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Why I Relay

Happy Monday! I had a looong weekend and am finally playing catch up! But the great news is that Relay for Life was AWESOME and we raised over $75,400 for the American Cancer Society! My mom’s team did an amazing job and raised just over $3,400! What an amazing weekend spent beating cancer 🙂

Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back.

For those of you who don’t know, community Relays last 24 hours, which was a completely new experience for me because college Relays are 12 hours long. The whole day was fantastic and I really enjoyed walking around the track and participating in all of the fundraisers. I ended up completing 15 miles of walking in 11 hours, along with a few games of Kan Jam and an hour of Zumba (Fun Fact: I went to school and worked at the gym with the daughter of the guy who invented Kan Jam). It was scorching out, so I’m happy with the level of activity I had going on. I also had some delicious eats!

An apple a day...

Needed some dairy.

More fruit!

And the one that stole the show…

Pulled pork!

There was a tad too much barbecue sauce for my taste, but I still gobbled it right up.

Nom nom nom.

I also split a funnel cake with strawberry glaze with my sister, but forgot to snap a photo before we dug in. You’ll just have to believe me when I tell you it both looked and tasted delicious. Multiple apples and packets of string cheese were consumed, and I had breakfast outside of the Relay, too. Yum!

Why I Relay

Instead of detailing every single thing that went down, I thought I would tell you about why exactly I Relay every year and then include some photos that I took at Saturday’s Relay. If you have any questions afterward, feel free to e-mail me or ask in the comments!

First and foremost, I Relay for my mom. My mom was diagnosed with muscle invasive bladder cancer when I was a freshman in college, and let me tell you, nothing hits you quite like hearing that your mother has cancer. After all, it’s MY MOM. I still remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with when she called and gave me the news.

My brother Justin and mom.

I remember breaking down multiple times throughout my mom’s battle, terrified that I was going to lose her. Even just typing this now makes me cry. Cancer is such a terrifying thing — it rips control away from the person dealing with it and turns their own body against them. My mom was literally fighting for her life every single day and I am so proud of her for the strength she showed through such a difficult time.

Luckily, I also remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with when my mom called and told me that she was officially in remission! I was in the dining hall with my roommate, Meghan, who was there for me every step of the way and we were lovingly dubbed “Relay Roomies” ever since our freshman year.

Love my roomie.

I also Relay for the many other people in my life who have been affected by cancer and survived. Liz’s dad conquered lymphoma when I was a young girl, a faculty member I was close with at my school, Jay Button, beat stomach cancer, and one of my cinema and screen studies professors, Amy Shore, was diagnosed with melanoma multiple times and sent it packing each time. These people are all a symbol of hope and they remind us every day that cancer can be beaten.

It's always there.

I Relay in honor of those we have lost to cancer. Right after my mom was declared in remission, Meghan’s aunt passed away. It was unbelievably cruel to experience so many emotions on either end of the spectrum. Each year Meghan and I team up and Relay to celebrate my mom’s life and to fight back against cancer for her aunt. If we don’t fight, cancer wins.

Messages to Heaven.

But we also Relay to remember those who have passed away from cancer. The co-founder of Colleges Against Cancer at Oswego State is Ginny St. Onge, a dear friend of mine whom I’ve known since I was a young freshman in college. She is one of the nicest, smartest and kindest women that I’ve ever met — all qualities that she got from her mother, Nancy St. Onge. Ginny founded CAC in honor of Nancy, who battled with breast cancer for six years. Sadly, Nancy passed away in October 2010. However, she did not lose her battle to cancer. Cancer was never able to steal her spirit, her smile, or her hope. It couldn’t take away the love that she shared with everyone.

Sending off our loving words.

We always honor those who are no longer with us at Relay and are reminded that they are with us, in spirit, every single day.

We love you.

Always in our hearts.

I Relay to fight back with everyone else who wants to beat cancer. There are so many people I don’t know personally who are battling or have battled cancer, and my heart goes out to them every day. Julie’s mom beat breast cancer and Caitlin’s neighbor, Tonya, is currently fighting an inoperable brain cancer. If you think about it, everyone you know knows someone who has been affected by cancer. I Relay because I can’t wait for the day when people don’t have to constantly hear the words “you have cancer” or “my special someone has cancer.”

Celebrate life.

Finally, I Relay because without events like these, my loved ones may not have had the resources they needed to fight cancer and stay in my life. I can’t imagine living a life without my mother in it and I’m so grateful each and every day that I still get to see my mom’s beautiful smile.

These people are why we Relay.

If you haven’t participated in a Relay for Life yet, I strongly encourage you to at least check it out. We’re at the peak of community Relay season now, so look for one and consider joining. You don’t have to stay for the full 24 hours, but think about going and seeing what it’s all about. I promise, it’s not all about being sad and crying. In fact, most of the time everyone’s smiling and laughing! You get to decorate your campsite to try to win cool prizes…

Before we decorated.

After!

And you can enter raffles to win sweet basket prizes…

"Day at the beach" basket.

"Margaritaville" basket!

"Life's a picnic" -- my mom made the quilt!

And they always have live bands and entertainment going on throughout the day. Plus a bunch of teams sell delicious eats!

That about sums it up for me. I hope everyone else had a fantastic weekend!

Are you participating in a Relay for Life this year? Have you ever? What did you think? 

Relay for Life Saves Lives

Although race season is moving into full swing, it’s not the only event gaining a lot of momentum.

And no, I’m not talking about baseball, either.

It's Relay season!

Relay for Life is taking over college campuses and towns are gearing up for their Relays in the summer. This spring, colleges across the country are raising money for the American Cancer Society to fight for a world with more birthdays.

I’ve participated in Relay for Life every year since I was a freshman and my final one as a college student took place two weeks ago. I know I’m a little slow on the update (race training got in the way!), but I still think it’s an extremely important cause that deserves as much recognition as it can get.

Freshman Year: Hakuna Matata!

Sophomore Year: Won't Back Down!

Junior Year: (Dirty) Dancing For A Cure!

Never heard of Relay? It’s an overnight fundraising event that usually lasts for 12 hours. Students (or community members) form teams and raise as much money as they can before the event.

I met my goal!

Once you’re at the event, your team members take turns walking around a track for the entire twelve hours, which symbolizes the journey that a cancer patient endures. Teams also set up fundraisers at the event and participants often enjoy snacks, games, competitions and more to stay upbeat and entertained throughout the night while raising as much money as possible.

Every Relay usually follows a theme of some sort as well. Our theme this year: sports! Why? Well, this year’s Relay was extremely important to our Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) committee because our founder, Ginny St. Onge, suffered a terrible loss. Her mother passed away this year after an extremely long battle with breast cancer. Nancy St. Onge inspired so many of us and she was always incredibly positive in her outlook toward life, so we knew this year’s Relay was going to be in her memory and honor.

Ginny with her mom.

Memorial table at Relay.

We asked Ginny what Nancy would’ve wanted the theme to be and she chose sports because Nancy loved them. My team was the CAC team, so we made sure our team name went along with Nancy’s favorite sport: football! Ladies and gentleman, meet team Catching A Cure!

Relay roomies!

Dustin, Ray and Kyle were also on our team, but for some reason we forgot to take a banner picture this year. Oops..

Either way, the night was a great success as we had over 400 students come out for the night and fight cancer one step at a time.

CAC team getting a lil' goofy.

We weren’t afraid to bust out some dance moves, either.

Imitating Kurt's "Ring On It" skillz.

The community also gets involved as many businesses donate gift cards, food and drinks to fuel fundraising efforts and keep us energized throughout the night. Guess who snagged the third highest fundraiser award? This girl!

When we began Relay at 6p.m. on Saturday, March 26, we had raised just over $21K. By the time 6a.m. rolled around, we had raised $27,148.65 for the American Cancer Society — about $6,000 in one night! We accept donations up until August too, so feel free to keep sharing the love!

Money raised!

Why do I Relay? For many reasons, but the most personal one is because my mom was diagnosed with muscle invasive bladder cancer during my first semester away at college. It was a terrifying experience; one I don’t wish on any other family or loved one. My mom is an extremely strong woman though, and after a long, grueling journey, my mom beat her cancer. She has been cancer-free for two years now and I pray that it stays that way.

At Relay in 2010. Mom was the survivor speaker!

But so many people in my life have been affected by cancer. Other family members of mine have been diagnosed and my best friend’s dad fought lymphoma when we were younger. I Relay simply because without events like this, my mother and best friend’s dad may not have had the resources they needed to fight cancer and stay in my life. I Relay because I can only hope that one day people won’t have to hear the words, “you have cancer.”

So have you participated in a Relay for Life yet? It’s not too late! Sign up for one in your community, or donate to someone who is participating. Every donation helps, no matter how big or small. I raised over $500 and all of my donations came in increments of $10, $20, $25 and $50. Little pieces add up to a big picture!

I want to send a big thank you to everyone who donated to my fundraising page. It really means the absolute world to me and I can’t ever thank you enough for being so generous! I love you all!

Motivational Mantras

Sometimes exercising is just plain tough.

See, I’ll admit it. While I love the feeling of a fantastic workout, sometimes it’s really hard to get into it mentally. Often, the hardest part for me is actually getting to the gym. Once I’m changed into my gym clothes, I’m set to go, but there’s usually a lot of procrastination that occurs before the clothes-changing.

One thing I rely on to get me moving, and keep me moving, is a mantra. Actually, I use a ton of them. I repeat them over and over again to remind myself how great I’m going to feel after the workout is over.

Happy face post-workout? I think so!

Here are some of my favorite mantras from all over the place to get my butt into the gym, pool, on the bike or road. Maybe one will help you stay motivated, too. 🙂

  • You’ll never regret a workout.
  • Don’t exercise because you have to. Do it because you can.
  • There are 168 hours in a week. I’m only asking for 7 of them.
  • You’re just one workout away from a good mood.
  • Just go. If you really hate it, you can stop after 15 minutes.
  • If you train hard, you’ll be hard to beat.
  • Nobody else is going to do it for you.
  • If you work your body, it will work for you.
  • You get back what you put in.
  • Either do it or don’t. There is no try.

When I’m in the middle of my workout, here are some of my favorite go-to quotes:

  • No pain, no gain!
  • You’re stronger than you think you are.
  • Work it harder, make it better, do it faster, makes us stronger (Kanye West lyrics to “Stronger”).
  • That don’t kill me can only make me stronger (Also from “Stronger.” Yes, I sing it every time).
  • This is not the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
  • You can do anything for one minute.
  • Pain is temporary.
  • This is 10 percent luck, 20 percent skill, 15 percent concentrated power of will. Five percent pleasure, 50 percent pain and a hundred percent reason to remember the name (Rapped lyrics from Fort Minor’s “Remember the Name).
  • Keep on keepin’ on.
  • Just keep running, just keep running (Spin off of Dory from Finding Nemo).

And my all-time favorite quote that I turn to when running:

  • When your legs are tired, run with your heart.

Here are some other great motivational quotes, in case they happen to strike your fancy. What are some of your favorite mantras?

Let’s Talk About It: Eating Disorders

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and the theme is “It’s Time to Talk About It.” I find this extremely appropriate because isn’t that one of the reasons why eating disorders are so dominant in today’s society? Because people don’t talk about it enough. Eating disorders is a taboo subject and it shouldn’t be.

Living in a college environment, I’ve noticed that eating disorders are a lot more prevalent than one might think. After all, more than 10 million women and one million men are struggling with anorexia and bulimia. There’s the terror behind gaining the “Freshman 15,” stress from a typical college student life that doesn’t always let kids learn about how to live a healthy lifestyle, and the pressure to please others. But with movements like Operation Beautiful, Fat Talk Free Week and National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, students are starting to realize that it’s okay to talk about the shady subjects. People need to understand that eating disorders are illnesses — not choices people make — and movements like these help foster that knowledge. 

This does not determine how awesome you are. Image via Flickr user Wader

I try to provide outlets to those who have been affected by an eating disorder as well, so I’ve opened up my blog space a few times for my friend, Mike, to talk about his battle with anorexia. One of the hardest parts for him was not always having the support he needed, so it turned into a mental battle that consumed his daily life. By talking about it, he helped relieve the inner tension and remember how amazing he really is.

Mike = talented writer and fantastic friend.

I’ve also spotted Active Minds at Oswego State various times across campus this week, providing educational material for students along with bookmarks and inspirational boxes. I filled mine with a ton of messages that remind me of why I love myself, so I can look through whenever I feel negative thoughts bombarding me.

Pretty nifty, huh?

Not to mention Operation Beautiful is beginning to take over this campus. I’ve walked in on quite a few Post-It notes the last few months and can’t help but smile whenever I see one. I’m hoping a few ladies have gotten some joy out of the message I’ve left for them, too.

Capture it, remember it.

If you’re looking for a few good reads pertaining to eating disorders, I recommend:

I read each book after having them recommended from a friend who struggles with bulimia and another who suffered from anorexia. Both say they’re on-point and help nourish understanding, and I found them to be very helpful in my personal understanding of an eating disorder as I have not struggled with one myself.

I strive to be healthy from the inside out every day and hope that anyone who reads this blog will do the same. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

Are you talking about eating disorders this week?

Tales of a Gym-Goer

School started last week and with it began Free Week — the time when the gyms I work for, Cooper and Glimmerglass Fitness Centers, offer free admission to all students, staff and faculty. Anyone can test out the classes and equipment, get their body measurements taken and speak with a personal trainer free of charge.

Sounds fabulous, right? Not if you’re a regular gym-goer. Just like most regulars hate going to the gym during January because of all the people with New Year’s resolutions, the employees and gym regulars at Cooper/Glimmerglass dread Free Week. Hundreds of people filing in and out throughout the day, body odor filling the air and so much sweat on machines it’s scary to even think about.

Antonio's going under cover.

A co-worker of mine, Antonio Troina, decided to study those who only go to the gym during Free Week. Below are the details of his epic journey, the experiences he lived through and the emotions that ripped through him.

Day One

The vast amount of unspeakable atrocities that I have witnessed may haunt my memories for years to come. These so-called “students” that flock into the facility are the most barbaric and ruthless batch that I have ever seen. No one is safe, not even women and children, from these migrating sloths, or as the natives call them, the free-weekers. Luckily, I have found a safe haven behind this makeshift fortress — a common desk — in Glimmerglass.

Glimmerglass desk = safety.

Sometimes I feel like these free-weekers have no idea that I am studying them in an attempt to comprehend their abnormal behaviors. Maybe one day I will understand what it is to attend a gym for only one week and truly feel accomplished. Until then I must keep watching, knowing that only vigorous research may uncover the mystery that shadows this land.

This is an important expedition that the world needs to know about. I will not let you down.

Day Three

As the third day of my expedition unfolds, I find myself questioning the events that took place in the Glimmerglass jungle last night. After getting somewhat accustomed to the strange behaviors of the free-weekers, I decided to take my chances and see if I could cohabitate. I disguised myself in the common free-weeker garb — a cutoff shirt and worn basketball shorts – and stood nervously in the middle of the free weight floor, which happens to be the most dangerous area of Glimmerglass during this dreaded week. At first, it seemed as though I was accepted as one of these free-weekers, but disaster struck soon after.

Blending in with the nomads.

A larger individual, commonly known as a Grunter, grabbed some free weights and began slamming the weights on the floor. I tried to communicate with the Grunter, asking him not to drop the weights for the safety of others, and instantly my cover was blown. The Grunter’s face went from dumb confusion to a deep scowl.

I quickly looked around and realized that I had managed to grab the attention of the other free-weekers during this debacle. The silent agreement swept the room and the community isolated me as “The Employee.” I needed to make an escape, and quickly. Luckily for me, I found a vacant Expresso bike and peddled my way to safety.

I might not be so fortunate next time, but I will count my blessings each day.

Day Five

Truthfully speaking, the catastrophic events of day three derailed me from my overall objective. Day four was filled with quiet terror that clouded my research, keeping me away from the gym as much as possible. But day five was a new day and I couldn’t let my supporters down, so I mustered up enough courage to grab a dry pair of sneakers, trek through the mountains of snow outside and find a spot among the swarms of people.

I needed to take another approach into learning the mindsets of these free-weekers because field work clearly was not the answer. I decided to study the female free-weekers to see where this route would take me. The best way to accomplish this? Observing their frequent celebration rituals which consist of sporadic stomping and jumping. The male free-weekers, I noticed, kept their distance from the mob of participants, muttering the word “Zumba” while shaking their heads in disapproval. Zumba? Maybe this would give me the answers I have been searching for.

Zumba rituals.

Stationed at a vacant desk near the ceremonial dance floor, I anxiously waited for the festivities to start. The sounds of foreign instruments began to echo through the gym and a choreographed dance occurred. The more experienced individuals were closer to the front of the floor, dancing with as much style and grace as I imagine the art of Zumba can get. The individuals dancing in the back of the room, however, looked lost and somewhat scared. Oddly enough, they seemed to be enjoying themselves despite fumbling through each song.

The strangest discovery, however, revealed itself at the end of each song: the participants briefly huddled together to tell each other about how happy they all were to be there. It happened more than 10 times in an hour! Baffling…Maybe this quick exchange of emotion is part of the ritual needed to appease the Zumba gods? My research is expanding, although I’m not sure what answers I will find.

Day Seven

The brutal weather and sleepless nights during this anomaly known as Free Week have finally paid off. Though I only did my field work at this facility, I believe that this data has shed light on the common lifestyle of gym members and mapped out a portion of the psychology behind the minds of the free-weekers. Simply put, free-weekers like to roam around aimlessly, participating in foreign rituals and taking up people’s private spaces so that they can say they fit in their fitness quota for the year. One of the few questions that rises now is, where will these nomads go? Is it possible that these free-weekers can find other gyms and pollute them with their improper gym etiquette without memberships? Unfortunately, there isn’t much that I can do other than equip others with my newfound knowledge. This has been a very dangerous task for me, one that I wouldn’t have survived without proper training. For that, I must thank Brian Wallace, the fitness centers manager. Without his extensive experiences in many fitness centers, I would not have lasted one day in this jungle.

Pedal away from danger.

As I sign off, I hope that my efforts will help someone in times of fear or desperation. If you ever find yourself in any sort of situation, take a deep breath, look left and right, then grab a stationary bike. No one ever uses those anyway.

-Journal entries written by Antonio Troina and edited by Samantha Shelton. All photos by Samantha Shelton.

Fitness Passions

Fellow blogger Julie, over at Peanut Butter Fingers, posted a fun survey pertaining to things you’re passionate about. I decided to answer the survey, but make mine all about fitness! Drum roll, please…

Four TV shows I watch during cardio:

  1. The Biggest Loser
  2. The Bachelor/Bachelorette
  3. Dancing with the Stars or America’s Best Dance Crew
  4. America’s Next Top Model

Four things I’m passionate about:

  1. Testing new workouts.
  2. Outdoor activities (hiking is my favorite!).
  3. Training and helping others reach their fitness goals.
  4. Fighting cancer.

Beautiful survivor cake from RFL 2010.

Four things I’ve learned in the past:

  1. Don’t let the past hold you back. Who you were back then doesn’t define who you are today.
  2. Always be open to change. You never know what amazing things will happen.
  3. Communication is key. You need to know your limits and clients need to communicate with me to help me determine theirs.
  4. Find your reason. No matter what it is or who it is that motivates you, your passion is what’s going to push you past what you thought was possible.

Four things I’m looking forward to:

  1. Graduating in May and looking for jobs to moonlight as a personal trainer.
  2. The half-marathon I’m going to run in April.
  3. The triathlon I’m going to compete in this spring.
  4. Relay for Life at Oswego State to raise money all night to fight cancer.

Four things I love about winter:

This one’s tough for me because I’m not a huge fan of winter, but here’s what comes to mind…

  1. Ice skating.
  2. No humidity.
  3. Snow shoeing.
  4. Kisses under the mistletoe. (Did you know kissing for one minute burns 26 calories?)

It’s your turn! What fitness things are you passionate about?

Fitness Tips to Keep You Healthy

“I can’t wait to get started on my workout tomorrow! I’m going to get up before work so I have time to fit everything in!”

We’ve all been there before — we have a lot of motivation late at night to start our fitness regime bright and early the next morning. But once morning rolls around, something seriously derails our efforts. Especially as college students, we often find ourselves wondering how we’re supposed to fit it into our schedules. The average college student doesn’t just go to class anymore. There’s four or five classes on the docket, one or two part-time jobs, and clubs and organizations. When it’s boiled down to what can be fit into a day’s work, physical fitness is usually the first to be crossed off the list.

Believe me though, you want to make time now that we’re moving fast into those winter months. Studies have shown that those who exercise regularly suffer less from severe colds. Don’t have time to be sick? Avoid these three habits and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier, happier you.

1. Hitting the snooze button.

After all, what’s an extra five minutes going to do for you? It isn’t enough time for your body to fall back into an effective sleep stage, and you’re submitting yourself to unnecessary side effects because you’re interrupting sleep patterns. Those who constantly hit the snooze button can suffer from tiredness (obviously), headaches, mood swings and agitation.

Oversleeping can also mess with your metabolism. According to Health Watch Center, reaching for that small little button can lead to weight increase because you’re altering your sleep patterns, thus throwing your  metabolism out of whack. So wouldn’t it be more beneficial to just hop out of bed and drag your butt to the gym? You’ll feel better later, and be glad you went. After all, how many people actually regret going to the gym?

2. Waiting until tomorrow.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” After all, doesn’t tomorrow never come? If you keep postponing your workout session, you’re going to end up kicking yourself. Remember, working out releases endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that help you de-stress and unwind. Not to mention you can snag some alone time away from all of the technological devices that consume today’s society.

Working out today will also keep you healthy — Mayo Clinic says “aerobic activity activates your immune system,” leaving you stronger and less susceptible to illness. So stop waiting and hit the ground running!

3. Skipping meals.

Skipping meals, particularly breakfast, is never a smart idea. However, most of us bolt out the door without putting anything in our stomachs, or with just a measly granola bar. Don’t get me wrong, a granola bar would be sufficient if you ate shortly after, but how many of us wait four to five hours before eating again? I know I fall victim to that sometimes.

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that skipping meals also contributes to obesity.The longer you wait to eat, the more your metabolism slows down. Signals are sent to the brain, essentially stating “I’m starving, hang onto everything you can because I don’t know when I’m being fed again.” What’s the first thing the body hangs on to? Fat. So try waking up a few minutes earlier (not hitting that snooze button!) so you can fit in a healthy breakfast to kick-start your day and get your body running right.

What are some of your fitness pitfalls?

Marines Too Much for The Biggest Loser Contestants

On the latest episode of The Biggest Loser, the contestants were whisked away to one of the boot camps for the U.S. Marines. The contestants, still split into teams of black and blue, raced through an intense obstacle course and the first ones to finish received a phone call from home.

Who did you root for?

Personally, I root for team blue during every challenge and at every weigh-in. Not only because Aaron Thompkins, my favorite contestant, is on that team, but also because the black team is way too into game play and they whine all the time. Brendan Donovan makes me angry when he tries to act completely innocent, and the same goes for Frado Dinten when he apologizes at the weigh-in before the scale even shows his current weight. Not to mention Brendan’s new bald head isn’t flattering in the least bit.

Sorry for my rant there, but I needed to get that out of my system.

Needless to say, team blue came out on top and they received their coveted phone calls. After being cut off from everybody in their lives for more than six weeks, I’d say all of the contestants deserve to talk to their loved ones. But alas, it’s still a game, so dangling phone calls as a prize only pushes the contestants to work harder. Watching Aaron talk to his adorable little boy and Lisa Mosley choke up while she talked to her little ones was so heart-wrenching; it makes me cry nearly every time. It truly is the icing on the cake –no pun intended.

Lisa finally got to talk to her kids after winning a Marine challenge.

While the contestants spent their week with the Marines, they faced another challenge: they didn’t have any control over what they ate. There was no way for them to measure their portions or stay away from certain foods because they had to eat what was given to them. As a result, three of the contestants gained weight at the weigh-in, and the rest lost less than five pounds. Aaron was the only one who lost a massive amount of weight still, adding 14 pounds to his total weight loss (Another reason he’s my first pick to win). Jillian Michaels was surprisingly nice about it and blamed the circumstances the contestants were under, but Bob Harper was clearly pissed. Hopefully we’ll see both trainers kick some major butt in the gym next week.

The black team lost the weigh-in and were forced to eliminate another player from their team. It was obvious that game play and alliances were put into action during this time. Elizabeth Ruiz, who has never lost more than five pounds in a week and is never a valuable asset in the challenges, allows Brendan and Frado to shelter her, just like her brothers did when she was growing up. It never allowed her to gain strength and stand up for herself, and now it lets her slide by from week to week without actually changing her life.

It's time for Elizabeth to go home.

As a result, Anna Wright was sent home. Yes, she also struggles during the challenges, but she works hard and needs to be there to work through emotional and mental issues — her three-year-old son died from cancer and she never fully allowed herself to heal. Talk about a big cry for help to focus on yourself and finally heal from something so traumatic. Unfortunately though, Frado and Brendan are very persuasive and sent Anna packing.

What did you think about this week’s episode? I’d love to hear from people rooting for the black team! Which contestant would you like to win?

Operation Beautiful Hits Oswego State

I had heard about Operation Beautiful before and thought it was a really moving, inspiring and motivational international body image movement. But I never did anything about it myself. I would follow the website and read the stories of random girls placing Post-It notes in the bathroom or hanging signs throughout the campus, reminding women that they are beautiful and they shouldn’t berate themselves. But I never once saw a Post-It note in a bathroom at Oswego State; I never put one there to inspire another girl.

I decided today that was going to change.

In the final hours of Sunday night, I learned that this week is Fat Talk Free Week, “a national public-wide awareness effort” that targets negative body image and stops it in its tracks. For only one week, the founders want girls to completely abolish all forms of fat talk, look at themselves in the mirror and focus on their strengths instead of their flaws.

I work at the campus fitness centers as a student manager, so I like to believe that I’m in an influential position of power. Today I put my power to good use and finally put Oswego State on the map with Operation Beautiful.

I made Post-It notes in both gyms and lined the mirrors with reasons why the girls  at my school are beautiful. Some that pertain to me in particular: “I love competing with the boys,” “I don’t need to run…I go because it makes me feel great,” and “Smile…you never know who’s falling in love with it.”

No matter what, the message behind this movement is important. Girls need to stop focusing on their bodily flaws and remember all the great things about themselves. Nobody has the perfect body and nobody ever will. In fact, the “perfect” body doesn’t exist. So stop chasing it. Embrace your differences because they’re what make you unique. You are beautiful because there is no one else like you.

What is fat talk, exactly? It’s anything that berates a woman and her body image. Saying things like, “I need to lose 10 pounds,” “Look at my love handles,” or “I despise my back fat” is considered fat talk. Even giving someone a backhanded compliment like “You look great! Did you lose weight?” constitutes fat talk because you’re only feeding this girl a compliment because of her physical appearance. You’re buying into the mainstream ideal that women need to be stick thin and are only beautiful when they’re skinny. This can lead to a girl focusing solely on her body image to keep your approval, when she should be focusing on all of the other things that make her fantastic. Being beautiful is about confidence and health, not being thinner than a rail.

So remember, no fat talk! And not just this week, either. Do it every day. Tell yourself every morning how great you are, or put a Post-It note somewhere to remind another girl.

Have you seen an Operation Beautiful note on your campus, or in a bathroom somewhere? What did it say?

Life Despite Ed: My Mind is Half the Battle

Here at The Pulse, I encourage exercise and nutrition that keeps you healthy in mind, body and spirit. Unfortunately, sometimes a need for control pushes someone to an unhealthy state because the body is one thing that can be controlled. Mike Kraft, 20, is a student at Oswego State who has struggled with anorexia, and he realized that it’s about much more than physical control. Read about his journey here and support him in the fight to regain control of his mind, body and spirit.

My name is Mike Kraft and I have suffered from an eating disorder for the past five years.

Don’t worry, I’ve already come to grips with that unsettling fact, so this isn’t a form of confession. I accepted that there was something wrong when I checked into an eating disorder help program in 2009 at the University of Rochester Medical Center at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y.

I’m also not here to make you feel sorry for me because there are hundreds of thousands of other people out there who suffer from eating disorders. Instead, I’m here to say that eating disorders are more painful on the mental side than the physical side, even though that’s all anyone sees.

No one knows you more than yourself, which is why those who don’t suffer from an eating disorder can’t wrap their minds around how people succumb to one. Well, it’s not by choice. An eating disorder is much like any other addiction; it always has some form of control and never truly allows you to be “healed.” Negative thoughts run through my head from time to time, but the key is to minimize these thought processes and focus on being healthy.

Perhaps the worst form of negativity comes from those I’m surrounded by. A simple comment like, “go eat a sandwich,” or “you’re all skin and bones” had devastating consequences on me. I felt horrible about myself and sank into a depression – anorexia’s best friend. I believed that I was imperfect and worthless; the only thing I was good at was being skinny. So I did everything in my power to remain skinny: starve, over-exercise and vomit.

Surround yourself with friends who help, not harm.

Even after treatment, when everything appears to be back to normal, the battle is never truly over. I suffered from this for so long that it becomes a part of my lifestyle, and I was confused when I had to battle against it. It was normal for me to eat one meal a day, so bumping it up to three was a challenge. I fight every day to be healthy because like I said, it’s never over. At any moment anorexia can rear its ugly head back and I’m no longer in recovery.

I’ve been recovered for about a year now, but I still attend monthly psychiatric therapy and wonder “what if.” What if I didn’t have an eating disorder? Would I have more friends? Would I have a girlfriend? Would I be happier? I will never be able to answer these questions, which is frustrating. There are times when I blame my eating disorder for the horrible things that have happened in my life, but I know that’s not right. I’ve blamed my eating disorder for being depressed, for being alone on a Saturday night, for a girl not liking me back. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be satisfied with the way I look, or if I’ll ever be able to stop these thought processes. But it’s a daily battle I’m ready to face. My life is too important not to.

– Post written by Mike Kraft and edited by Samantha Shelton