Depression is becoming more and more prevalent in our society today.  It is not something to ignore, as it is a very serious medical condition that needs attention just like any other disease.  Depression is something that can interfere with regular daily activities, and even something as mundane as getting out of bed and getting ready for the day can be overwhelming.  Nobody should have to live with feelings and thoughts like these.  The most important thing is to do something about it, whether it is with a doctor’s help (i.e. counseling, medication, etc) or through taking personal steps to improve your mood. Ultimately, you will figure out what choice is best for you, based on the severity of your symptoms, but here are some suggestions for what you can do personally, before you seek professional help.

1. Exercise – exercising regularly can help boost your mood for hours after you finish your workout.  Exercising helps to deal with stress and anxiety, helps you think more clearly, and gives you a sense of accomplishment that you can feel good about.

2. Eat a healthy diet – focus on minimizing sugar and fats, and emphasize fruits and veggies, along with whole grains (healthy carbs) and healthy fats.

3. Talk to someone you trust.  Just knowing that there is someone around who cares about you and what you are going through is encouraging.  Open up to them every once in awhile – they may have had similar experiences and might be able to help you think of solutions.

4. Take care of your physical health – if you have chronic pain, if is easy to become depressed about it, and for that to spill over into other areas of life.  Address these problems and realize that your physical health plays a huge role in your overall happiness.

5. Get enough sleep – get yourself on a regular routine – going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. You will feel more energized.  After all, many times depression is a result of lack of sleep.

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Look at these pictures – the “after” picture is on the lefts side and the “before” is on the right.  Do you notice the difference between the two?  In the “before” pictures, we can see all the flaws and imperfections that normal people have, like freckles, uneven skin tone, frizzy hair, wider rib cage, and even different sized breasts.   The “after” picture shows these women with all their flaws removed and it shows a more perfect version of them.  However, when you think about it, even these women can’t look like that ideal version of themselves – they have to have someone fix up their picture and make it seem like they are something they are not.  Why do we stress out about trying to look like these celebrities who, in real life, don’t (and can’t) even look like they do in magazines?

I recently came across this video, and thought it made a very important point.  The editor in the video says that people don’t have the time to exercise, and eat right right, so it is easier for these celebrities to just pay someone like him to retouch all their photos before they are released so that it looks like they are healthy and fit, when in real life, they never look like that.  Pretty crazy, right?!  Their supernatural beauty is unnatural, and in real life, they look like normal people, with normal flaws.

Next time you start comparing yourself to someone in a magazine, remember that their beauty isn’t entirely real.  Your beauty IS.

After all this talk about eating healthily I’m going to do a post about dessert! How rude of me, right?  Well, lucky for you, I’m about to liberate you.

My philosophy is that there is room for any food in your diet.  It is a matter of balance, and not over indulging.  Eating a dessert or junk item every once in awhile is no crime.  As long as you trade out something else, like a snack or something – you can substitute the calories without adding them.  With that said, I want to share with you some deliciousness that I stumbled across!  Low-calorie desserts that you can easily make!

Look at this beauty:

That’s right, folks, for just 315 calories, this decadent chocolate cake is YOURS.

But let me tempt you further with these delicious chocolate cookies (only 52 calories!)…

My point is, you don’t have to suffer and cut out foods (like chocolate) that you love, as long as you don’t go overboard.  Still be conscious about what and how much you eat, but enjoy it too!

You have heard about and maybe even tried one of the many popular diets.  Maybe you’ve even tried more than one, or know someone who always seems to be trying a new diet (this should be a BIG clue to you…DIETS DON’T WORK).  While being careful about what you eat is a good idea, fad dieting is taking it to the extreme. Sure, they give you immediate results, but in the long run, you gain all that weight back, and maybe even more). Fad Diets are a quick fix with no long term benefits.

(WARNING: In this post I have some strong/harsh opinions about this, so if you are a sensitive dieter, I am sorry, and you don’t have to keep reading)

My first problem with fad diets is that they are a marketing tool.  Companies that sell a dieting product, whether it is a book or a food line, have ulterior motives – playing on your desire to lose weight makes them money!   If someone is making money off of it, chances are, it isn’t truly healthy.

Secondly, what happened to good, old-fashioned healthy eating?!  I have nothing wrong with following a meal plan, or being strict about what you eat.  That’s fine!  But when you throw off the balance – eating only certain food groups at a time, that’s where the problem lies.I read an article for a class I took last year, and it talked about the idea of focusing on health rather than appearance.   In the study, one group just focused on eating healthily and exercising regularly, while the other group went to counseling to help them loose weight, and I believe they were put on a diet.  interestingly, the group who just focused on being healthy made the biggest changes, and collectively, they were able to keep the weight off over a longer period of time. Look at this interesting article

Thirdly, for numerous reasons most fad diets are extremely difficult to sustain over a long period of time.  I found an awesome blog a couple months ago, that one of my teachers this semester is writing, and she takes the healthy eating approach to dieting.  The meal plans are designed to be cheap, easy to make, and well balanced.  She puts all of her meal plans up for free, and she has even provided the recipes for all the foods.  In class, she told us that her husband had lost 30 pounds over about 6 months of doing nothing more than just following this meal plan.  Check out her blog, it is really interesting and helpful!

Fourth, fad diets focus just on the food, rather than all-around healthy living, including exercise.  Exercise is a huge key to a healthy body and healthy weight.

Everyone has something they dislike about their body, whether it is weight, shape, height, hair, you name it – there will always be something to be dissatisfied about.

We spend so much time focusing on our weaknesses and what we think is wrong with us, that we forget to look at the positive, and forget to actually take care of ourselves.   It is difficult to see ourselves as the people we want to be, when we can’t get past our weaknesses. Its time to embrace your body, despite what you think its flaws are. Here are some ways to get on the right track:

1. Stop using the other “f-word” (FAT).  Asking people if you look fat, saying “I feel so fat,” or even just commenting on other people’s weight (“She’s so skinny”) all reinforce the emphasis on weight.  Visit here and here to learn about making the commitment to stop using fat language.

2. Don’t equate weight with worth.  Love yourself at every stage, and love others the same way.

3. Accept compliments gracefully – just accept them!  Don’t feel like you always have to come up with some reason why a compliment is invalid. If my friend tells me I have a cute outfit on, I should not respond with “thanks, but…[insert self-degrading statement here].  That first of all makes my friend feel awkward, and second of all, brings attention to something that nobody else noticed.

4. Buy clothes that fit you now, not for “when I lose 10 pounds.”  Why make yourself feel bad by buying things you can’t wear, when you can buy something now that makes you feel amazing?

5. This website has a plethora of information and tips on how to love your body better, and improve your self image.

Sexual Violence is defined as: “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.” (WHO)

This is a topic that many people find difficult and uncomfortable to talk about, however, I find it very important to address.  It is a problem that cannot be overlooked, because with a few simple safety precautions, it is possible to minimize if not eliminate the threat of rape.

How many rapes per year do you think happen in Provo?  In 2006, just in Provo, there were 38 rapes.  That’s slightly more than 3 rapes a month.  I don’t know about you, but that is way more than I would expect in a church college town.  One of the biggest problems in our city, is that a lot of women think they are safe because they live in the so-called “bubble.”  For this very reason, predators find it easy to take advantage of women here.   Nationally, 14.8% of women over the age of 17 have reported being raped (WHO).

Even more shocking is the fact that about 73% of rape victims know their assailants, yet only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail (rainn.org).  Here are a few things to keep in mind in case you or anyone you know is raped:

1. You can and will survive.

2. It is not your fault, and you don’t deserve to suffer by yourself. Talk to someone you trust, and who you know will support you.  Most of the time the first reaction of the first person you tell will guide what you do next – whether you report it or not.

3. The sooner you can report the incident the better – “Call 911 (or ask a friend to call) to report your rape to police. Or, visit a hospital emergency room or your own doctor and ask them to call the police for you. If you visit the emergency room and tell the nurse you have been raped, the hospital will generally perform a sexual assault forensic examination. This involves collecting evidence of the attack, such as hairs, fluids and fibers, and preserving the evidence for forensic analysis. In most areas, the local rape crisis center can provide someone to accompany you, if you wish. Call 1.800.656.HOPE to contact the center in your area.” (RAINN)

4. Do not be afraid to pursue prosecution.  You will be preventing the attacker from repeating this action in the future, and possibly saving someone else from having to go through the same thing.  Ultimately, it is up to you, as to whether or not you will report it.  People will be understanding, whatever you choose.

If you, like me are passionate about not becoming a victim, I would highly recommend taking a women’s self defense course.  I took one called R.A.D. (Rape Aggression Defense) through the local police department, and I guess that is why I have become so passionate about this.  They teach you specific techniques you can use to get away from an attacker, and give you safety tips to help you avoid potentially dangerous situations.  I would recommend this class to any woman, it is life changing!  Some things I have learned:

– Those who want to survive will survive. Develop the mindset that you don’t have to let anyone take advantage of you or make you feel uncomfortable – if you fight back, most will back off.

– Don’t be stupid.  Don’t go out running/walking/whatever  when it is dark or late at night by yourself, or without telling anyone where you are going and when you will be back. Even walking to and from campus at night, you should use the buddy system, or ask someone to pick you up and take you wherever you need to be.

– Pay attention to your gut feelings – if you feel uneasy about answering the door, don’t answer it, call out and ask who it is first.  Or if you feel worried about walking home a certain way, walk a different way, and go where a lot of people are likely to be. Always put your safety first.  Better to be [anal about being] safe than sorry.

You want to be healthy, and even more, you want your baby to be healthy.  But a healthy baby starts with a healthy you.  What can you do to prepare your body before you even become pregnant?

1. Take your vitamins – These make up for any nutrient deficiencies that you may have, to ensure that the fetus has what it needs.  A good prenatal vitamin will have 400 mcg of folic acid, 200 to 300 mg of calcium, and 17 mg of iron.  These are all very important for the proper development of the baby. (Web MD)

2. Eat a proper diet  that emphasizes fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to ensure that your body stays healthy and energized.

3. Regular exercise – helps your body develop better circulation to all your body parts.  It also will help build up muscle strength that you will need in your abdomen and back, depending on what type of exercise you do.  Make sure you aren’t doing too much – women who exercise at extreme levels (women who run more than 20 miles a week) will have decreased fertility, which will make it more difficult to become pregnant.

4. Consult your doctor – have a preconception exam to make sure your body is in good shape to have a baby.

5. Do your research.  The more resources you consult, the better idea you will have of what will work for you, and what you feel comfortable doing. Here are some resources you may find helpful: whattoexpect.com life.familyeducation.com

I’m going to put in my plug for running…get ready!

Running is one of the best ways you can get in shape.  There are so many benefits, the first one being that it is FREE! Here are even more:
1. You don’t need to buy any special equipment, outside of the workout clothing you already have

2. You can run practically anywhere you are.

3.  Running releases endorphins – the hormones that make you feel happy

4.  It helps you avoid chronic disease, and live longer

If you are like me, you know that the best way to get yourself on a regular running schedule is to sign up for a race.   Not necessarily for the purpose of racing, but more just so you have something to be working towards.  You want to feel like all your hard work is going towards something. Another idea is just working towards putting in a certain mileage over a certain amount of time.  Here is a website that challenges you to run so many miles, and to track your progress in comparison with others.  There are so many ways to get motivated to run, and hold yourself accountable.

If you need some ideas for where to start, check out websites like this one, that give you a workout plan, where you can gradually work up to doing more every day.

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/intermediate-running-weightloss-program

I hate it when Aunt Flo comes to visit.  And T.O.M. makes me grumpy.

That’s pretty typical, unless you are one of the lucky 25% of women who don’t experience any PMS symptoms.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) symptoms usually occur 1-2 weeks before the onset of the menses, and are characterized by both physical and psychological symptoms, ranging from feeling bloated and getting headaches all the way to feeling irritable and depressed.

Here is a list of PMS symptoms, courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital, to help you better understand why you may feel the way you do.

Psychological Symptoms

· Depression
· Anger
· Irritability
· Anxiety
· Sensitivity to rejection
· Sense of feeling overwhelmed
· Social withdrawal

Physical Symptoms

· Lethargy or fatigue
· Sleep disturbance (usually hypersomnia)
· Appetite disturbance (usually increased)
· Abdominal bloating
· Breast tenderness
· Headaches
· Muscle aches, joint pain
· Swelling of extremities

How do you know if what you are experiencing is normal, or if it is something more severe?  If you have lived with more severe symptoms for a long time, it may be difficult to know if your symptoms are out of the ordinary, because you are used to it.  But here are some things to consider, for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD):  If it interferes with your daily activities, so much so that you are unable to do normal things, and your quality of life is lessened, you should probably consider investigating a little more.

Here are some helpful instructions to help you start figuring out whether you are experiencing PMS or PMDD

Exercise is one of the most important factors for physical and mental well-being.  Having a regular exercise plan can help you avoid the major chronic health problems that plague our nation: cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and stroke.  Its amazing to me that by instituting a habit of fitness, we can increase longevity and quality of life exponentially.


It seems that with each chronic disease, the top risk factor is always a lack of exercise.  According to the CDC, “More than one-third of all adults do not meet recommendations for aerobic physical activity based on the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, and 23% report no leisure-time physical activity at all in the preceding month.”

Besides avoiding these very unpleasant, and even debilitating diseases in the future, there are tons of great reasons to exercise, that will positively affect you much sooner.  Here are just a few (found on Mayo Clinic’s website):

1. Improved Mood

2. Weight Management 

3. Increased Stamina/energy level

4. Stronger Immune System

5. Better sleep

For an even more comprehensive list of benefits, I would recommend taking a look at this page – it has some really cool reasons to exercise!

If you’re like me, its easy to find a pile of excuses and endless reasons why you shouldn’t start exercising today.  Lets face it: life is hectic, and from what I hear, it doesn’t get any less busy.  But the truth is that you and I can’t afford to put off our health.  I challenge you (and myself) to start today.  Start right now, even.  Start now by setting some goals for yourself, even if it is just exercising twice a week.  You should be able to gradually do more and more, with 30 minutes a day as your goal.

Here are some useful workout tips for you, to make your experience more enjoyable.

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