April 15, 2014

Health in College Part 1: Body Image

Hello there! Has everything been going well for you? I hope it has. Last night, two special friends and I stayed up super late studying for a Chemistry exam and on the way back to our dorm we saw the blood moon! Did any of you see it too?

Well, as some of you may know, I was at Taekwondo Collegiate Nationals  a couple weeks ago, so I've been thinking a lot about fitness and health lately. And it's been a while since I've done a series, so that little light bulb flashed in my brain and I thought, "Why not do a series on health? Whoa!" (Okay, so I'll admit that was a bit of an exaggeration, but I'm still pretty excited to share some of my fitness routines and ideas with you all.) Let's get started!

Today I wanted to focus on body image, which is one of the trickier things to deal with in college. I personally believe that I have never put so much thought into my physical health until I got to university. To be honest, I think a large part of it has to do with the double-edged presence of dining halls and the college culture. I've had a relatively excellent experience with dining halls at my school because there is a huge variety of options and it is literally a source of pride for our campus. However, it's bad because there is nobody limiting you. Like a lot of college freshmen, there is a transition from eating mom's home-cooked meals every night, with the occasional excursion to a restaurant, to being in a buffet atmosphere for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You really learn to control how much you're eating and make smart decisions about what you're putting into your body. People who don't make the right choices of how much and what food they're eating end up having, as one would naturally assume, unhealthy eating habits.

And as for "college culture"...

I'm not going to talk about how sex culture affects body image in college because it honestly varies between campuses and even friend groups. But as for the overall "college culture," there is the general belief that your college years mark the prime of your life. This is the last chance for kids to be kids. The time to make mistakes, the time just before metabolism starts slowing down, the time to party, hang out with friends, to laugh and live. So with this comes the pressure to also look the part of a college student. People at "the prime of life" are supposed to be healthy, strong, and fit.

I believe that the college student's body image is formed by these pressures.

It is important to have a good body image because having a misconstrued body image can be detrimental to self esteem.

So what makes a good body image?

The media sends us a clear message, but the message makes us insecure. It makes us insecure because the media shows only one image that all people should project. Men should have washboard abs, a broad chest, strong jawline, muscular shoulders, and height. Women should have luscious hair, the right curves in the right places, flat stomachs, and glowing skin. White hairs, wrinkles, and fat are abominations that everyone must be rid of. You see, society doesn't help us find a good body image because society only has one body image. Society doesn't account for the fact that there are billions of people here, and none of them fit perfectly into the box that they've constructed. People don't fit into boxes. We are meant to be free, to explore, to do things.

We need to find the good body image by looking into ourselves, because body image is unique to each of us.

The human body is like a vessel. 

You wouldn't have much fun on a cruise ship if it wasn't beautiful on the outside in--or if it didn't even have functional parts. There are certain things that the cruise ship needs in order to make it a cruise ship, to make it float and do its job: music, food, sleeping areas, a well-functioning engine, rudders, etc. However, if the ship is too decked out, it wouldn't even be able to leave the dock!

Image from bangkok-cuises.com

This is how our bodies are too. Not caring about what we eat, throwing proper hygiene out the window,  and avoiding exercise is like using a bad quality of oil, not cleaning the pools, and not checking up on the engine to ensure proper function. And on the flip side, if we are too concerned with maintenance, what fun is it if we don't have the time to do anything else? Balance is key when it comes to health (and many more things too--but those discussions will just have to be saved for future posts).

One part of body image comes from loving myself and knowing that I am blessed to be who I am. Another part of it comes from setting goals--not only that, but it actually comes from the progress I experience as I'm moving toward my goals.

Let's do some reflection with our lives and start finding a positive body image that is our own.

Ask yourself these questions:
  • What do I want to do with my life? - Do I want to go hiking, swimming, and dancing during the weekends? Do I want to live longer with less concern about getting sick when you're older? Do I want to make new friends by joining a team? Did I know that healthy people tend to be happier too?
  • How good of physical shape must I be in in order to accomplish my goals? 
  • What can I do to reach this physical shape that I must be in? - How many times can I go to the gym in a week? What makes a good, balanced diet? How much sleep am I getting? What can I do to maximize my time and health?
The next posts in this series will serve to address these questions and promote healthy habits. I hope you'll find them motivating and helpful as we go through the weeks. My vision for this series is to help us recognize the beauty we each have and work to preserve this beauty. Health and happiness are beautiful things, don't you think? 

If you have any insights or suggestions of things you would like to see, please email me or leave a comment below!

Take care,
-Riley XO

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