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Your Feel-Good Workout Playlist

Although National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is coming to a close, that doesn’t mean its purpose should end. Throughout the week, I’ve hit up the library to find some more good reads about the inner workings of an eating disorder, just so I can understand it a bit more. A few that I’m really looking forward to reading:

Please keep in mind that I have not actually read these books yet, so I can’t recommend them. But you can always start reading along with me!

I’ve also found myself migrating toward morale-boosting, feel-good music. Tunes that uplift me during my workout and make me feel beautiful from the inside out. After all, I don’t work out to be skinny or because I feel guilty about a slice of pizza I ate. I exercise because it makes me feel amazing and I revel in the post-workout endorphins that surge through my body. So what songs are making me feel so fantastic during my sweat sessions? Check it out!

In no specific order:

1.) Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars

2.) Crazy by Simple Plan

3.) Imperfection by Saving Jane

4.) It’s My Life by Bon Jovi

5.) Born This Way by Lady Gaga

6.) Video by India Arie

7.) Perfect 10 by Beautiful South

8.) I Am Not My Hair by India Arie, featuring Akon

9.) Ugly by Sugababes

This song has been stuck in my head all week and I’m absolutely in love with it. I’ve always loved Pink and her music — she’s so strong and embraces being different. She’s a great role model for young girls to look up to. Enjoy one of her latest:

Most of these songs are a little too slow for me to run to, so I often pop on the playlist when I’m on the elliptical or doing strength training. I hope you find a few to fall in love with, and remember you’re amazing just the way you are 🙂

What are some of your favorite feel-good songs?

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?

Pushing through Mental Blockades

I survived the first week of training and rightfully earned my rest day! It’s been hard to schedule my workouts while settling back into school, but I managed to squeeze in enough time to finish the required amount according to my plan.

However, I have felt the mental blockades start to creep in. Remember, I haven’t run more than a 10K before and that was a few years ago, so the thought of running 13.1 miles at a time is a bit daunting. In fact, it’s so intimidating that I try not to look ahead on my schedule and instead only focus on whatever I need to complete that day.

Yesterday I was required to run/walk four miles, so I plugged in my summer playlist and set out determined to run as much of the distance as I could. I completed two miles before I had to stop and tie my shoe, which sparked the mental anxiety. Thoughts of doubt started to seep in, such as:

  • Just finish this song, then you can stop.
  • There’s no way you can finish that distance right now.
  • My leg is too swollen (I’ve cleared it with my doctor, so deep down I know this isn’t true).
  • There’s not enough blood flow in my left leg.
  • You’re not ready for this.
  • I feel like I’m carrying an extra 10 pounds on my left leg.
  • I’m so tired.
  • My body hurts.
  • You’ve done great so far, you can just pick up the slack later.

This is going to be my biggest struggle throughout my training and race day. I caved every once in awhile and walked, but didn’t allow myself to walk for more than the duration of one song. Luckily, one song popped on at just the right time to really get the mojo flowing again.

Music makes you lose control.

“Push Push,” by Kat DeLuna and Akon got me back on track and motivated me to keep running. I know it’s not about working out or goals, but I took some of the lyrics to heart. Which ones? The chorus, of course!

Push, push, push baby don’t stop for a minute.

Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh!

I said push, push baby take it to the limit!

In the end, I ended up pushing through and running 5.6 miles! It took me longer than I would’ve liked, but I’m really proud of myself for finishing! I’m not unbelievably sore today either, so I’m amped up for tomorrow’s workout!

Completed in 1:01:05

What do you do to get through mental blockades? How do you keep the motivation flowing?

Life Despite Ed: The Importance of Friendship

The world becomes a lonely place when suffering from an eating disorder. The disease prides itself on separating you from your friends and family. It only cares about keeping you isolated because well, that’s how it thrives. During the recovery process, it is imperative that you find a friend you can lean on.

Perhaps the worst part of recovering from anorexia is the fact that it is a mental disorder, which means I can never fully recover. Instead, I’ve learned coping techniques that I turn to in times of struggle. I write down my feelings on paper, distract myself with something I enjoy doing and, most importantly, find someone I can talk to when things aren’t going well.

The power of having someone to talk to in times of need is a priceless commodity. But finding a person I can trust to share all of my thoughts with is something that can be difficult. Especially as a college student living on campus, it can be quite difficult to find someone of the same age to talk to without fear that they will share my information with all of their friends. The thought that every piece of information I share with someone could eventually be unveiled during a drunken Saturday night is something I have to take into account when deciding who I confide in.

Lately, I’ve decided that the person I could trust the most is one of my housemates. He is someone who has been through similar mental troubles in his past, and therefore has been able to give me advice that I really take to heart. Talking to someone who’s experienced this before really made me feel better. I know he will always be willing to talk to me whenever I need it.

When I chose to confide in my housemate, I took into account the fact that I didn’t just meet him, but rather have known him for years. After all, it doesn’t make sense to spill my life story to someone I’ve known for less than a semester. They would feel more awkward than anything and would probably have nothing beneficial to say.

Personally, I wouldn’t trust the college counselors on campus either. It’s not my intent to bash them or say they’re inadequate because that’s really not what I think. However, it must be acknowledged that they aren’t like the traditional counselors found in a local community. Yes, if you really need to, a college counselor could be helpful. However, keep in mind that their only job isn’t to help just you. They are responsible for talking to hundreds, maybe thousands, of college students who all have different problems. Most college campuses don’t have counselors who specialize in eating disorders either, so they aren’t the best outlet to turn to.

College counselors don’t partake in one-on-one meetings very often either (in my experience), therefore forcing students to attend group sessions. This would be fine if everyone in the group was there for the same problem, but that often isn’t the case. Students could be there for alcohol problems, relationship troubles, test anxiety and other college life stressors. Therefore, the meeting can’t possibly have the therapeutic effect that it should. I was very troubled when I learned that I couldn’t receive personal counseling. I wasn’t scared to share my story with other students, but I wanted them to at least be in the same position I was in. How would an alcoholic understand the position I am in? And how could I possibly do the same for him or her? It just can’t happen.

It definitely is tough to approach a friend with all of this personal information. But a good friend will be more than willing to sit down and listen. After all, isn’t that what friends are for? It’s not just about the parties, the social hours, and living the good life. Friends are there for you in times of struggle, and fighting an eating disorder is when you need your friends the most.

It reminds me of the song “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers. You just call on me brother, when you need a hand. We all need somebody to lean on. I just might have a problem that you’d understand. We all need somebody to lean on.

 And if any of you need to talk, just remember, you’ve got a friend in me.

– Post written by Mike Kraft and edited by Samantha Shelton

For all you Gleeks, here’s the Glee version of “Lean on Me.” Enjoy!

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?

Chilean Miner Runs While Trapped

It’s been all over the news today — the Chilean miners who were trapped underground for 69 days were finally pulled out. All 33 of them were rescued after the mine collapsed, and the pure emotion of love and hope on these miners’ faces is heart-wrenching.

But one interesting fact has surfaced about one of the miners. According to London’s Daily Telegraph, Edison Pena, 34, has been classified as the fittest miner and to keep his sanity, he ran 10km every day while underground.

Why would someone do something like this?

If I were trapped underground, running would probably be the last thing I would think of doing. Instead, I imagine I would sit underground curled into a corner for most of the day, rocking back and forth and wondering whether or not I was going to make it out of this alive. Pena, however, thought rationally and did the one thing that he found solace in – exercise.

After all, isn’t that the main reason why most fitness-enthusiasts exercise? Sure, a small part is to stay in shape and look physically good, but we all know it goes much deeper than that. Scientifically, running releases endorphins to give you those feel-good emotions that might keep someone looking forward to another day because that might be the day they are rescued. And running lets you forget. It lets you forget about life’s problems and daily stresses; it lets you forget about dire situations and it lets you escape the mental turmoil rolling around in your head. When you run, all you have to focus on is putting one foot in front of the other, or breathing in and out.  For a brief moment in time, the world just falls away and life isn’t so bad.

So Pena, in the end, was smart enough to preserve his sanity by running. He was able to do an activity that reminded him he was alive and encouraged him to keep holding on so that he would see the world in all its beauty once more. Bravo to you, Mr. Pena, bravo. Please, go for a run and stare at all the beautiful nature you can surround yourself with — once you’re done relishing the fact that you’re alive and get to be with your family again, of course.

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

Life Despite ED: My Name is Kristen

Here at The Pulse, I encourage exercise and nutrition that keeps you healthy in mind, body and spirit. Unfortunately, sometimes the drive to be healthy goes too far and pushes someone over the edge. Kristen Bouchard, 21, is a student at Albany College of Pharmacy who is struggling with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. With a competitive personality and a drive to live, she fights every day to beat the disease she calls ED. Read about her journey here and support her in the fight to regain control of her mind, body and spirit.

My name is Kristen and I have an eating disorder.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on more important things. Because I am more than just an eating disorder. He does not define me. If I let that happen, then he wins.

But like I said, on to more important things. Like me! My name is Kristen and I went to a very small school (think graduating class size of 26). I’m sure you have heard this before, but when you go to a small school and live in a smaller town, everyone knows everything. But that’s not always a bad thing.

I remember being known as the “most caring” in second grade. My teacher printed out a little certificate for me and I was so proud of that piece of paper. I hung it on my refrigerator and after it fulfilled its lifespan, I filed it away in my room, tucked into a box that I would rediscover from time to time.

The idea of being known as someone, being defined as something, stuck with me. After that day, I strived to please everyone around me so that I could always keep the title of “most caring.” To me, it was more than a few words strung together. It became my identity. And when that identity shifted to an association with weight, I shifted my focus. Suddenly, being caring meant more than striving to please people through my actions. It also meant taking care of people’s opinions. My thoughts, my actions and my body were all put under a microscope; I was scrutinized for everything because I had to live up to my identity.

I soon found myself resentful of my title; this identity I wasn’t sure I wanted to bear. People often expect too much out of one person and I was usually the victim. At the time though, I didn’t realize someone relying on me could be a bad thing. So I kept plugging away because I was the most caring.

I released stress through sports. I was in love with all forms of them. In high school, I played softball, volleyball and soccer (Of course, these were the only sports that my school offered). One of my best friends, Samantha, was a great goalie. I, on the other hand, was a back-up goalie and spent most games screaming for my life. I was a middle blocker in volleyball and I pitched in softball. I felt so good whenever I played. It became an escape from reality and a time when I didn’t have to focus on my thoughts, my schedule or numbers on a scale. I thrived on the burn of my muscles and the strength I had to dominate in a competition. It was about the love for the game, not a method of weight-loss.

But when I left the field, I found myself squirming under the microscope again. Eventually, the scrutiny consumed me. It entered my daily thoughts. And it wasn’t until recently that I realized I need the answer to one question.

When had I stopped caring about myself?

Post written by Kristen Bouchard and edited by Samantha Shelton.