Why College Students Should Forgo Tanning

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Photo from Gerlach of Pixabay

Look, kid, you’re young. Should you live to be the average age of a human being, you’ve still got several decades left in the skin you’re wearing. I don’t know many people who want their skin to resemble beef jerky when they’re older, and yet I know plenty of them who ask for that by lying in a tanning bed, AKA a human oven, on a regular basis.

If you step back and think about it, the intentional act of tanning (as in, not when you spend time outside and just happen to get some color as a result) is an incredibly ludicrous endeavor. All the time, we preach about being comfortable with the skin we’re in, and yet we’ll spend hours lying motionless under UV rays just to make our skin a few shades darker. Shouldn’t we instead just appreciate the spectrum of skin tones out there?

Furthermore, tanning is one of the biggest time-wasters. There’s not much you can do while tanning; you have to be still and make sure you’re not using anything that will cause weird tanlines. Basically, your options are to read or listen to music. Why subject yourself to complete boredom for an hour or more if you don’t have to?

You’re also bound to get sweaty, and you’ll probably rub yourself down with sticky tanning oil. It doesn’t make sense that doing nothing would make you that gross afterward. If you want to get sweaty, go to the gym instead. Now that’s a good use of your time.

It’s proven that sun exposure causes early aging, which is why you’ll see many avid tanners with not-so-smooth skin, even at a young age. Think about what happens to just about anything when you bake it: it dries out and shrivels up. Your skin is doing the same thing, except moisturizer isn’t going to save you. You’ll wind up with wrinkles much sooner than you anticipated, which is hardly worth skin a few shades darker now.

But here’s the big reason why college students should forgo tanning: skin cancer. Everyone thinks “It won’t happen to me,” but it can and it does. No one is immune. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “The number of skin cancer cases due to tanning is higher than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking.

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Photo from glamour.com

What people really need to realize is how silly it is to put yourself in direct risk of cancer just to darken their skin tone for a little while. It is not like the skin-darkening caused by tanning is permanent; you have to constantly upkeep it, wasting time in the tanning bed and exposing yourself to damaging UV rays again and again.

Take it from a girl who’s about as pale as pale gets: it’s not so bad. I just think about how nice and wrinkle-free my skin will be years from now, and that makes it all the better. I certainly haven’t the time or patience for tanning anyway.

 

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How to Trick Yourself into Getting Fit Without Leaving Campus

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Photo by Kevin Waldron

With the recently relentless cold, we’re all about ready to go into hibernation mode. But it’s important to keep yourself moving so that, come summertime, you’re in great shape to enjoy the sunshine and freedom. And of course, your health doesn’t become any less essential in the winter.

For me, an hour or two at the gym each day is my way of staying active and fit. But some folks just aren’t gym people, and that’s okay. You can work little spurts of fitness into your already existing daily routine, and you don’t even have to step foot off campus to do it.

  1.  Get walking. You already don’t have much of a choice when it comes to walking to class if you live on campus. However, you can leave your dorm 5, 10, or even 30 minutes early to walk around campus & maybe the local streets before you head to class.  Just a few minutes of walking means extra calorie burn, plus it will wake you up for your class. Even if you commute to school, you can leave early and take a walk before class too.
  2. Pack heavy. Wait…aren’t you supposed to pack light? Not in this case. Take as much junk to class with you as you want: water bottles, all the books you need for the day, laptop, a sweatshirt, food, etc. That extra weight means more work toting it around, so you’ll burn calories and build strength without even trying. It might seem like a pain, but it’ll  be convenient having everything you could need with you so you don’t have to return to your dorm.
  3. Be a stair master. Got a few minutes between classes? Why not take a hike up and down the stairs a few times? There are plenty of staircases to choose from, and you can take different ones if you don’t want to look weird walking up and down the same flight. Climbing stairs will get your blood pumping fast, and it will wake you up after you’ve been sitting most of your day.
  4. Plank like it’s your job. I love planks because you can do them anytime, anywhere – no equipment required. Plus, they are one of the most effective exercises you can do. If you’re in the middle of studying (or more likely, browsing the internet), take a break to do a quick plank. It’s not an hour-long workout commitment; it can be as short as a minute. Make sure your elbows are aligned with your shoulders, and keep your butt down and back flat. Your abs should be doing the work here, not your back. However, this will work your shoulders too. If you don’t do planks often, start with 30 second intervals then work your way up to longer and longer planks.6-exercises-you-are-doing-wrong-plank
  5. Take a seat. Wall sits are another great anytime, anywhere workout as long as you’ve got a wall. You can take study breaks to do these with the planks, or alternate doing them. Wall sits will work the back and front of your legs, and you’ll feel it fast. Again, start with 30-second intervals, then work your way up. Press your back flat against the wall then slide down until your knees are aligned with your toes and bent at a 90-degree angle. It’s like you’re sitting in an invisible chair. Now hold that position. You can make it harder by placing a book in your lap.

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    Photo from Fit Chicks Central
  6. Get creative. You probably don’t have a set of weights in your dorm room, but you don’t need one to get stronger. Anything remotely heavy can serve as a weight, whether it be a water bottle or a book. You can do bicep curls, weighted lunges, dead rows and more with all kinds of objects you already have lying around.
  7. Blow dry your hair. I know this one sounds like a long shot, but you get a serious shoulder workout blow-drying your hair! Try to switch arms halfway through to fatigue each side equally (although this may be difficult if you’re only used to one side).
  8. Get up. If you’re studying or doing something that doesn’t absolutely require sitting, get off your butt! You can pace around your room while doing flashcards or browsing Pinterest on your iPad. I wouldn’t suggest taking this outside your dorm though because then it gets a little dangerous and you run the risk of bumping into something (or someone). You can even take your downtime outside on nice days. Play frisbee with your friends instead of opting for Netflix on the couch.
  9. Jam out. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love to rock out to their favorite music in the privacy of their own room. And if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re probably lying. Turn up the tunes, put on comfy pjs or sweats and dance your heart out. It’s so silly and fun, you don’t even realize you’re torching calories. Get your roommate in on the fun too, if you like. Just make sure you keep your music at a respectable level.
  10. Take the long way. There is usually more than one way to get to whatever class or part of campus you’re heading to, so take the longest one. This little change can make a big difference over time without being a huge inconvenience to you.

Moral of the story: a lot of little changes make for a big pay-off. You don’t have to over-exert yourself to get in better shape. In fact, you just have to trick your brain into thinking you’re not doing anything different than normal. These small tweaks to your day won’t cost you a lot of time or pain, but they’ll trick you into working harder and whipping your body into better shape, all from the comfort of the UC campus.

What are YOUR favorite fitness tricks?

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Fuel for Finals Week: What You Should Snack On

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There is actual evidence to show that college students gain weight because of the stress from finals week. It’s a natural habit that we like to reach for the snacks to ease the pain of studying. Often times, we’re not even hungry, but we partake in mindless snacking that can go on for hours. And before you know it, you’ve inhaled an entire bag of potato chips and 20 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. You’ve probably got the pizza delivery guy on speed dial too.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, eh?

But there’s more science to tell you that all that junk doesn’t help you much in the long-run. Not only does it do nothing to fuel your brain or aid your test performance, but it’s unhealthy and will expand your waistband in the future. It sounds pretty obvious to me that, if you’ve just got to snack while studying, then you should reach for healthier options.

I know, you’re sitting there thinking, “Girl, I’m young. I don’t have to eat healthy.” And you probably don’t want to either. But the truth is, the earlier you start treating you body better, the better off you will be. I’m not telling you to give up everything delicious in life and never indulge again; I’m just talking about switching out your normal studying snacks for real brain food.

The common misconception is that brain food equates to raw fruits and veggies, but there are much more exciting options out there if you prefer. Here are some of my favorite snacks that will fuel your brain so you can crush those exams without weighing enough to crush your professors after.

  1. Go nuts. No, but really. There are so many different varieties of nuts that there’s one for everybody, plus they’re salty, crunchy, and delicious. They’re proven to reduce stress and help your brain. And they’ve got protein! Just take it easy on these babies; you only need a handful or two.DSC_7293
  2. Cute & delicious. Teddy Grahams are, in my humble opinion, the cutest snack at the grocery store. You’d think because they’re sweet and targeted at kids that they’re also horrible for you and loaded with sugar, but they’re actually not half-bad. You can have about 30 little bears for around 130 cals, 8g of sugar, and 4g of fat. That ain’t bad! And they come in a plethora of flavors: Chocolaty Chip, Chocolate, Apple, Strawberry Banana, Honey, and Cinnamon.

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    Get the recipe for these PB & Apple Teddy Graham Pretzel Bites on thesmartcookiecook.com
  3. God’s gift to nature: Avocados. I know, you don’t want fruits and veggies, but in my book, avocados don’t count. They are so rich, creamy, and scrumptious that you won’t believe they came straight out of nature. Some people argue they should be classified as cheese because they taste that rich. But half an avocado is only 50 calories, and it’ll amp up anything you spread it on: wraps, sandwiches, veggies, whole wheat pita bread, etc. They are a bit high in fat, but it’s good fat, like in nuts.DSC_6046
  4. Get it poppin’ with plain popcorn. Sound boring? After a lifetime of eating popcorn drenched in fake butter, I never imagined plain popcorn would be any good. As It turns out, I was pleasantly surprised by how addicting and delicious it really is. Just a little bit of salt is enough to make plain popcorn taste like an indulgent snack, but you can have 2 cups for about 40 calories. Score!
  5. Hot and steamy. Did you know sugar-free hot cocoa has only 25 calories? It’s comforting, and it’ll satisfy your sweet tooth, but it won’t put you into a sugar coma afterward.DSC_7464
  6. Cup o’ Joe. Hot coffee has the same comforting qualities as hot cocoa for absolutely zero calories. Just be careful; when you load it up with milk and sugar, it quickly becomes bad for you. Use almond milk or a sugar-free creamer instead. Also, Nectresse is my sugar-free sweetener of choice. It’s not as artificial as other sweeteners.
  7. Take a dip. Hummus is a nutritious but completely delicious and hearty dip that’s perfect for study-time snacking. I only recently fell in love with hummus, but that love quickly grew into an obsession. If you haven’t tried it yet, just give it a shot, and you won’t be disappointed by how creamy and yummy it is. Plus, it tastes good on everything.DSC_8409-6

Those are MY go-to snacks, but here’s what fellow UC students suggested:

  1. Victoria L. – Granola bars (just make sure you look for ones low in sugar), apples, Rice Krispie treats (in moderation – one treat is 90 cal), Subway, and hummus. Did you know you can buy hummus from the Bistro at UC?
  2. Tyler G. – Cheez-Its (in moderation, a handful or two), grapes (try freezing them; they’re like candy), and Chobani yogurt (hello, protein!).

What snacks will you reach for when it’s time to study?

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Why Pinterest’s “Health & Fitness” Section Gets it Wrong

Generally speaking, Pinterest is a happy place for finding inspiration, recipes, fashion, endless photos of your celebrity obsession, funny memes, and more cute, fluffy animals than you can count. In fact, most people associate Pinterest as being one of the more positive forms of social media.bafeb8990846b5bda2d3127d3abd5b67

One of the most popular sections of Pinterest is the Health and Fitness feed where you can find an infinite amount of healthy recipes, tips for well-being, and “fitspiration” (fitness + inspiration). On one hand, I love this part of Pinterest. It motivates you to be healthier and more active, and it gives you millions of ways to do so in one easily accessible place.

But there is a downside to this. Although most of the Health and Fitness pins tend to have good intentions, some of them send the wrong message. A common theme for a H&F pin is a skeleton-thin woman in next-to-no clothes and some sort of “inspirational” quote written across it. The problem is that the women in these photos are usually completely unrealistic and subconsciously send the message that if you don’t look like this, then something is wrong.

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This was captioned “fit.” This isn’t fit; girl has no muscle!
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Again, no muscle or strength. You could snap this girl like a toothpick.

And the quotes aren’t always helpful either, saying things like, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” or, “Don’t reward yourself with food; you’re not a dog.”

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It’s almost contradictory. These pins are preaching being healthy and fit but also saying there is only one way you can be that: by being stick-thin. In reality, there is more than one body type that can qualify as healthy. Similarly, there is no guarantee that someone is healthy just because they’re skinny. They could eat fast food all the time and sit around 24/7 but have a fast metabolism.

These pins send across the same incorrect idea that most of the media today does: being skinny is the best thing you can be. This is the kind of thing that perpetuates eating disorders and other serious body-image issues. If you’re doing good to your body, then why should anything else matter?

There’s another big problem that comes with a feed full of user-generated health advice: probably only 25% of what you see is accurate and from a credible source. I hate to break it to you, but when you see pins about workouts claiming to burn 300 calories in two minutes, that is impossible. Much like how doing 100 jumping jacks before every shower isn’t going to make you thin. And a lot of diet pins are misleading too; cutting out chocolate for a month will not cause you to lose weight if you’re still eating a ton of other crap.

Those pins have the “magic fix” message; and I’m sorry, but there’s no such thing when it comes to health and fitness.

The Health and Fitness Section of Pinterest is a good idea in theory; it’s just not being executed correctly. Unfortunately, this is through no fault of Pinterest, but of the pinners using it. Pinterest doesn’t have any say over what gets pinned; we do. So we need to focus less on body-shaming and constantly judging each other’s bodies, and instead focus on what really qualifies as healthy: eating well, being active, and feeling good about yourself.

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Let’s see more pins like that one, eh?

*All pins taken straight from Pinterest’s Health and Fitness section.

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