Archive for May 25, 2015

This is your brain on exercise: 

how I conquered depression by moving my butt
… a guest post by Natalie Rickman

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It’s hard to talk about my depression now because I don’t really remember it. The parts I do remember are really painful, and when I think back on them, I squirm in my seat with regret and embarrassment.

I do remember that days turned into nights, turned into mornings, turned into days, and I was floating, walking around existing, mostly just sleeping, and drinking whiskey and diet soda for months.

I first became depressed in February of 2014. I’ve battled anxiety sine I was about thirteen, but I had never been so unbearably sad. I was in denial for a short time, and then the floor broke through, everything I knew crumbling at my feet. I dropped out of college, I ended my relationship with my boyfriend of over a year, I was always drunk, and I was experiencing migraines four or five times a week.

My life was wrecked.

I picked up more hours at my part-time job at the fro-yo store where I’d worked since high school and took on more responsibility there. It was mundane work, but I was making money and making myself get out of bed everyday.

But I finally came through the depression about six months later, and energy started to creep back into my body. I reconciled with my boyfriend, re-enrolled in college, and gradually I was able to try a little more. Even though I was still experiencing the migraines, I had so much energy. Some people might call this behavior “manic”—some people being my mother—but I held on to my high and started writing and cooking again and faced a goal that would ultimately be what pushed me through manic and onto a more stable wavelength.

I also started running. I became friends with this crazy, runner girl and asked her to coach me. I told her I wanted to get in shape, that it was my lifelong dream to run a mile.

What a dream.

But we went for it, mostly because she was ready to start training for a 5K and liked having a running partner, but also because, I believe, she wanted to help me.

Because I was enrolled in school again, I had access to the university’s fitness center. We started on the treadmill, and I was surprised to find that I could run half a mile in about six and a half minutes. We kept going, training every day, and soon I was able to run an entire mile in ten minutes and then I was able to run a mile in nine minutes. We went on like that for months, training like mad people, sweating and showering and sweating and showering.

Here’s the crazy thing—while I was training like that, I had virtually no anxiety and no panic attacks. I also wasn’t the least bit unhappy. I was sore, and when I slept, I slept hard, but I wasn’t sleeping too much. I wasn’t mad at everyone all the time either. Everything was easier to handle; all my tasks were realistic to me.

All the while I’m running a mile here and there and doing yoga in the park, challenging everyone I knew to a planking contest like a dumbass, and feeling great for it. At the same time, there were all these voices—all the doctors, my mom, and various other people—telling me what they’d been telling me for years: “Exercise can help you feel calm.” They were right, and, in fact, exercise helped me more than medication. Where medication mad me sleepy and puffy, exercise made me take hard, calming breaths and gave my body a tightness I didn’t know it could have.

I haven’t been depressed since I started running, and though the migraines are occasional, they are less frequent when I run a mile a few times a week and eat a piece of fruit. Fruit! Who freaking knew?

The training isn’t as hard now either; we are lucky to get together twice a week. But both my friend and I feel better on the days we go, even when we haven’t run in a week, and the warm-up makes us want to hurl. The nausea goes away, but the good feeling in my chest—the feeling that makes me stand taller—lasts.

I’ve learned that if I treat my body well, all other parts of my life benefit. People tell me depression is a battle that I will never stop fighting, and while I believe them, I don’t feel helpless anymore. Running is my new battle, and it’s one I’m fully equipped to tackle. It’s one that not only gives me the energy to live a better life, but gives me the focus to live a more authentic life.

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NATALIE RICKMAN is a junior creative writing major at Western Kentucky University. She was born and raised in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and loves shitty beer. She one day hopes to own a vintage clothing store.

(Fat)al: a story of growing up fat in America
… a guest post by J.C.

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Shame. It’s a heavy word.

When people ask for my story, they assume I have been hurt because of prejudice about my sexual orientation. That’s the narrative they want. The you-came-out-as-gay-in-the-South-let-me-praise-you-for-getting-through-this-hardship story. That is not the narrative I feel obligated to write.

Yes, I was ashamed of my sexual orientation when I became conscious of it at fourteen. But that shame no longer exists. Sure, the word “faggot” still gets fired at me, but that isn’t the problem anymore. My “story” is about my anxiety as a fat man, especially a fat gay man. I’ve been ashamed of my fat ever since I can remember. “Fat” is the word that has plagued my entire existence. “Fat” is the hurricane that dilutes my humanity.

My mother provided me with my earliest memory of shame. She didn’t just tell me I was fat: she showed me. Pushed into countless fitting rooms, I was unable to find clothes my size at a young age. Still, she refused to buy me jeans that fit. For three torturous years, I wore pants that would attach by Velcro, not buttons. I wanted to be vapor. I wanted my fat to instantly vanish into thin air because I felt like a burden to her. After all, what would the other parents think of her fat first-born?

Imagine a child as young as eight telling his grandparents he wasn’t hungry because he was fat. That’s what I did. Their solution was to bribe me with one dollar for every meal I attempted to eat.

At age twelve, I was too embarrassed to change my clothes for gym in front of the other boys. Refusing to do so, I received a C in the class. It was worth it.

When I started a food diary, I convinced myself SlimFast was the salve that would weaken the poison fat on my body. I drowned my stomach with that faux chocolate to the point of nausea. It replaced my breakfast and lunch. Every. Single. Day.

I got thin. But I also got weak. And I didn’t lose enough to satisfy myself despite my family complimenting my weight loss. There was a sense of Armageddon within my fat cells. My goal was a BMI of 18: I wanted to be underweight.

When one of my friends got her driver’s license, we went to Walmart, so I could buy Lipozene for the first time. The words “lose pure body fat” coaxed my brain into submission. I took my precious miracle to self-checkout only for an automated voice to say, “Please wait for assistance.” The employee told me I was too young to buy weight loss supplements and sent me home. My friend suggested eating only five hundred calories a day, and we became each other’s food coaches.

A year later, I came out as gay to my mother for the third time. Her response was to “cure” my “queer-washed mind” with anxiety medication. I launched the pill into my stomach every morning, and, as a result, my mouth got sore and eventually bled. I could only ingest a small portion, but I savored the metallic liquid, hoping it would sustain my body for one more day despite the excruciating pain.

In college, I had a health professor who wondered how fat people had sex because “their parts don’t fit.” I felt like the other students were staring at me as if I were the only overweight person in the course, as if I was the target of her words. I felt even more ashamed and thus began a diet of SlimFast and Special K. My roommate and I would run at the gym until I felt like I would collapse. Once, when I ate a cookie, he posted unsolicited advice to my Twitter page: “Go throw up.”

I could have died from that shame.

The treatment I got because of my fat made me feel as wretched as Frankenstein’s monster and as twisted as Mr. Hyde. That’s when I realized I needed to change before I ended up eradicating myself with diet rituals. What I learned is that fat people don’t need to feel shame. I’ve ended up gaining eighty pounds back in college, but I feel healthy and positive now. I’ve learned to be patient with myself and surround myself with people who encourage me to love my body. I have the right to exist and won’t let anyone water me down. I am not a problem, nor am I a before and after dichotomy.

I am a credible, intelligible fat human.

—J.C.

The influence of celebrities: good or bad?

It’s no secret that every generation attaches itself to a celebrity and idolizes everything about that person—to the point that they are changing parts of themselves to be more like said celebrity.

When I was growing up, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were the celebrities every young girl wanted to be. Naturally I thought they were fantastic. More than anything I wanted to have their amazing clothes, which were never worn twice, and perfect hair—their hair never seemed to move out of place (which lead to my discovery of hair spray and the fact that using half the can still didn’t make my hair flawless).

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Eventually I grew out of my infatuation with Britney and Christina and realized that perfect hair and wear-only-once outfits aren’t part of reality for us non-celebs.

Still, I worry about the celebrities young girls are idolizing today. Specifically I worry that our current crop of celebs are making young women obsess about more than perfect hair and stylish clothing.

Take, for instance, Kylie Jenner. What kind of influence does a celebrity like Jenner have on young people today?

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Kylie’s family made their debut on a reality TV show called Keeping up with the Kardashian’s, and fame really suited her—within a year, she was so invested in cultivating her image that she no longer looked like a young girl going through puberty. She had perfectly styled hair and make-up, not a single pimple, trendy clothes—the works. Kylie is also known for her flawless lips, and she can work a nude lipstick like nobody’s business. They are so perfect, in fact, that they’ve launched their own movement: the “Kylie Jenner Challenge” or #kyliejennerchallenge, which shows young women putting suction on their lips to make them as big and full as Kylie’s. Apparently these young women use an object like a jar or glass to draw blood to the surface of their lips, causing them to swell and seem fuller than in their natural state.

Is it just me or is this the last thing we want the young women in our society to be doing? And doesn’t it send the absolute wrong message? The message that women need to harm themselves to be attractive or get the look they want.

It makes me wonder why girls who want to be like Kyle don’t just dye their hair blue. Wouldn’t that be a simpler way to emulate their favorite star?

Or better yet why don’t they follow in the footsteps of someone like Ian Somerhalder who plays hunky vampire Damon on The Vampire Diaries and started the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, which strives to improve and impact the earth and all living things on it. Why can’t he be the kind of celebrity that young people want to emulate?

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I suppose the answer is that it’s just not cool to be a do-gooder. Instead, young women today would rather stick a vacuum on their mouths and wait for the real and metaphorical bruises that will eventually come with that decision.

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But if they really want to be like Kylie, they should take the advice she’s been offering on her Twitter account: “I want to encourage people like me to be YOURSELF and not be afraid to experiment with your look.”

Enough said.

Brittany Eldridge

Resources for your body and mind

What most of us don’t figure out until later in our lives is that there are resources to educate ourselves about our bodies and their habits. Recently I’ve taken an interest in researching things about natural eating habits, managing a healthy weight, the woman’s menstrual cycle, etc. I want to share some of the books I’ve encountered with you, so that you may enlighten yourself and your body with some newfound information.

Natural Living: The 21st Century Guide to a Self-Sufficient Lifestyle by Liz Wright

Natural Living

Today, being conscious of what’s happening to the Earth as well as our bodies is something of the norm. So wouldn’t it be nice to have a handbook to guide you on your path to a better lifestyle? Natural Living provides “an in-depth look at the way we live and comprehensive guidance on the crucial changes we can all make.” If you want to learn about all aspects of living in the 21st century, then Liz Wright’s Natural Living gives you the insight you need—whether it’s for gardening, food planning, raising animals, or composting—to get you started. Available at Barnes and Noble.

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Eat Pretty: Nutrition for Beauty, Inside and Out by Jolene Hart

Eat Pretty

It’s nothing new to hear that being nutritious is a trend that everyone wants to adopt. Eat Pretty provides readers with a program that “offers a full lifestyle makeover, exploring stress management, hormonal balance, and mindful living. Charts and lists, plus nearly 20 recipes, make for a delicious and infinitely useful package—in the kitchen, at the grocer, and on the go.” Available at Amazon.

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Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance by Rosie Molinary

Beautiful You

Do you struggle with self-acceptance? Rosie Molinary encourages readers—no matter their size, age, or ethnicity—to make it a goal to feel better about themselves and work towards that goal while ignoring the implicit negativity of the media. Using realistic techniques in a one-year plan to empower and push women to embrace a healthy self-image and break unwanted habits, “Beautiful You strikes a chord with every woman who has ever faltered in her self-confidence or lost her personal brilliance—and it makes sure she never lets it happen again.” Available at Amazon.

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Hopefully these books will enlighten you and give you a little bit more information on feeling positive and maintaing a healthy life.

Brittany Eldridge

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