The Burden of Body Shaming

What do you feel when you look at yourself? If you wrote down the internal commentary that occurs when you’re trying on bathing suits, getting dressed for a special occasion, or even just looking at a candid picture of yourself, what would it sound like?

Is it full of criticism? Do you zero in on your flaws while ignoring your positive attributes? Do you berate yourself for your perceived shortcomings?

Would you ever talk to someone else the way you speak to yourself in these moments?

Many of us hold an immense amount of shame about our bodies. This body shame is so ingrained that we don’t even question it anymore, it’s just there. Always. That critical voice, telling us we aren’t fat enough; thin enough, muscular enough, tanned enough, light-skinned enough, or just good enough. When we look at ourselves, we often feel shame, disgust, disappointment, or even hatred. All these intense negative emotions are heaped onto our bodies, these beautiful vessels we’ve been gifted. Not for what they’re capable of or what they can do, but for how they look.

If these words resonate with you, you’re not alone. Most of us are familiar with the sharp sting of body shame, and it’s no wonder – we receive unsolicited feedback about our bodies from the day we are born; research shows that fully 62.7% of mothers body shame their children.

Self-conscious emotions (like pride, guilt, and shame) develop when we’re around two years old, and although their neurophysiology isn’t well understood, their effects are. We take this external feedback and internalize it, feeling terrible about ourselves. Internal shaming happens the most when we are thought to be unattractive by people we depend on the most on for ascribing attractiveness to us (like parents, partners, and close friends). The more shame is internalized, the more difficult it is to treat, and the more we believe that others are legitimate to judge us, the more we internalize and accept these negative judgments.

Once we internalize shame about our bodies, it can be incredibly hard to shake. Both the media and social media platforms reinforce these feelings, offering up impossibly perfect, photoshopped images of models, while companies profit from our insecurities by selling us makeup, workout programs, weight-loss scams, and plastic surgeries.

Body shaming can have heartbreaking effects on those who experience it, including:

  • Emotional distress
  • Unhealthy dieting habits
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, muscle dysmorphic disorder, body dysmorphic disorder)
  • Increase in drug use (i.e. steroids)
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Taking risks with sexual health
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Ceasing healthy behaviors and activities that require one to expose their body (i.e. going to the doctor, going swimming, exercising, engaging in healthy emotional or intimate relationships) (Troy, 2019)
  • Inability to establish good boundaries
  • Restricted breathing
  • Weakening the desire to be present in one’s own life

While it may feel impossible to break free from the intense emotional impact of body shaming, but it is possible.

How to Free Yourself from Body Shame

In one of the articles, we discussed where body shame comes from and how it affects our physical and mental wellbeing. After learning about body shame and its origins, many of you may have been asking how to free yourself from this insidious feeling.

First, remember that it’s taken you your whole life to internalize these negative, self-critical ideas about your body – be patient with yourself as you gradually embark upon the process of un-learning them. To start doing so, we recommend asking yourself a few key questions:

Who profits from this feeling?

Entire industries are created and supported by making us feel shame about our natural selves – our body hair or lack thereof, the size of our thighs or bulk of our muscles, how big or small our breasts are, whether we have hair on our heads and enough of it, and whether it looks “good” – whatever that means.

When you begin to hear those old familiar critical thoughts pop up, ask yourself which company or industry will profit from that feeling. Does your insecurity about your weight send you searching for flat tummy teas or diet pills? When you wish you had lighter skin, do you buy skin-lightening creams or foundations? Does your desire for rippling muscles cause you to start researching protein powders or supplements?

Don’t allow big business to profit from your negative self-image. Remind yourself that your self-worth is not for sale.

“In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”
……Caroline Caldwell

How am I reinforcing this feeling?

The truth is, although most of us love social media, it’s can cause us to critique and analyze bodies in ways that promote body dissatisfaction, constant body surveillance, and disordered thoughts. Over 50% of college students between 18-25 report body dissatisfaction, and studies show that Instagram is the worst offender for negatively impacting our mental health.

To identify how we may be unconsciously feeding body shame, take a few minutes to perform a quick inventory of your social media feeds. Do you feel better after scrolling through Instagram? Or worse? Does a quick Facebook check-in stoke your self-image or destroy it?

Try to identify how you feel about each profile you see. Delete, mute, or unfollow any accounts that make your body shame flare-up. This doesn’t mean the account is bad, or wrong – it may just be your best friend enjoying a beach vacation – but if the images you’re seeing are bad for your mental health and body image, you may need to take a break for a bit.

To fill in the gaps made by deleting accounts that make you feel bad about yourself, add in somebody positivity activists to make you feel good, like The Birds Papaya, Jameela Jamil, Jess Amyn, Bishamber Das, Megan Jayne Crabb, and Stevie Blaine. These activists can fill your feed with rich, joyful, and introspective reflections on body positivity, body image, and how our culture constantly perpetuates self-hate.

Where is My Focus?

Part of the reason body shame is so powerful is that we reinforce it so often. To break the cycle of negative self-talk, flip the conversation.

Spend a few minutes each day writing down five things you truly like about yourself. This might be tough at first but stick to it. The things on your list can be big or small, and don’t require anyone else’s agreement but yours. Have you secretly always liked how soft your belly is, even though you’re bombarded with ads for ab-workouts? Write it down! Do you like how strong your legs are, even if you wish they were a bit slimmer? Write it down!

The point is to refocus your attention from looking for flaws to looking for the beauty, strength, and joy your body holds. It’s already there – you just need to recognize it.

With time and practice, you can shift your mindset from self-hatred to self-love. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?

How to Compassionately Navigate an Early Life Crisis

One of the most challenging aspects of coping with an early life crisis is that the steps you need to take to address your feelings of stress often seem impossible because of the debilitating nature of those feelings.

The scope of the decisions you have to make in the realms of academics, personal relationships, sports, and future career can feel as overwhelming as trying to move a mountain. The sheer scale of the task ahead can be immobilizing -where on earth do you start?

Self-Care

Well, you start at square one. Yourself.

Embarking upon a mental journey can be just as arduous and taxing as running a marathon, so it’s important to prepare yourself in much the same way.

First, ensure you’re getting enough sleep. To do this, you may need to remind yourself that getting a good night’s sleep actually improves your creativity, focus, and mood. It can seem like it’s wasting time to catch a few z’s, but it’s often the most productive way to spend a few hours.

Next, make sure you’re nourishing your body. Eat plenty of whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and protein, limit caffeine, and drink plenty of water. Your mind and your body are intricately connected. Both need to be balanced in order to experience holistic wellbeing.

Finally, adopt the same attitude towards yourself that you would extend to a good friend or a child. Would you ever berate a good friend for their shortcomings? Belittle a child for every failure? Push a family member relentlessly without respite? Of course not!

Be just as gentle with yourself. Be patient.

Make a Plan

Next, spend some time identifying your major stressors. Is it your grades, your relationships, your job, or all three? Write down your worries and try to be as specific as possible.

Next, accept the situation. Like it or not, this is where you are right now. At this moment in your life, you’re struggling with your course load. You’re having a hard time accepting your physical limitations. You’re fighting with your partner. This is where you are. You won’t always be in this place, but you are here now.

It’s truly incredible how much mental energy we can spend resisting reality. I hate this. I’m not this person. This isn’t what I wanted. I can’t do this.

Instead, simply accept your current situation with compassion and without judgment. Here you are.

Take Action

Finally, identify the things on your list that you can change, even if it seems like it’d be really tough to do so. Perhaps you can raise your grades by seeking out extra help or finding a tutor. Maybe you can improve a failing relationship by having an open discussion, or by letting the relationship go. You might be able to answer all those wildly swirling questions about your future career by booking an appointment with a career counselor or speaking with a professor in the field.

Whatever your stressors, no matter how many stressors you have, begin by choosing just one thing from your list and identify just one concrete step you could take to address it. Then do that thing and stick with it until it’s done – until you’ve made the call or had the conversation or studied for the test or cleaned the room. Then check the item the list.

That’s the hardest part done! You’ve taken the first step, overcome that fear, the feeling of overwhelm, and the power of inertia.

Now all you have to do is keep going! Keep seeking help, taking steps, and making progress, no matter how small. You can overcome this!

Good luck 🙂

What Does an Early Life Crisis Look Like?

The pressures of life, relationships, and academics have become increasingly stressful for adolescents in recent years. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed, unable to cope, or wishing you could just hide out in bed for days on end, you know exactly what we mean.

Experiencing some stress in our lives is normal, and even healthy. But when stress accumulates over months or years with no release and no end in sight, it can feel debilitating and it can lead to what we call an Early Life Crises.

What is an Early Life Crisis?

You’ve probably heard of a mid-life crisis -that period of challenging identity and self-confidence that occurs around rough age 45-54 years old. This life crisis has cliché associations with the purchase of sports cars and affairs with younger partners but in reality, it often involves intense self-reflection and the overwhelming feeling of finding yourself halfway through your life, questioning what you’ve accomplished so far.

In contrast, an early life crisis occurs as you stand at the beginning of “real” life and feel panicked about how to start, which direction to choose, and the sheer volume of steps you need to accomplish to reach your goals.

Why Does it Happen?

The pressure put on teens during their adolescent years – to choose a future career; navigate the challenges of dating, sexual identity, and social circles; and achieve impossible levels of academic performance can have devastating effects on mental health.

During times of stress, youth may start to wonder who they really are and what they are supposed to do with their lives, feel trapped with no options, and feel overwhelmed with frustration or confusion.

What Does an Early Life Crisis Look Like?

To understand whether you’re experiencing the effects of an Early Life Crisis, compare your current mental state to the following list:

  • Feeling like you don’t fit in
  • Being unable to connect with peers, parents or partner
  • Unable to find work that has meaning
  • Frustration (being able to identify the problem but feeling unable to take steps to resolve the problem)
  • Having vague career goals
  • Exhibiting poor decision-making skills
  • Poor job satisfaction and performance
  • Poor communication/interpersonal skills
  • Fear of commitment
  • Confusion related to one’s own sexuality
  • Low self-esteem
  • Inability to make decisions, and lack of assertiveness
  • Feeling passive, anxious, depressed, or isolated

Next Steps

Although going through an Early Life Crisis can feel incredibly unpleasant, there is a lot of hope here! No matter how overwhelmed you currently feel, know that you are capable of creating meaningful change in your life. Best of all, you’ve already taken the first step by becoming aware of what you’re experiencing.

Next up, we’ll discuss how to gather the strength to face your Early Life Crisis head-on, share coping tools, and create a road map towards mental wellbeing. In the meantime, be gentle with yourself. Understand that this feeling will pass and experiencing struggles in your life doesn’t mean you’re weak – it means you’re human.

So, take a few deep breaths, do something kind for yourself, and stay tuned! A compassionate solution for your Early Life Crisis is just around the corner.

Mental Health Hygiene 101

Throughout the day you perform dozens of hygiene tasks to take care of your body. You wash your hands, brush and floss your teeth, bathe or shower, and style your hair.  You change your clothes and clip your nails and get haircuts and make sure your home is clean (or at least clean-ish). But what tasks do you perform regularly to take care of your mind?

If you’re struggling to come up with an answer, you’re not alone. For most of us, mental health is something we often don’t think about until there’s a problem – we wait until we get stressed, depressed, or anxious and then try to fix things when we’re in crisis. This is a lot like never brushing your teeth and then having to get drastic dental procedures to fix the damage. Prevention is always a better plan!

So, just like the hygiene tasks, we perform to take care of our physical health there are tasks that we need to do on a regular basis to support our mental health. Today, we’ll discuss the topic of mental health hygiene and why it matters.

What is Mental Health Hygiene?

Mental Health Hygiene won’t look the same for everyone, so there isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all set of instructions. Psychology Today explains, however, that there are some things that each of our Mental Health Hygiene routines has in common, “All of us need daily attention to the basics: sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Most of us also need a measure of strong social support, as well as cultivation of purpose, perspective, and humor in one’s life”.

Beyond these basics, you can cultivate Mental Health Hygiene habits that work for you. For example, author and mental health advocate Jessica Dreistadt shares that she regularly practices the following to support her mental wellbeing:

  • Express gratitude: “I not only intentionally find things to be grateful for, I openly share my gratitude with others who have contributed to their existence.”
  • Make time for play: “By planning playtime and doing things that I enjoy, I am able to create anticipatory joy leading up to the activity as well as a sense of flow and happiness while participating in it.”
  • Let it go: “When I find myself clinging to destructive feelings as a crutch, I find the courage to let it go so that I can freely move forward in my life.”
  • Nurture connections: “I have adopted and share my home with three cats and we reciprocate unconditional love on a regular basis. I also find inner peace by regularly connecting with nature, whether it be by feeling the sun’s rays on my face, watching the sunset, walking through the woods, or taking a nap at the beach.”
  • Write it down: “When I write down my thoughts and feelings, they become more tangible to me and less scattered (and scary!) in my head.”

To identify which habits will benefit you, try to identify the activities or practices in your life that leave you feeling calm, centered, and content. It could be reading, journaling, listening to music, getting out into nature, exercising, having a hot bath – anything that feels like it feeds your soul. Write these activities down to create a list of your own Mental Health Hygiene habits.

By regularly practicing Mental Health Hygiene, you’ll be supporting your mental wellbeing and prioritizing your psychological health. That’s absolutely a habit worth cultivating. Good luck!

Why Does Mental Health Hygiene Matter?

We often have a hard time understanding why Mental Health Hygiene is just as important – if not more so – than physical hygiene. When we can’t see the damage that our neglect is causing – unlike the damage of physical neglect such as cavities, dirty fingernails, etc. –  it’s a lot easier to pretend it doesn’t exist.

But the truth is, your mental health is one of the most important aspects of your wellbeing. Your mental health affects every aspect of your life – from your education to your finances to your closest relationships. All these things suffer if your mental health suffers.

Today, we’re going to look at the importance of Mental Health Hygiene, and how healthy habits can benefit your life.

The Effects of Poor Mental Health Hygiene

Dr. Anne Marie Oberheu explains that the effects of poor mental health can be far-reaching and underestimated, “…poor mental health can affect your ability to make healthy decisions and fight off chronic diseases. What’s more, neglecting your mental health can lead to more serious health complications such as:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Asthma
  • Obesity
  • Gastronomical problems
  • Premature death

Depression alone can cause chronic fatigue, insomnia and increased sensitivity to aches and pains due to abnormal function of neurotransmitters in the brain“.

Maintaining good Mental Health Hygiene is more than getting enough sleep and taking time off – it works to support and protect your physical and mental wellbeing.

Benefits of Strong Mental Health Hygiene

It’s hard to think of a single facet of our lives that isn’t improved by creating healthy mental hygiene practices.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) explains, “Just as physical fitness helps our bodies to stay strong, mental fitness helps us to achieve and sustain a state of good mental health. When we are mentally healthy, we enjoy our life and environment, and the people in it. We can be creative, learn, try new things, and take risks. We are better able to cope with difficult times in our personal and professional lives. We feel the sadness and anger that can come with the death of a loved one, a job loss or relationship problems and other difficult events, but in time, we are able to get on with and enjoy our lives once again.”

The CMHA also reminds us that mental health can translate into physical health, too. Being able to properly manage and reduce stress, for example, can help reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, and we’re feeling mentally healthy we are more likely to engage in social activities and exercise.

Understanding and practicing strong Mental Health Hygiene practices is an essential component of a healthy mind and a strong body. Make these habits a part of your daily routine, set regular times to check in and evaluate your mental health, and don’t be shy to speak up and ask for help if you need it. You’re worth it!

Smoking Cigarettes Can Affect Your Bone Health, Delay Healing After Injury

Smoking is linked to delayed shinbone healing, finds a study. “We are all familiar with some of the more well-known negative health effects of smoking, but the influence on bone healing is less widely known outside the medical community,” said Hannah Dailey of Lehigh University.

“Our study recommended that all fracture patients should be provided with support for smoking cessation to help reduce the risk of complications related to their injury.” In adults, tibia (shinbone) fractures are usually fixed through the surgical implantation of a slender metal rod called an intramedullary nail in the hollow space within the bone.

This treatment is generally effective for tibial fractures. However, in 10% to 15% of cases, the bone fails to heal in a timely manner, resulting in nonunion-or arrested healing. One surprising result the researchers found was that patients in the middle decades of life, particularly women aged 30-49, seemed to be at increased risk of nonunion.

“This finding does not have a simple obvious biological explanation, and suggests that there are other factors such as living environment, employment, activity levels, and others that could be contributing to bone healing in a way that isn’t easy to measure,” said Dailey.

From the study, “Smoking did not increase the risk of nonunion but did significantly extend the median time to union. Nonunion risk also shows a nonlinear trend with age and women in middle adulthood may be at increased risk compared with all other groups. This finding is not explained by the distributions of injury characteristics and suggests that exogenous factors, such as weight-bearing behavior, may have a contributing effect and should be objectively measured in future prospective investigations.”

Your Dirty Kitchen Towels Can Cause Food Poisoning, Here’s Why

Dirty kitchen towels can aid the growth of pathogens and cause food poisoning, according to new research done by the University of Mauritius. The study also showed that factors such as family size, type of diet and multi-usage of towels, among other factors, impact the growth of pathogens on kitchen towels, potentially causing food poisoning.

“Our study demonstrates that the family composition and hygienic practices in the kitchen affect the microbial load of kitchen towels,” said Susheela D Biranjia-Hurdoyal, senior lecturer, Department of Health Sciences, University of Mauritius, and lead author on the study. “We also found that diet, type of use and moist kitchen towels could be very important in promoting the growth of potential pathogens responsible for food poisoning,” she said.

49% of the kitchen towels collected in the study had bacterial growth which increased in number with extended family, presence on children and increasing family size. The towels for multipurpose usage (wiping utensils, drying hands, holding hot utensils, wiping/cleaning surfaces) had a higher bacterial count than single-use towels and humid towels showed higher bacterial count than the dry ones.

Out of the 49 samples which were positive for bacterial growth, 36.7% grew coliforms, 36.7% Enterococcus spp, and 14.3% S. aureus. A total of 100 kitchen towels were collected after one month of use. The researchers cultured the bacteria and identified them by standard biochemical tests. They also determined the bacterial load on the towels.

S. aureus was isolated at a higher rate from families of lower socio-economic status and those with children. The risk of having coliforms (Escherichia coli) was higher from humid towels than the dried ones, from multipurpose towels than single-use ones and from families on non-vegetarian diets. Coliform and S. aureus were detected at significantly higher prevalence from families with non-vegetarian diets. Escherichia coli is a normal flora of human intestine and is released in large numbers in human faeces. The presence of Escherichia coli indicates possible faecal contamination and a lack of hygiene practices. “The data indicated that unhygienic practices while handling non-vegetarian food could be common in the kitchen,” said Biranjia-Hurdoyal.

The presence of potential pathogens from the kitchen towels indicates that they could be responsible for cross-contamination in the kitchen and could lead to food poisoning. “Humid towels and multipurpose usage of kitchen towels should be discouraged. Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen,” she said. The study was presented at the meeting, ASM Microbe 2018.

Walk Faster to Live Healthy, Longer

If you want to live longer and remain healthy, then start walking at a faster pace as it can reduce the risk of mortality due to cardiovascular disease, say, researchers.

The results showed that walking at an average pace reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality by 24 percent and 21 percent for those walking at a faster pace.

Walking at an average pace also reduced the risk for all-cause mortality by 20 percent whereas walking at a fast pace reduced the risk by four more percent, compared to walking at a slow pace.

“While sex and body mass index did not appear to influence outcomes, walking at an average or fast pace was associated with a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. There was no evidence to suggest pace had a significant influence on cancer mortality, however,” said lead author, Emmanuel Stamatakis, Professor from Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health at the University of Sydney.

“A fast pace is generally five to seven kilometers per hour, but it really depends on a walker’s fitness levels; an alternative indicator is to walk at a pace that makes you slightly out of breath or sweaty when sustained,” he added.

The study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine included data from 50,225 walkers.

The researchers also found that average pace walkers aged 60 years or over experienced a 46 percent reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes, and fast pace walkers a 53 percent reduction.

The research team hopes that walking pace gets emphasized in public health messages.

Not Drinking Enough Water? This is How It Can Harm Your Body

Summer might bring along its own set of health problems, but dehydration poses a major risk. While most of us are familiar with dehydration headaches, it might surprise (or shock) you to know the gross effects of not drinking sufficient water can have on the body. Bad breath The saliva that your mouth produces contains enzymes that help digest the food and also aid in cleaning the bacteria from the tongue and mouth tissues.

However, the more dehydrated you are, the less saliva will be there in your mouth and it will lead to bad breath. Sinking and dry eyes Dehydration can adversely affect eye health too. Those people, who suffer from the dry-eye condition in which their eyes don’t produce enough tears to moisturize the surface of their eyes can experience worsened effects with less intake of water. Studies have also shown that not drinking enough water can make the eyes sink back into the head and make it swollen.

Dry tongue Not drinking enough water can dry out the tongue due to less production of saliva in the mouth. This can cause a ‘woolly’ and uncomfortable sensation in the mouth, making the tongue movements difficult. The orangish hue of urine The colour of urine can give one of the clearest signs of your dehydration and if instead of the pale yellow hue, it is darkish orange in colour, alarm bells should ring in the head. Urochrome gives urine its pale yellow colour and the darker the colour, the more dehydrated a person is. Summer might bring along its own set of health problems, but dehydration poses a major risk. While most of us are familiar with dehydration headaches, it might surprise (or shock) you to know the gross effects of not drinking sufficient water can have on the body.

Bad breath

The saliva that your mouth produces contains enzymes that help digest the food and also aid in cleaning the bacteria from the tongue and mouth tissues. However, the more dehydrated you are, the less saliva will be there in your mouth and it will lead to bad breath.

Sinking and dry eyes

Dehydration can adversely affect eye health too. Those people, who suffer from the dry-eye condition in which their eyes don’t produce enough tears to moisturize the surface of their eyes can experience worsened effects with less intake of water. Studies have also shown that not drinking enough water can make the eyes sink back into the head and make it swollen.

Dry tongue

Not drinking enough water can dry out the tongue due to less production of saliva in the mouth. This can cause a ‘woolly’ and uncomfortable sensation in the mouth, making the tongue movements difficult.

The orangish hue of urine

The colour of urine can give one of the clearest signs of your dehydration and if instead of the pale yellow hue, it is darkish orange in colour, alarm bells should ring in the head. Urochrome gives urine its pale yellow colour and the darker the colour, more dehydrated a person is.