questions and get an accurate answers immediately.

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood has been providing accurate sexual health information for a long time and they are still one of the best resources on the web. Their website has information on just about any sexual health topic you can think of including body image, gender and emergency contraception.

Scarleteen: Sex Education for the Real World

This website offers a lot of information about sexual health, but they also have a blog and “sexpert” advice. The website has also started building a database to connect young people to services like counselors and clinics. Check it out!

The Perfect Body—Get it NOW!

perfect body blondeNow you’re expecting me to list all the healthy tips and tricks that will promise a skinnier, firmer, flatter you overnight. Ha! I tricked you. No, I will not be offering any weight loss, fitness, nutrition, or diet advice in this blog. But I hooked you with that title, didn’t I?

The perfect body. I hate that word, perfect. I hate how easily it gets paired with the word body. In our culture, a perfect body is one without flaw. And that typically means airbrushed to death and petite with curves, but only in certain places (tits- and ass-type places).

Striving for our perfect body ideal turns beautiful people into calorie-counting, self-doubting dieters: “Oh, I couldn’t possibly eat that…it’ll go straight to my thighs!”

It drives us to passively insult our bodies by extoling others: “You’re so lucky; I don’t have the figure to pull off that outfit!”

It teaches women (and men[1]) to fear their weight and hide their softer sides and to look in the mirror with disgust and shame. It teaches men that women should be flat-bellied, big-breasted, and hairless below the eyebrows. And it robbed me of all that precious time I wasted in my teens and twenties thinking my thighs were too fat for skinny jeans and my stomach too soft for a bikini.

But our perfect body ideal is not universal. A year ago, I wrote a blog post (So Cosmo Says You’re Fat….) about how women are more than their bodies, even though our media tries to convince us otherwise. I talked about my life in Ghana, West Africa, where women have a totally different take on the perfect body. My co-workers often complimented me with “Have you put on weight? You look so nice and fat today.” And my Ghanaian friend, Freda, expressed envy at my cellulite.

Well, last summer, Freda moved to New Jersey with her husband. She no longer says “nice and fat.” Now she thinks she’s too fat, and we all know that fat = bad. In under a year, Freda traded in the round-hipped, soft-bellied Ghanaian ideal and joined the ranks of self-doubting dieters. But Freda is not alone.

I recently finished Dr. Cynthia Bulik’s (head of UNC’s Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders) book Crave for a class I am taking. The book focuses on binge eating disorder and touches on our society’s destructive impact on body image. Dr. Bulik writes about how women compare themselves to the perfect bodies of models and celebrities, and how striving for the perfect body leads many women to disordered eating and self-loathing. There it is. The Perfect Body. Ugh!

What makes this so-called perfect body perfect? Who decided that perfect equals smooth and skinny? Not my friend, Freda. Not the women in Ghana who call each other “nice and fat.” And definitely not me. I think Dr. Bulik would agree that assigning the word perfect to the superskinny-spray-tanned magazine bodies only reinforces the ridiculous ideal that we fight so hard to change.Those bodies are only perfect because we keep calling them perfect. And that needs to change.

Assuring women that they don’t need to strive for the perfect body is not enough. We have to redefine what perfect means.

So then, what is a perfect body?

I’m gonna whip out my BA in Classics for a minute and lay some etymology on you (ah, Murphy Hall….always in my heart). Perfect comes from the Latin word perficere, meaning “to finish” or “to complete” and perfectus, the past participle of perficere, translates “having been completed.” Therefore, a perfect body would be a “finished” or “completed” body. A completed body.

This reminds me of how new parents welcome their fresh-from-the-womb infants, black baby 2counting fingers and toes, as they take in all the parts of their new baby. Ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes and one nose. In reality, this is not quality control, folks—I don’t know any parents that would hand their baby back if missing a toe or sporting an extra finger. Rather, they are surveying this fully-formed, completed human being that began a mere 9 months ago as an idea, a kiss, a collection of cells. Just taking it all in. This complete little human being.

Can you imagine critiquing a little infant the way many of us pick at our own bodies?

Last year, I wrote about how we are more than our bodies. But, the truth is, our bodies are still a big part of who we are. They are a part of what completes us. And how we feel aboutMassage of foots our bodies, how we treat our bodies, reflects how we feel about ourselves.

So, I guess I didn’t trick you, after all. Since the day I was born, when my parents held me that very first time and explored all my little fingers and toes, my body has been complete. It is already perfect.

And so is yours.


More on Dr. Bulik and the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders here.

Awesome body image resources:

A more clinical perspective:

[1] Men: I cringe every time I hear you talk about your own body shame. I don’t mean to leave you out of this conversation. I have focused on women for this blog, because I am a gal, and I am speaking from my own experience. However, I do understand that the Perfect Body ideal affects ya’ll too, and I welcome your comments!

How To: A Guide To Helping a Friend with an Eating Disorder

Since today marks the half-way point of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we wanted to share some information with you about how to help a friend who’s struggling with disordered eating or how to reach out for help yourself.

So, you’ve noticed that your friend has become overly concerned with what she eats or how much she weighs. Or maybe you have a friend who excuses himself from the table immediately after eating and you’ve heard him throwing up in the bathroom several times.  How do you show your concern and encourage your friend to get help? Here are a few tips.

  • Learn all that you can about eating disorders. Eating disorders are complex problems that require lots of support, care, and professional guidance. Check out and
  • Approach your friend in a caring, nonjudgmental way.  Explain WHY you are concerned and WHAT you have specifically observed.
  • Know that your friend might be in denial or react in anger.  Your friend may insist that everything is fine.  Do not back down, but rather continue to be available for your friend.
  • Continue to encourage your friend to seek treatment, even though he or she tries to convince you that nothing is wrong.  Do not accept or support their unhealthy behaviors.
  • Consider informing the parents or the resident advisor of your concerns.
  • Remain friendly and open to the possibility that your friend may choose to seek help in the future.
  • Remember…if your friend is over 18 years old, she or he is an adult and cannot be made to seek help.

Now that you’ve had the difficult conversation with your friend and he or she wants to reach out for help, what are the next steps? UNC has a variety of great resources to support someone struggling with disordered eating.

Counseling and Psychological Services
Speak with a trained professional to receive a referral for a therapist in the area. Body image groups are also occasionally offered.
Appointment: Walk-in to the 3rd floor of Campus Health

Campus Health Services
Speak with a health provider who specializes in Eating Disorders.
Katie Gaglione, N.P.
Appointment: 919-966 – 2281

Nutrition Counseling from a Registered Dietitian
Antonia Hartley, M.P.H., R.D., L.D.N.
Appointment: 919-966 -2281

Nutrition Counseling from a Sports Dietitian (for athletes)
Mary Ellen Bingham, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.
Appointment: 919-966 -6548

For a free online eating disorders screening assessment, click here.

And don’t forget to come support the rest of the NEDA Week events going on around campus!

It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week!

In case you haven’t heard, it’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and there are some awesome events going on to raise awareness here at UNC!

First, a little information on eating disorders from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA): In the United States, approximately 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). Many others struggle with disordered eating behavior/attitudes and body dissatisfaction. The emotional and physical consequences of eating disorders are wide-ranging and can include social isolation, depression, muscle wasting, bone loss, and even cardiac failure and death. In fact, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, there’s help! For more information about eating disorder signs and symptoms and how to help someone dealing with an eating disorder, visit the NEDA website. If you are struggling with food, exercise, and/or body image issues, please visit UNC’s Counseling and Psychological Services at Campus Health for a walk-in appointment 9-12 and 1-4 Monday through Friday. For general healthy eating questions and advice, you can make an appointment with the Nutrition Education Consultant at Student Wellness at 919-966-3658. For those with medical conditions and/or eating disorders, you can schedule an appointment with a Registered Dietitian at 919-966-2281.

So, what’s happening this week? These fun events will increase your knowledge and awareness of eating disorders, promote a healthy view of food and activity, support positive body image, and raise much-need funds for eating disorders research. Come to any and all events – your name will be entered into a prize raffle for each event you attend. Visit the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders Facebook page for more information on all of these events.


  • Eating Disorders Myth Busters, 11:30am-1pm, Lenoir
  • Eating for Exercise, 5:30-7pm, SRC
  • Benefits for Eating Disorders Research, Sweet Frog, all day; Clothes Hound, 6-9pm & party at 7pm


  • Eating Disorders Myth Busters, 11:30am-1pm, Rams Head


  • Information and Research Fair, 11am-1pm, The Pit
  • Hip Hop Master Class with Joseph Nontanovan, 6:30-7:45pm, SRC
    Come celebrate your body at a FREE Hip Hop Dance class with renowned dancer and choreographer Joseph Nontanovan from Step Up! Every day your body allows you to walk, dance, breathe, and laugh – so celebrate that fact! Joseph’s hip-hop class will be about having fun and feeling good (not about burning calories or changing your shape). When you feel good about yourself, you project a confidence that makes you beautiful, so come to dance and appreciate all that your body can do!
  • Free Film Screening: CHISEL, a CWS Peer Health Organization and the MRC are co-sponsoring a showing of Cover Girl Culture: Awakening the Media Generation, 8pm. Undergraduate Library Room 205. Come watch the film, enjoy free snacks, and participate in a discussion afterwards


  • Greek Groove, 7pm, Memorial Hall
    Greek Groove
     is a dance competition open to every Panhellenic chapter on campus, requiring each team to submit a dance of around 3 minutes.  This year’s event benefits NEDAwareness Week!

Beyond Bullying

Identity based and sexual harassment are not often talked about, even though we may often see them in our classes, workplace, and community. Identity based and sexual harassment belong on the continuum of interpersonal violence and actively uphold identity-based systems of oppression such as racism, ableism, sizeism, heterosexism, cysgenderism,  anti-Semitism, sexism, classism, etc. Microagressions are quips and comments that often have unintentionally harmful effects on folks who are pinpointed by them and help to maintain the oppression of marginalized peoples or groups in our society.

. 131915_462341033804865_1399806433_o

Harassment, in contrast, is

(a) intentional,

(b) repeated, and

(c) involves a (perceived or real) power disparity between the enactor and the target.

The power disparity between folks enacting harassment and those who are targets could be due to their role in the environment (i.e. professor and student, supervisor and employee, etc.) or larger institutional and societal forces that create power imbalances based on identities. The identities attacked by identity based harassment can be actual or perceived, and chosen by the target as an identity with which they associate or given to them by society or their upbringing.

Time out: what’s the difference between identity-based harassment based on sex identity and sexual harassment, you ask? Identity based harassment could target an individual based on their sex (i.e. male, female, intersex), while sexual harassment targets someone based on their alleged, perceived, potential, or actual sexual behaviors or proposed sexual acts.

So, what can you do if you’re experiencing identity based or sexual harassment? There are multiple offices on campus prepared to help folks in the UNC Chapel Hill community who are experiencing identity-based and sexual harassment, providing everything from education and prevention, to emotional support, to university reporting options. Check out a list of these resources here.

Want to learn more about what you can do to prevent identity-based and sexual harassment? Check out the new One ACT program Beyond Bullying, a skills based workshop for students to build on the bystander intervention skills practiced in One ACT and focus on the prevention of identity based and sexual harassment, which will be hosted for the first time on February 28th at 6:00pm in Dey 202.

Make sure to check out One ACT’s cube in the union on oppressive and harmful identity based language and take the opportunity to talk to your friends about why it matters.

Give Yourself a Hand: Part Two (Female Masturbation!)

Our guest writer is a UNC graduate student in public health who focuses on sexual health and the social factors that influence it.


Female masturbation! In Give Yourself A Hand: Part One, I explored varying perspectives on female masturbation throughout history and some of its less obvious benefits. Here, I offer an introduction into its mechanics for those female-bodied readers newer to the solo no-pants dance. Because I wanted you to be informed by more than my thoughts and experiences, I solicited the input of lady friends across the country. To those wonderful women who opened their bedroom doors to us, I offer my sincerest thanks.

Masturbation can be defined as self-stimulation of genitalia for sexual pleasure. I like this broad definition, because it reminds us that there are no rules about how and with whom you masturbate, and that masturbation does not need to result in orgasm in order to be pleasurable. Still, in the varied forms that female masturbation takes, there are a few key things to keep in mind:

Continue reading

Breast (Cancer?) Awareness

While we have sadly become accustomed to marketing and advertisements using sex to sell us our clothes, cars, beauty products, alcohol, and the 27 workout DVDs they tell us we need after drinking all that alcohol and to fit into those clothes, using sex to advertise and fundraise for a deadly disease strikes me as more than a bit odd. Facebook “campaigns” using sexual innuendos in statuses, Save the Tatas, the controversial “Save the Boobs” commercial, and I Love Boobies bracelets* beg the question: are they raising awareness of the women who struggle with breast cancer and promoting breast cancer prevention, or are they simply raising awareness of breasts?

Now don’t get me wrong, I love breasts, and I certainly feel a tie between my own personal set and my femininity and sexuality. But I also love and care about the women who face breast cancer with grace and courage. Why isn’t there a breast cancer awareness campaign with the tagline, “I ❤ my mom” or my sister, aunt, friend, wife, girlfriend, partner, daughter, etc.? I am not arguing that breasts or the female body should be censored or not used in awareness campaigns for breast cancer, but is it too much to ask that they be shown attached to a whole female? I for one have never seen a campaign for prostate cancer awareness using a picture of a male where his prostate is the focus and his face is cut out as though he isn’t even a full person. This is the case despite the fact that the prostate is a sexual organ and breast and prostate cancer are diagnosed at about the same rate per year (National Cancer Institute)*. Do we really want breast cancer awareness to look this similar to sexualized merchandise advertising that objectifies women?

To be honest, I think it’s pretty obvious why there aren’t any equivalent “I heart scrotums” bracelets and campaigns. It feels like these “I heart boobies” campaigns are specifically meant to draw heterosexual male-identified folks into the fight against breast cancer. What does it say about these campaigns’ perceptions of men if they think the only effective way to get men’s attention about breast cancer is to sexualize it so much so that the focus is on breasts as a sexual object and not the woman to whom those breasts are a part? These campaigns seem to say, “Hey (het) men! You should care about breast cancer because it could affect your sex life!” I’d like to believe (and do) that men are far more intelligent and human than a puppy whose head quickly turns, drooling, at the mention of sex and who is otherwise generally uninterested.

I hope that this October throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we can find some ways to raise awareness of breast cancer, promote early detection and screening, garner support for both research and for people fighting breast cancer, and get male-identified folks involved in conversations and contributions without resorting to the tired old themes of over-sexualizing and objectifying female bodies in the media.

Here’s a breast self-exam sheet you can print off and hang in your bedroom or bathroom (if it’s laminated)!  The Women’s Health Clinic at UNC’s Campus Health also offers breast examinations as a part of their Well Woman’s Examination.

If you’re interested in learning more about the objectification and over-sexualization of women’s bodies in the media, and how these issues tie in to violence against women, check out the films Killing Us Softly (4) and Miss Representation and the student-facilitated media literacy workshop, “The Naked Truth: How the Media Shapes Us” which will be offered on October 30th from 6:00-7:30 in the Genome Science Building, room G010,  sponsored and hosted by the Carolina Women’s Center as a part of Relationship Violence Awareness Month.

*Taken from

“Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?”

Last semester, I overhead some students talking about how Tori Spelling got pregnant one month after giving birth even though she was breastfeeding. I’ve never really understood breastfeeding-as-contraception, so I did some research about LAM, aka Lactational Amenorrhea Method.

My hope is to provide an overview of LAM to folks who are unfamiliar with this method and blew it off as just another sexual health acronym (IUD, NFP, PID, HIV, HPV, HSV, etc). If you are interested in using this method, please consult your health care provider for more detailed guidance. Check out my last blog entry Are you pregnant or parenting at UNC? for more info on resources available UNC.

What is Lactational Amenorrhea Method? Lactational Amenorrhea Method is a contraception method where a woman relies on exclusive breastfeeding to change her body’s hormonal balance to prevent pregnancy. This method can work up to the first six months of the infant’s life, which is also the duration for which the WHO and American Academy of Pediatricians recommends exclusive breastfeeding.

How does LAM work? Time to get your Anatomy & Physiology extra credit! Continue reading