Considering a Plant-Based Diet? Here are Some Tips!

By: PHE Maddie Oxford

Whether it’s keeping a New Year’s resolution, losing a bet to a friend, or in response to watching a Food, Inc.-esque documentary, many people decide to try to give up meat at some point in their lives. As a life-long vegetarian myself, I cannot relate to how hard it may be to give up some delicacies, such as bacon, but I can offer a few tips for and reasons why cutting back on meat in your diet can be beneficial to your health!

  1. Following a Plant-Based Diet Can Lower Your Risk for Some Diseases

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Research indicates that the risk of heart disease and cardiac events is lower in vegetarians since they tend to consume less saturated fat and cholesterol. Additionally, multiple studies have shown that vegetarians are half as likely to develop Type II diabetes as non-vegetarians are. Some nutrients are harder to obtain, including omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and vitamin B12, but multivitamins and enriched food, such as eggs and milk, can act as supplements. Studies have found that, especially when following an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet, one where dairy and eggs are still consumed, these nutrients were not found to be lacking from vegetarians’ diets.1

The key component of vegetarian nutrition is appropriate planning, which allows vegetarians to make sure they are eating enough essential vitamins and protein. There are many free, online resources, such as SparkPeople, that can be used to track macronutrient and vitamin consumption to help stay on track with your needs. Even when eating meat, it is important to reflect on if you are following a balanced diet. A great way to check is by scheduling a meeting with a Registered Dietitian or a Peer Health Educator for free through Elson Student Health (434-924-1509) or online at https://www.healthyhoos.virginia.edu to make sure you are eating all the necessary food groups you need!

  1. You Won’t Even Have to Give Up Your Favorite Restaurants on the Corner

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More and more restaurants are offering vegetarian-friendly options. For example, there is no need to give up your favorite Roots bowl, when you can simply substitute chicken for one of their three vegetarian protein options – mushrooms, BBQ tofu, and miso tofu.

  1. Double Deal: Save Money and Be Environmentally Friendly

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You can save a lot of money grocery shopping by buying vegetarian protein sources, including tofu, tempeh, and beans, instead of more expensive meat. Additionally, it can take up to 20,000 gallons of water to prepare two pounds of meat, whereas it takes less than 300 gallons to produce the same amount of wheat or other plant food source, so making some changes in your diet can have a huge impact on the environment!2

Additionally, you don’t have to give up meat entirely to still reap some of these benefits. Finding alternatives, even one day a week (Meatless Mondays!), can save you money, be eco-friendly, and expand your palette and nutrient intake! Before making a significant change to your diet, it is important to talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian about your needs.

 

Works Cited

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/becoming-a-vegetarian
  2. https://www.downtoearth.org/go-veggie/environment/top-10-reasons

Confronting the Culture of Competition

By: PHE Jordan Hall

We’ve all heard the same conversation: two peers talking back and forth about how late they were in Club Clem last night and how little sleep they got because of how many things they are involved in.  While this high-achieving, competitive mindset is something that got us all to UVA in the first place, it is, unfortunately, something that can negatively impact our mental and physical health.

Getting into UVA is not an easy task, so when we get here it is incredibly easy to be wrapped up in trying to be “the best.” Whether that is by having an outstanding GPA, being involved in numerous prestigious organizations, or partaking in competitive work experiences outside of classes, many students begin to sacrifice things like sleep, nutrition, and social interaction for the sake of their to-do list.  So, you might be wondering what you as one student can do to change this culture of competition into one that fosters embracing imperfections and valuing personal health and happiness over achievement….well look no further!

  1. Schedule time in your day to do something for you.

Putting time into your daily schedule, even if it’s just for 30 minutes or an hour, to do something that makes you happy can help you remember your own personal values and avoid burn-out.  Go for a walk, watch your favorite TV show, or catch up with a friend over lunch; literally, anything that isn’t academic or extracurricular based! And honestly, doing this may even help your productivity in things like studying since you’re giving your brain a break too.

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Image source: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/726927166/2018-unbound-planner

  1. Avoid comparing grades/GPA.

Following a big exam, it is so common for us to ask our classmates “What did you get?” Not only might this make some people uncomfortable, but it also might put you in a bad mindset if you did not perform as well as someone else. After an exam, instead, ask yourself “Did I try my very best?” If the answer is yes, then great! You should be proud of that fact alone.  If the answer is no, then you now know how better to approach your next exam.

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Image source: https://www.lovethesat.com/unweighted-vs-weighted-gpa-whats-the-difference

  1. Be vulnerable and embrace failure.

This is a tough one.  Being UVA students, we probably aren’t used to doing poorly all that often. But, this is college, so it’s going to happen sooner or later.  After receiving a bad grade on an exam or not getting an interview for that organization you applied for, instead of thinking “What is wrong with me?” take 5-10 minutes to make a list of all of the helpful things you did in preparing for that task and what things you would change.  Being resilient is not an easy feat, but intentionally combatting our inner monologue when we get a bad result with ways of learning from that failure can go a long way in taking care of our mental health.  If you’re comfortable, maybe even share those failures with a friend! The phrase “iron sharpens iron” is so applicable here.  If you aren’t particularly strong in one subject but a friend of yours is, reach out to them and ask for help.  In return, you can lend one of your strengths to help them and then everyone wins!

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Image source: http://selfninja.com/5-benefits-embrace-failure/

  1. Know that you are not alone.

Everyone here, whether you know it or not, feels defeated.  Failure is a part of life, but there’s no doubt that it isn’t always easy to be resilient.  In these moments, reach out to your support system, whether that be a group of close friends or a professor you trust. Also, it is important to remember that academics are not everything. Getting out and enjoying Charlottesville helps to provide an escape from academic stress, and we are also fortunate to have an abundance of resources at UVA to help us through challenging times. Check out the links below for some great opportunities and resources that may help when you’re feeling bogged down by school!

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Image source: http://healthyburnett.org/hm-youre-not-alone

With these tips and resources in mind, remember that no matter your GPA and no matter your extracurricular involvement you belong at UVA, you are special, and you matter.

Mindful Munching

Have you ever eaten something so delicious that you miss it once it is gone? Or maybe eaten too quickly it’s uncomfortable? This probably happens more often to all of us then we might want to admit. Whether it’s a sandwich from home or a meal in West Range, in UVA’s high-speed busy-bee culture, spending time doing club activities or in the libraries, eating and taking time to enjoy a meal can a rare treat. Meals seem to be only a necessary pause in the daily grind, and never occupy their own moment in time and space. However, mealtimes could become a chance to practice mindfulness and so one step closer to relieving stress.

What is mindfulness, you might ask?

Well, for starters, UVA has an entire Mindfulness Center, full of resources and event information. The website can be found here:

https://med.virginia.edu/mindfulness-center/

Along with some frequently asked questions about mindfulness as stress reduction:

https://med.virginia.edu/mindfulness-center/continue-your-practice/mindfulness-based-stress-reduction/

Although those links are great resources, mindfulness can be explained very simply: taking a moment to be present IN the moment. An easy way for you to practice mindfulness wherever you are is to just stop and breathe and look around you; to actually take the time to process what is happening at a certain point in life. There will always be things present in your past and worrisome things in the future, but the only thing that you can be in is the present.

How does this apply to food?

Eating mindfully is one small example of how you can practice mindfulness in your day  to day life as a UVA student. Everyone has a different schedule but even if it is impossible to spend extra time every day doing yoga or meditation, you can practice mindfulness in small but powerful ways throughout your schedule. Perhaps when you feel overwhelmed in Alderman, and decide to eat a snack or a meal, you spend your time eating each bite with your mind focused on the taste of the food, instead of all of the assignments you have yet to complete.

Spending just five or ten minutes practicing mindfulness while you eat allows you to give your mind a break, and focus on the now. You may even find you eat less snacks because you give your body more time to process and alert you that your stomach is full.

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Some resources you might find useful can be found at:

https://thecenterformindfuleating.org/StartMindfulEating which has recordings to listen to and follow while you eat, and even has a guide in Spanish,

Or these steps from Harvard Health:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/8-steps-to-mindful-eating

The goal of mindful eating is to make food an experience, not a chore, as well as to give your brain a small rest. However, it could be a very easy way to introduce mindfulness into other parts of your life, maybe as you walk to class or even during a lecture. By practicing mindfulness multiple times a day, you can hope to reduce your stress levels.

 

Mindfully Using Your Phone

By PHE Grace Styklunas, Tristen Slamowitz, and Sarah Macris

Do you ever feel addicted to your phone?

Whether you are a millennial, child, adult, or elder, you are probably aware of the advent of the new technology of the last decade. It has been about ten years since the first iPhone was released, and now it is common in US cities to see every single person looking down at their iPhone as they walk around. We students rarely go anywhere without our phones and are dependent on them for functions as varied as GPS and texting. Because we are growing up with phones now attached to our hands, they are a part of us and we must learn to have a healthy relationship with them. All of the things that we are now able to do with our phone, in addition to all of the non-essential games and social media, make the phone extremely addicting for some. Many people experience intense anxiety when unable to send or receive a text message or not have their phone at all (Gutiérrez et. al 2016). For example, when Grace’s phone got stolen in Guatemala (without ability to buy a new one) she had a panic attack and for a moment thought she’d need to go home! Of course, in the end, she was fine.

My friends and I decided to see how we fell on this spectrum. We tracked our phone usage for a week using the app “Moment.” (You can try this too!) On average, individually we spent 2 hours and 3 minutes on our phones every day, which amounted to an average 17.7% of our entire day spent looking at the screen! Many of the days that most of the time that we spent on our phones was during the week, meaning that we must have been on our phone during homework, our jobs, or during class. How do we solve this? Mindfulness can be applied to technology use in order to minimize the negative effects associated with excessive use and maximize the benefits to wellbeing.

Let’s look at the difference between active and passive use of technology. Passive usage will involve scrolling through Facebook news feeds or looking at other users’ profiles, pictures and statuses, reading tweets, or looking at Instagram pictures. (Catching yourself scrolling mindlessly while you should be studying!) Some studies have demonstrated that the more passively you use technology, the more you might experience envy, FOMO, or decreased wellbeing (Krasnova et al., 2013). Active usage, however, means engaging with technology in a way that is meaningful and purposeful.

Mindfulness can be used to mediate all of these issues and help you switch to more active usage of technology.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is defined as the ability to attend to ones moment-to-moment experiences through an inherent state of consciousness. Although much of our lives are spent on autopilot, mindfulness promotes “attending to experience itself, as it is presented in the here and now” (Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman, 2006). In the article Mechanisms of Mindfulness, Shapiro and associates state that when one “pays attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Mindfulness can be cultivated through various meditation techniques and “through physical movements and martial arts traditions such as yoga and tai chi” (Kachan et al., 2017). This nonjudgmental awareness of experiences, thoughts, emotions, and sensations in the present moment, has been shown in several studies to have beneficial effects on dealing with stress, reducing anxiety, and increasing brain efficiency and attention. If you are having a hard time paying attention in class, if you keep checking your phone, increasing mindfulness practice such as meditation or yoga may help with this! Mindfulness has been shown to increase people’s abilities to use their phone more actively, as we described above, and will help you not get burnt out emotionally from being on social media all day. You will use your phone less, and you will not get the emotional strain when you do use it.

How does one implement a more mindful use of technology?

You probably won’t stop using your phone, so learning to have a better relationship with it is essential. You can begin by assessing your relationship with technology. Ask yourself, “Do I use technology to cover up my loneliness?” or “in what ways does my relationship to technology distract or stress me out?” There are various informal practices that you can incorporate as you utilize technology:

  • First: notice when you’re reaching for your phone!
  • Pay attention to how you’re feeling when you start using technology.
  • Utilize phone notifications as mindfulness bells, or sounds that remind you take a mindful breath and re-engage with the present moment (O’Brien, 2013).
  • Not multitasking while on the computer; focusing on the present activity and developing increased focus rather than switching to a new tab while something loads.
  • Incorporating mindful pauses into your technology usage. This may mean deleting Instagram completely for an hour to days at a time, or turning phone off when necessary.
  • Turning notifications off on unnecessary apps and message chains.

The Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, compared technology to a horse that the user is riding:

            When someone walks up and says to the rider, ‘Where are you going?’ The rider looks at the person and replies, ‘I don’t know, ask the horse.’ There it is, we have lost control of  technology, it’s driving us and we are no longer driving it. (Elisha Goldstein)

One must understand that technology is a tool, neither a positive nor negative force in our lives. Like riding a horse, you must understand how to control it and harness it for a more mutually beneficial relationship. As stated earlier, the abusive and distracted use of technology can have many negative side effects and can be viewed as somewhat of an obstacle to being mindful. However, technology does not need to take this role in our lives and can be used as a mechanism by which we can practice mindfulness. “We can use technology to pay attention to our surroundings, to really look, to really listen to our everyday. And, ultimately, we can use technology to reconnect. To ourselves” (Gunatillake, 2017).

 

Works Cited

Charoensukmongkol, P. (2016). Mindful Facebooking: The moderating role of mindfulness on the relationship between social media use intensity at work and burnout. Journal of Health Psychology, 21(9), 1966–1980. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105315569096

Goldstein, E. (2014, October 3). The Horse is Technology, But the Rider is on Auto-Pilot. Retrieved April 24, 2018, from https://www.mindful.org/the-horse-is-technology-but-the-rider-is-on-auto-pilot/

Gunatillake, R. (2017). Modern Mindfulness: How to Be More Relaxed, Focused, and Kind While Living in a Fast, Digital, Always-On World. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Kachan, D., Olano, H., Tannenbaum, S. L., Annane, D. W., Mehta, A., Arheart, K. L., … Lee, D. J. (2017). Prevalence of Mindfulness Practices in the US Workforce: National Health Interview Survey. Preventing Chronic Disease, 14. https://doi.org/10.5888/pcd14.160034

Krasnova, H., Wenninger, H., Widjaja, T., & Buxmann, P. (2013). Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction?, 16.

Kraut, R., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mukopadhyay, T., & Scherlis, W. (1998). Internet paradox. A social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? The American Psychologist, 53(9), 1017–1031.

O’ Brien, M. (2013, March 13). 7 Strategies to Maintain Mindfulness In the Information Age. Retrieved April 24, 2018, from https://mrsmindfulness.com/mindfulness-technology-you-7-strategies-to-maintain-mindfulness-in-the-modern-world/

Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(3), 373–386. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.20237

Slagter, H. A., Lutz, A., Greischar, L. L., Francis, A. D., Nieuwenhuis, S., Davis, J. M., & Davidson, R. J. (2007). Mental Training Affects Distribution of Limited Brain Resources. PLOS Biology, 5(6), e138. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050138

Turel, O., & Osatuyi, B. (2017). A peer-influence perspective on compulsive social networking site use: Trait mindfulness as a double-edged sword. Computers in Human Behavior, 77, 47–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.08.022

What no one will tell you about becoming a Peer Health Educator

By Jite Igho

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1. That is what PHE stands for

I know that you have seen super cool people walking around with sweatshirts that say PHE on them.  I know that you’ve walked around grounds and seen a flyer or taken a handbill from someone about becoming a PHE.  I also know that you were too embarrassed to ask what the heck that is, or you simply forgot.  PHE stands for Peer Health Educator and you can redeem yourself right now if you take a second and brainstorm what you think it is that we do.  That’s right!  We educate our peers on health.  You’re smart.  This is why you go to UVA and not Tech.  Peer Health Educators are a diverse group of students here at UVA that are trained to (you guessed it) educate their peers on a number of topics including sexual health, alcohol and drugs, mental wellness, and nutrition.  “PHEs,” as we go by, also give presentations on such topics here on Grounds to numerous organizations as well as host office hours to meet people one-on-one.

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2. It makes you instantly cooler

Have you ever heard the saying “birds of a feather flock together” or “you are who you hang out with?”  PHEs are cool just by association.  There’s something about a sweatshirt with the letters P, H, and E on it that really sets one apart.  Also it really helps that you not only care about your own health but care about the health of your peers and promoting healthy lifestyles and ultimately a healthy culture here at UVA.  Peer Health Educators don’t impose any specific beliefs.  We just give people the information to make informed, healthy decisions and hey, that’s pretty ~cool~.

3. You actually (gasp) do stuff!!!

4y5kPHE is a time commitment.  Sorry.  If you were looking for an easy resume booster then this is not for you.  We put our knowledge where our mouth is.  PHEs are trained on a range of topics.  While we are in no way, shape, or form professionals, we do still take our role in the community very seriously.  You should know that if you are accepted there is a mandatory (fun) class that you would take during the upcoming semester.  We also meet once a week as a group (which is more like a catch up session) and individually perform outreaches and hold patient education sessions.  You can also usually catch us at most health-promoting events around Grounds.  I will say, though, that it does not take up all of your time.  Being a PHE is a time commitment that needs its attention but a lot of us are involved in a number of other activities all over Grounds!

 

4. FRIENDS

morvenPHEs are not one of those organizations on Grounds where members see each other and nod or soft smile.  I personally have screamed PHEs’ names from across the street to end up crossing to meet them and then having a 15 minute conversation when I was running late to my class that had started 10 minutes ago.  We are real life friends.  The best part about becoming a part of an organization like this is, yes, you make awesome new friends, but these friends care about your wellness and wellbeing.  There have been times when a fellow PHE has asked about how I’m doing during a rough time and I’ve not only gotten a shoulder to cry on but also some wholesome advice on what I can do to better take care of myself.

 

5. Don’t Apply

Yeah.  Do not apply if you’re not looking for something that will honestly impact your UVA experience.  PHEs take what we do seriously and we take each other seriously!  I had never heard of the kind of connection and family feel that is present between Peer Health Educators.  It’s one thing to know you’re having an impact on the community and another to get to work so closely with people that are having an impact on you.   Do not apply if you aren’t looking to step out of your comfort zone and be present in your community.  Do not apply if the idea of friends that you can be professional with and then crack sex jokes with bothers you.  Do not apply if you’re not looking to have an awesome time with awesome people.

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I applied to be a PHE on a whim.  Honestly, kind of by accident when I really think about it.  You have an opportunity to intentionally decide to change your experience and legacy here at UVA.  I wouldn’t pass it up.

Apply at tinyurl.com/peerhealtheducator by Friday, March 2 at 5pm, and check out more of what we do here!