Health at Every Size

There are a lot of messages out there about what an ideal body type is and is not. Some messaging promotes negative cultural biases against being overweight and the assumption that if someone is overweight, they may be labeled as out of control, lazy, or undisciplined. This message can be extremely harmful and lead to patterns of disordered eating, body preoccupation, and negative thoughts about oneself.

Health at Every Size is a movement that rejects these messages and supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being rather than weight loss. This movement celebrates body diversity, challenges cultural assumptions, and promotes compassionate self-care. There are some simple things you can do to improve your own body acceptance:

  1. Accept your size: love and appreciate the body that you have
  2. Trust yourself: learn to listen to your internal signals about when you are hungry or full
  3. Adopt healthy lifestyle habits: fulfill your social, emotional, and spiritual needs; find joy in moving your body, seek out pleasurable and satisfying foods, eat when hungry and stop when full, enjoy nutritious foods
  4. Embrace size diversity: people come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, support others in recognizing their unique beauty

Media Influence on Body Image

Body image concerns impact many college students. Body image refers to how you see yourself when you look in a mirror or picture yourself in your mind. It can include beliefs you have about your appearance, feelings about your body, and how you feel in your body. Some students have a negative body image, which may include feeling ashamed, self-conscious, or anxious about your body, or feeling awkward or uncomfortable in your body. Some students have a positive body image, which includes feeling proud and accepting of your unique body, appreciation of your natural body, and feeling comfortable and confident in your body. Some of us may go back and forth between these two types of images, feeling positive about our bodies sometimes and negative other times.

Increasingly, media, including social media, has influenced how college students think about what an ideal body should look like. Among young women, media messages are largely aimed at promoting the “thin ideal.” In fact, the average American sees more than 5,260 “attractiveness messages” each year. Among young men, there is mass media pressure to have a muscular body type. These messages from the media can have a huge influence on how you see and feel about your body. The problem is, is that these messages often promote unrealistic body and health expectations. The body type promoted in many advertisements is only achievable by 5% of the population, meaning it is unrealistic for 95% of us (that is, almost everyone).

Luckily, there are many campaigns and organizations that are combatting these unhelpful messages and promoting health and wellness that go beyond just what your body looks like. The Body Positive is one such organization that aims to end the harmful consequences of negative body image and promote health as the interconnection of the psychological, emotional, and physical aspects of a person’s life. They focus on understanding your own body image, listening to your body’s wisdom, and cultivating love for yourself. To learn more about The Body Positive, check out their website here.

Faculty Spotlight: Being Body Positive

This month we recognize Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 26th – March 4th). Eating disorders are serious, complex conditions that impact health, emotional wellbeing, and relationships. They can even result in death. Nationally, eating disorders impact approximately 20 million women and 10 million men. Even more people struggle with disordered eating patterns and body image concerns. Maladaptive beliefs about body weight and shape begin at a young age (e.g., 42% of elementary school girls want to be thinner) and can develop into problematic behaviors and beliefs during adolescence and young adulthood. Furthermore, eating disorders are highly comorbid with depression, anxiety, suicide, substance abuse, and relationship violence.

In the college setting, eating disorders or body image concerns can interfere with students’ academic functioning, extracurricular activities, and interpersonal and familial relationships. As faculty and staff there are some signs you can look for in students who are struggling with an eating disorder or body image:

  • Significant increase or decrease in weight
  • Dressing in layers or wearing bulky clothing to hide weight loss
  • Preoccupation with food or weight loss
  • Regimented or unusual eating habits or secretive eating
  • Food restriction, bingeing, or purging behaviors
  • Excessive exercise
  • Comments indicating distorted body image

If you are concerned about a student, consider talking with them.

There has been a recent emergence of movements that are aimed at combatting societal pressures to look a certain way or be a certain weight. One organization, The Body Positive, has started to work towards ending the harmful consequences of negative body image. In the Body Positive model, health is greater than just body image or weight – it is the interconnection of psychological, emotional, and physical aspects of a person’s life. Their model is based on five core competencies:

  1. Reclaim Health: uncover messages that influence your relationship with you body, food, and exercise to develop a weight-neutral, health-centered approach to self-care
  2. Practice Intuitive Self-Care: learn to listen to and follow your body’s wisdom to eat, exercise, and live intuitively
  3. Cultivate Self-Love: develop a practice of self-love to employ compassion, forgiveness, and humor as you leave behind self-criticism
  4. Declare your own authentic beauty: experience beauty as a creative, dynamic process and inhabit your unique body with joy and confidence
  5. Build community: connect with others through a shared positive approach to beauty, health, and identity, and become a role model of love and respect for your own body

Achieving proficiency in these competencies allows individuals to focus on their purpose, values, and life goals.

Last year SPU’s counseling center hosted a body positive week that was very successful. Watch for more information about this year’s event!

Alcohol and Marijuana: Making Informed Choices

Regardless of what choices you make about your health and substance use, understanding the outcomes and consequences of substance use may help you make decisions. Heavy use of alcohol or marijuana can result in a wide range of negative outcomes, ranging from health problems and injuries to impacting your academic or social life. Aside from that, alcohol and drug violations at SPU can lead to legal consequences or disciplinary action. According to the Student Handbook, disciplinary actions can include:

  • A warning
  • Written Reprimand
  • Disciplinary probation
  • Suspension
  • Dismissal

Students can make a wide range of choices about using alcohol or marijuana. Some completely abstain from use, some choose to use in moderation or only occasionally, and others use alcohol and marijuana heavily. For those who choose to use alcohol or marijuana, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of negative consequences or getting into risky situations:

  • Take steps to be safe while drinking or using marijuana:
    • Make a plan before you go out
    • Make sure you know what you are drinking or using, and don’t accept it if you don’t know what’s in it
    • Stay away from drinks that mix alcohol and energy drinks
    • Know how to count you drinks accurately – Count standard drinks instead of the number of containers
    • Find a safe ride home – a designated driver, public transit, or a ridesharing service

  • Know the signs of intoxication:
    • Alcohol: glassy or bloodshot eyes, loss of coordination or balance, slurred speech, lower inhibitions, and changes in mood, including irritability or euphoria
    • Marijuana: dry mouth, red eyes, impaired perception and motor skills, decreased short term memory, sleepiness or euphoria, and paranoia
  • Know the signs of alcohol poisoning and call for help when needed:
    • Mental confusion or unresponsiveness
    • Vomiting
    • Seizures
    • Slow or Irregular breathing
    • Low body temperature, bluish skin color, paleness
    • Do not wait for all of these symptoms to be present, call 911 or campus safety for help (206-281-2911)

Marijuana: Know the Facts

College students nationally have been using more marijuana over the past several years. Since 2000, the number of college students who have reported using marijuana in the past year has risen from 30% to 38% in 2015. In Washington, marijuana was recently legalized for adults over the age of 21. According to initial research, young adults in Washington (age 18-25) have a higher rate of marijuana use compared to young adults nationwide. Even at SPU, there has been an increase in drug abuse violations in the past couple of years.

Like smoking cigarettes, marijuana smoke is an irritant to the throat and lungs. This can lead to heavy cough during use and damage to the lungs. Although some people believe that marijuana is not addictive, marijuana use can actually lead to marijuana use disorder, which can take the form of addiction. In fact, up to 30% of marijuana users show signs of marijuana use disorder. People with marijuana use disorder, report experiencing withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Irritability and mood problems
  • Sleep disturbance and restlessness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cravings
  • Physical discomfort

These symptoms can even last up to 2 weeks after last use. Aside from these physical changes, marijuana can also interfere with daily responsibilities, like impacting friendships or romantic relationships, quality of schoolwork, and class attendance. Furthermore, research suggests that students who use marijuana may be at greater risk for developing anxiety and depression.

If you are worried that your marijuana use is getting out of control, its okay to ask for help. The Student Counseling Center has a number of great resources. If you are worried about a friend who may be struggling with drinking or drug use, consider reaching out to them and offering support.

Want to learn more? The Wellness Initiative is hosting Seeing Double: Separating Substance Use Fact from Fiction – a one-day program on January 24th, 2017 that will provide students with information about alcohol and marijuana use.  Join us all day long to “Test Your Vision” in interactive activities, get your questions about alcohol and drug use answered from an expert panel, and learn the latest science behind alcohol and marijuana use at our evening keynote address.

 

Myth vs. Fact: Marijuana and Alcohol

Marijuana and alcohol are both widely used on college campuses nationwide. There are a lot of different misconceptions about marijuana and alcohol use, including sayings like: “marijuana is safer than other drugs” and “I can just drink some coffee to sober up.”  This post is all about examining those myths and setting the record straight.

  • Myth: Marijuana is harmless.
    • Fact: Marijuana use can cause significant health, safety, social and learning problems. Marijuana use has been linked to anxiety, memory loss, trouble sleeping and difficulty thinking or concentrating. Additionally, college student who use marijuana have reported missing class and lower productivity, which can have negative impacts on academic functioning.
  • Myth: Marijuana is not addictive.
    • Fact: Research shows that marijuana use can lead to physical dependence. Heavy marijuana use has been linked with withdrawal symptoms, like irritability, trouble sleeping, and anxiety. Marijuana can also lead users to develop a social dependence on marijuana, leading them to keep using it, despite its impact on other activities and relationships.
  • Myth: Driving high is safer than driving drunk.
    • Fact: Marijuana impacts alertness, concentration, perception, coordination, and reaction time, which are all essential skills for safe driving. In Washington, you can also get a driving under the influence (DUI) violation for driving after using marijuana, which has major legal and financial repercussions.
  • Myth: I can drink and still be in control.
    • Fact: Drinking impairs your judgment, which increases the likelihood that you may do something you regret later, like having unprotected sex, being involved in date rape, damaging property, or being victimized by others. Among college students, alcohol contributes to deaths from unintentional injuries, assaults, and poor academic functioning.
  • Myth: I can sober up quickly when I need to.
    • Fact: It takes about 2 hours for your body to eliminate the alcohol content of a single drink, depending on your weight. Not even coffee or cold showers can speed this process up.
  • Myth: Beer doesn’t have as much alcohol as hard liquor or wine.
    • Fact: A 12-ounce bottle of beer has the same amount of alcohol as a standard shot of 80-proof liquor (including in mixed drinks) or a 5-ounce glass of wine.

 

Want to learn more? The Wellness Initiative is hosting Seeing Double: Separating Substance Use Fact from Fiction – a one-day program on January 24th, 2017 that will provide students with information about alcohol and marijuana use.  Join us all day long to “Test Your Vision” in interactive activities, get your questions about alcohol and drug use answered from an expert panel, and learn the latest science behind alcohol and marijuana use at our evening keynote address.

Does Binge Drinking Mean I’m an Alcoholic?

Binge drinking is very common among college students, and as many as 40% of college students report binge drinking within the past 30 days. Binge drinking means rapidly drinking enough to get drunk in one sitting. For men, this typically means 5 drinks, and for women, typically 4 drinks. Students report binge drinking for a lot of different reasons. Some say they binge drink to deal with stress or anxiety, and others say they binge drink to relax, have a good time, or to fit in.

drinking-infographic

Although fairly common among college students, binge drinking is related to a number of negative outcomes:

  1. Damaging the liver and organs
  2. Physical and sexual assault
  3. Increasing risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke
  4. Exacerbating the symptoms of another chronic illness
  5. Accidents and death, including incidents related to drunk driving

While these outcomes should not be minimized or ignored, most binge drinkers are not alcoholics. Many students who binge drink, drink too much on occasion (once a month or less), other times drink in moderation, and can go long periods of time without drinking. However, for some students, binge drinking is how they regularly consume alcohol. This can become problematic by creating a dependence on alcohol, negatively impacting daily life, and increasing the risk of experiencing the negative outcomes listed above.

If you are worried that your drinking is getting out of control, its okay to ask for help. The Student Counseling Center has a number of great resources. If you are worried about a friend who may be struggling with drinking or drug use, consider reaching out to them and offering support.

 

Want to learn more? The Wellness Initiative is hosting Seeing Double: Separating Substance Use Fact from Fiction – a one-day program on January 24th, 2017 that will provide students with information about alcohol and marijuana use.  Join us all day long to “Test Your Vision” in interactive activities, get your questions about alcohol and drug use answered from an expert panel, and learn the latest science behind alcohol and marijuana use at our evening keynote address.

 

Faculty Spotlight: Recognizing Substance Use Among Students

marijuana-infographicAlcohol and drug use are significant concerns on college campuses nationwide. Alcohol is typically the substance of choice at many colleges, with many students engaging in binge drinking. College students have been shown to binge drink and be intoxicated more than their non-college peers. Additionally, the Washington State Legislature recently legalized marijuana in 2012, and it remains unclear how that will effect college students. One study, found that marijuana use has increased by 3% since its legalization among high school students in Washington. According to the Washington State Marijuana Impact Report, young adults (age 18-25) in Washington also have a higher rate of marijuana use compared to young adults nationwide. Furthermore, marijuana use among college students has been increasing over the past 10 years.

 

At SPU, there were 22 drug abuse violations and 59 liquor law violations in 2015, which is an increase from the previous two years. According to the SPU Biennial Review, approximately 25% of students living in traditional residence halls and 50% of students living in on-campus apartments report using alcohol. Additionally, approximately 19% of students living in traditional residence halls report experiencing a negative impact from their peers’ alcohol use.

There are many reasons for why a student is using substances. They may be using alcohol or drugs to attempt to cope with negative emotions and anxiety or to deal with the many stresses that accompany college life. Students may also report using substances to “relax” or “have fun.” Unfortunately, substance use can lead to many consequences for students, including academic problems, relationship loss, interpersonal violence or sexual assault, or even alcohol poisoning. Some of the signs of substance use among students are:

  1. A decline in class attendance, like tardiness or more frequent sickness
  2. A decline in school performance, like missed deadlines or not performing to typical level of ability
  3. Physical signs, like bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, poor hygiene, or sudden weight loss or gain
  4. Behavioral signs, like avoiding eye contact, fatigue, or hyperactivity
  5. Changes in mood, like depression, emotional instability, increase in anger or irritability

As faculty and staff, there are some simple things you can do if you have concerns about a student who you believe may be struggling with substance use:

  • Treat the problem seriously.
  • Broach the topic with permission.
    • Try saying: “Would it be okay if we talked about…” or “I may be wrong, but I’ve noticed…”
  • Express concern for the student.
    • Try saying: “I’m concerned about…”
  • Offer support and willingness to help.
  • Provide resources.

Want to learn more? The Wellness Initiative is hosting Seeing Double: Separating Substance Use Fact from Fiction – a one-day program on January 24th, 2017 that will provide students with information about alcohol and marijuana use.  Join us all day long to “Test Your Vision” in interactive activities, get your questions about alcohol and drug use answered from an expert panel, and learn the latest science behind alcohol and marijuana use at our evening keynote address.