home
RSS
April 22nd, 2009
06:53 PM ET

All for a sash and a crown

By Jessica Silvaggio
CNN Medical Intern

When I was a freshman at the University of South Carolina, I became a peer health educator. The health topics we promoted on campus included body image and eating disorders. This hit home for me.

Since I was 13 I have been competing in beauty pageants. One pageant director told me I would never win if I didn’t lose 20 pounds. I obsessed about my weight, cut my 1,200-calorie diet in half, and worked out twice a day. All of this just to be the girl who walked down the runway, waving, with the bouquet in my arms and the crown on my head. When I came to college I compared myself with other girls on campus, continued to count calories and wore oversized clothes to hide what I thought was a heavy body, which, in fact, was far from true. I just didn’t like the way I looked.

According to the University of California Davis, approximately 15 percent of college women and a rising number of men suffer from eating disorders. A distorted body image and dieting can contribute to eating disorders. Two ruling passions in my life were too little food and too much exercise. This had to stop.  Surely there was a way to build confidence and feel good about my body. I had to strive to value myself for other strengths such as intelligence, my outgoing personality and dancing abilities.

While training as a peer health educator, I learned to cope with my unattainable pursuit of perfection. I realized I had to learn to praise myself and have a positive attitude to boost my self-esteem. Exercise was good for me but not for weight loss – instead to reduce stress, promote strength, balance, and flexibility. I learned that eating well-balanced meals was healthier than cutting calories. And support from friends and family members was vital.

After seeking counseling on campus and realizing that God had blessed me with a healthy body, I was able to educate my peers on an issue that was personal. I have overcome my body image battle. Through the process, I learned that I have to be comfortable in my own genes or should I say jeans?

Do you have an issue with your body image? We’d like to hear about it.

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


March 30th, 2009
11:33 AM ET

Cycling my way into that new bikini

By Jessica Silvaggio
CNN Medical News intern

Just the other day I was looking through the Victoria’s Secret’s swimsuit section and I was reminded that summer is not far way. But luckily I have been taking advantage of fitness classes over the past few months, not only to feel better about my body image but also for my overall health and well being.

Among the treadmills, ellipticals and rowing machines, my favorite is the cycling class. I feel like Lance Armstrong racing to win the Tour de France except I’m competing against saddle bags, hypertension and diabetes risk.

The health benefits of group exercise classes, especially cycling, are numerous. Staying active minimizes the risk of coronary disease and ensures your blood pressure is under control. It helps to prevent the clutch of health problems that include strokes, diabetes and cancer. I may be young, but sometimes I feel like I don’t have the energy to carry out simple day-to-day activities. Studies show that cycling helps a great deal in building stamina.

But wait there’s more good news. Cycling is one of the most effective ways to burn those extra calories while getting rid of the tummy flab and thunder thighs. Dr. Arthur Frank, a weight-management physician from George Washington University Hospital, says not all activity is the same. In order for exercise to help you lose weight, you have to burn an awful lot of calories. On the average, a 45-minute cycling workout burns up to 600 calories. That’s a lot, but how many times a week should I be cycling in order to look nice in that new beautiful red bikini? The 2008 Health and Human Services guidelines recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, three times a week.

With those stats, I now think twice about hitting the snooze button and skipping my morning cycling class. I may not like to sacrifice sleeping in, but by not exercising, I know that I am sacrificing much more. So I’m up and out. Summer is just right around the corner. While my housemates are fast asleep I’m dripping sweat, and spinning my way to a healthy heart, mind, body and soul.

What are you doing to get in shape for the summer? We’d like to know.

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


March 18th, 2009
11:33 AM ET

Healthy eating on a student budget

By Jessica Silvaggio
CNN Medical Intern

Like most college students, I'm on a tight budget, which means my eating habits sometimes suffer. Nutritionists aren't kidding when they say young people can pack on a few pounds when they go off to school. I did it. Eating out and nibbling on junk food affected my health as well as my bank account. Those quick stops at convenience stores to pick up a candy bar or swing through the fast food drive-thru to satisfy my hunger, didn't help my waistline.

Luckily I became a campus peer health educator in my freshman year and found a healthy alternative that would leave me feeling energized and better about myself. I learned to plan ahead. I began to make a grocery list and avoid the greasy spoons. And that's good. Dietitians say people who plan ahead and cook at home often find they eat more nutritious meals with more fruits and vegetables.

I also found that grocery shopping has saved me hundreds of dollars over the past year. Not only do the store chains provide those great money saving cards, but I found myself eating out less and having dinner at home with my housemates. Now we cook healthier meals filled with eggs, fish, turkey, even whole grains. On the weekends, I enjoy cooking meats and pasta that usually lasts the whole week. It is simple and easy. I come home and pop my chicken or fish in the microwave. While that's heating up, I cut up veggies and toss a piece of bread in the toaster. My dinner is ready in less than five or 10 minutes, the same amount of time it would've taken to get dinner if I ate out.

What happens between classes? One of the worst feelings is sitting in lecture hall while the professor is babbling on and on, and feeling my stomach growl so loudly that it seems like the 374 other students in the classroom can hear it. So I pack healthy snacks to munch on while walking to the next class. I love assorted nuts, fruit, peanut butter, low-fat cottage cheese, sugar-free pudding or Jell-O, and even fresh veggies like carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group for nutrition, health, and food safety, suggests looking for whole grain granola bars that are low in fat and sugars to help ward off hunger. If you choose carefully, you can even find satisfying snack bars that aren't loaded with sugar. And it's good for my study habits. Even the American Dietetic Association says eating small meals throughout the day helps keep you alert.

Before I started cooking at home, I would jump in my car and make a quick dash to the local pizza place or sub shop.. Now eating out is a treat for me. And I've got hundreds of dollars in my pocket to spend on more important things...like shoes!!!!!

Are you a college student having a tough time with your eating habits? What do you do to stay healthy and save money? We want to know.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

Advertisement
Advertisement