Posts by briozalas


In this current age of social media, where nearly everything can (and is) documented online, avoiding weight-loss advertisements, “thinspo” or “fitspo” accounts and advocates, and companies that claim to have a “solution” to weight gain is purely impossible. I am sick of the mindset that women, girls, men, boys, and anyone outside or in between those binaries must feel the need to work out, lose weight, and be “healthy.” And I am sick of not talking about it.

Disclaimer: I am not trying to bash those who want to/enjoy exercising, eating healthy, etc. Wanting to exercise and eat fruits and veggies is fine and dandy. I just think it’s important to acknowledge the implications and subliminal social messages that exist beyond these acts. I do not condemn going to the gym, drinking smoothies, and the like. I condemn the obsessive, restrictive thoughts and behavior that continue to poison the minds of individuals around the world due to the ways in which our society has socially constructed health.

Here’s a list of diet culture-related thoughts that I feel strongly about and everyone should strongly consider:

  • “Health” can be defined in numerous ways depending on the individual/group of individuals. “Health” does not equate thin, able-bodied, toned muscles, or eating smoothies for lunch.
  • Physical “health” or being physically “fit” does not equate mental health and/or mental wellbeing. For example, an individual may exercise and diet until they are lean but that will not necessarily guarantee happiness and mental wellness.
  • Diets exist for their participants to fail. “Yo-yo dieting,” or trying diet after diet in hopes of achieving results, actually does not do anything beneficial for our bodies. Essentially, most diets set us up for failure, which results in a new cycle of searching for a solution, searching for a “perfect” body.
  • The “perfect body” is a social construct. Throughout history our society has constructed what it means to have a “perfect body” which is typically constructed through a euro-centric, hegemonic, heteronormative, and patriarchal perspective. (i.e. thin, white, sexualized women that are plastered all over advertisements.)
  • Body positivity should not exclude individuals who do not fit the “typical’ (socially constructed) body type. Body positivity should be inclusive in race, gender, ability, ethnicity, and body type.
  • Certain types of food are not inherently “bad.” We place these ideas upon certain foods, primarily on foods like pizza, candy/sweets, and carbs.
  • Gaining weight is not the end of the world. Diet culture has taught us that weight gain is a detriment to our worth as individuals. Bodies fluctuate, they are not stagnant.

These are only a handful of the things I have to say regarding diet culture and body positivity. This is a topic that has greatly interested me recently, so I hope to write more (coherent) pieces about it in the future.

All in all, I’m saying that approaching body politics, such as weight-loss, self-esteem and self-image, and body positivity, with a more positive and inclusive perspective will greatly benefit us, not only on the individual level, but on the societal level as well.

Here are some great articles/videos about diet culture:

Melissa Fabello – How Diets Hurt You (And Help Capitalism) 

Ravishly – Why I Decided to Break Up With Diet Culture for Good

The Odyssey Online – Don’t Succumb to Diet Culture 

The Atlantic – Eating Toward Immortality 

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


Posted By on Jun 20, 2017

Preface: this is quite possibly the best book I have ever read. You may continue.

Angie Thomas tackles the topic of police violence through the eyes of a teenage girl. Starr lost two of her best friends to gun violence by the time she’s sixteen, one by a gang drive-by, and the other by a police officer. As the only witness to her friend Kahlil’s murder, Starr must face the overwhelming pressure to testify on his behalf before a grand jury. This tragedy is the catalyst that begins to destroy the separation between her two worlds: one in which she spends her weekdays at a private, majority-white school, the other in which she calls “home,” a gang-ridden city neighborhood.

While Starr struggles to balance her two different worlds, her father’s desire to make their neighborhood a better place, her mother’s desire to move away to keep their family safe, AND the pressures of being in the spotlight, Starr’s story, though fictional, depicts many aspects of reality that hit close to home. Starr is afraid of what will happen to her is she speaks out, but knows that she has to use her voice to speak on behalf of her friend and the injustice that he faced.

As the story progresses, readers get to see how the criminal justice system and the media in our country and society skew (and even alter completely) stories before releasing them to the world. Starr’s experiences depict the struggle of getting the real story out there in situations such as hers and how industries silence and oppress the voices of minorities.

The title of this novel is derived from the rapper Tupac Shakur’s philosophy of “THUG LIFE,” which Thomas explains as “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.” This phrase ends up as a motif for the novel. Right before his murder, Kahlil explains to Starr that this phrase is really an indictment of systemic inequality and hostility: “What society gives us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out.” Essentially, what we are taught when we are children will eventually come back to haunt us as a society in the future. (For example: racism and systematic oppression and inequality.)

Throughout this riveting debut novel, Thomas utilizes Starr’s perspective to speak out about this ever-present, bone-chilling issue of police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. While I read this book, I truly connected and empathized with Starr, heartbroken that a teenage girl outlived two of her best friends. I commend Angie Thomas for shedding light on this important and current topic.

I realize that many individuals will attempt to discredit The Hate U Give and the real-life experiences Thomas fictionalizes in the book. I am not going to discuss the politics surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement (at least not in this blog post) but I encourage those who disagree to read this book, because it is possibly the most important book I have read in a very, very long time.

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After taking a hiatus of sorts from blogging/writing/using my brain in general since the semester ended, I’m finally taking time to reflect on my junior year of college, right before which I created this blog.

Overall, I think my junior year of undergrad was quite possibly my most rewarding of my years in college thus far. I had numerous incredibly interesting classes such as Minority Groups, Sexuality and Society, Constructing Health, Classical Social Theory, and Communication Studies Research Methods. Not only was my time in the classroom interesting and worth-while, but so was my time outside of the classroom. As I’ve discussed on my other forms of social media, I had the privilege of interning at Rowan’s Healthy Campus Initiatives, an organization on campus that focuses on mental health, body image, drug/alcohol education, sexual violence prevention, sexual health education, and stress management. In the fall, I focuses primarily on sexual health education, and though I did co-facilitate some events regarding healthy relationships in the spring, a lot of my time as a HCI intern was dedicated to sexual violence prevention.

In April, HCI hosted Take Back the Night, an open-mic and solidarity event for survivors of sexual assault and sexual violence. The event itself was truly incredible, mostly because many individuals chose to speak about their own experiences regarding the topic. I think the fact that so many Rowan students came to the event to show their support was awe-inspiring.

Prior to Take Back the Night, I organized what we named “Supporting Survivors,” or “Survivor Love Letters,” in which I asked students around campus to write positive messages/inspirational quotes on notecards for sexual violence survivors. These notecards were hung on the windows of the Wellness Center (HCI’s home) for the entire university and passersby to see. Seeing my work cover huge spans of windows and seeing individuals stop to read the notes truly was so rewarding.

My junior year was not only filled with incredible internship experiences, but also consisted of instances in which I began figuring out what I want to do with my future after graduating in May 2018. Though I don’t know exactly where I want to go or what I want to study, I know that I want to continue my education and go to graduate school. Hopefully I will, one day, be able to be a professor at a university, or work on-campus in outreach programs, and do similar work to what I’ve done over the last year.

Though it is only June, I am excited to see what my senior year will bring.

(Yes, I’m actually thinking about school. I am a huge nerd and I accept it.)

 

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Benefits beyond the yoga mat


Posted By on Mar 15, 2017

I wrote an article for Rowan’s March issue of Student Health 101 about yoga. The article can be viewed here.

 

“The light in me recognizes and honors the light in each and every one of you,” the yoga instructor says from the front of the room. Her smile indicates that class has concluded. “Namaste.”

The members of the class rise peacefully from their mats, being packing up, and then brace the doorway for the rest of their day, evening, or night. With them they take a relaxed mind and body from participating in yoga’s practice. Everyday life can be stressful, especially while in college. Academics, social life, homework, jobs, internships, and other responsibilities are all aspects of undergraduate and graduate lifestyle and all are equally difficult to balance. However, when an individual does make the time to care for themselves physically and mentally, such as going to a weekly yoga class, there are abundance of benefits that reach far beyond the yoga mat.

Harvard Medical School discusses yoga’s purpose – challenging oneself physically, but not to an overwhelming degree. At this “edge,” the focus of the practice is one’s breath while keeping the mind accepting and calm. This yoga mindset influences an individual’s inner awareness. This inner awareness promotes attention to the body’s abilities at the present moment of practice, focusing more on breath and strength of the mind and body more so than focusing on physical appearance. The Yoga Health Foundation Organization notes that inner peace is a key reason that yoga has become an essential part of many people’s daily lives, stressing the importance of taking the time to allow oneself to connect and relax their body and their mind.

Moreover, there are numerous physical benefits to yoga as well. American Osteopathic Association notes that these physical benefits include increased flexibility, increased muscle strength and tone, improved respiration, energy and vitality, and cardio and circulatory health. The Association also explains that “the relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga class can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome.” Regardless of where an individual decides to practice yoga, whether it’s in their dorm or bedroom or the on-campus recreation center, they will benefit from both mental and physical aspects of the practice.

Practicing yoga soothes tension and anxiety within the mind and body, which ultimately helps bring calmness and mindfulness into every day life – fully allowing an individual to be present in the moment. The techniques learned during yoga classes can be utilized during every day occurrences, such as mindful breathing before an important exam or job interview or starting off the day with a few sun salutations. Once an individual begins to implement these techniques into their everyday lives, they will begin to notice the importance of exploring their limits instead of striving for perfection while getting in tune with their body and their inner self.

Namaste.

 

Here are some other great articles about yoga:

Everyday Feminism – What’s so feminist about yoga?

Everyday Feminism – Yoga, cultural appropriation, and why it matters 

 

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A pre-Inauguration Day occurence


Posted By on Jan 19, 2017

Today (January 19, 2017, Inauguration Day Eve), I was leaving Rowan’s campus around 11 AM, ready to move on with my day after a long first week of classes. As I was putting my backpack in the passenger seat of my car, someone pushed passed me, muttering “Proud Democrat? Yeah right, what a fucking joke.” This person was referencing one of the few bumper stickers on my car.

To quickly clarify: Yes, I have a bumper sticker on my car that says “Proud Democrat” because I am one. Yes, I have a bumper sticker that says “Stop Bigotry” because that’s what I’d like to see in the world. Yes, I have a Hillary Clinton bumper sticker because I supported her throughout the election and still continue to support her and other members of the Democratic Party. I keep these stickers on my car because I like them there.

The stranger continued with “Go Trump!” I was taken aback, mostly because I did not know this person whatsoever, but also because this (presumably fellow student) was a young adult woman. She continued walking, but still looked back at me. All I said back was “That was unnecessary,” because, well, it really was unnecessary. She said, “No, it’s not, I’m expressing my opinion.” She continued to make her way out of the parking garage.

First, I want to state that there is a vast difference between expressing one’s opinion and verbally harassing a stranger. This type of situation was and would be unnecessary (and overall kind of rude) regardless of when it occurred, where it occurred, and the types of political views and opinions of the people involved. Second of all, what would have this person done if I just didn’t so happen to be arriving at my car as she was departing hers? Would she have rolled her eyes, cursed under her breath and moved on? Did verbally harassing me (a STRANGER) benefit her in any way?

(Side note: No, I was not “asking for it” by having these bumper stickers on my car. An individual typically isn’t ever “asking for it” when it comes to any type of harassment.)

What I truly do not understand about those who support the man who (unfortunately) is becoming our next president is that they continue to relentlessly defend him, typically in unprompted situations – when, in reality, he hasn’t benefitted them specifically or for the country in general. Because of these bumper stickers, I’ve gotten flipped off, given a thumbs-down, tailgated, laughed at, and now harassed. Because of bumper stickers. BUMPER STICKERS.

I’m not sure where to go from here or what the future after tomorrow will bring. I do know, at least, that I am gratified to be able to identify the absurdity of ignorant occurrences such as this one.

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