An Inside Look: Bodybuilding And Body Dysmorphia

An Inside Look: Bodybuilding And Body Dysmorphia

The dark side of physique competition prep.
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There's not much regarding competitive bodybuilding that isn't extreme. You spend 12-20 weeks dieting to ridiculously low body-fat levels, seclude yourself from tempting social outings, and spend hours in the gym analyzing your every move. Every week, you send progress pictures to your coach for them to assess whether you keep going, or you modify your plan moving forward. As athletes who compete in a sport solely based around our outward appearance, we can't help but have our own thoughts and opinions on our physique as we progress closer to a contest. Sometimes these thoughts are positive, but usually they're more detrimental and negative than anything.

When you're preparing for a bodybuilding contest, you pick yourself apart. You find every flaw in your appearance and notice things that only a trained eye could ever pick up. You're not big enough. You're not lean enough. Your legs won't lean out. You're holding water. You're not vascular enough. You're too vascular. The idea of being "ready" for a show is ingrained so deeply in your mind and you're consistently aspiring to get closer and closer to the Holy Grail of "ready" as each day passes. You do everything in your power to reach it. Even when you've nailed your diet and training every day for weeks on end, you're still going to wish you had more this and less that. Even when your body fat is at it's lowest, you'll still think you need to be tighter and more conditioned. Even when you've spent years molding and crafting your physique, you'll still think it's never enough.

Your vision is skewed and you view yourself through tinted glass. Your self-assessment isn't trustworthy and your perspective is off. Clarity is blurred by a standard that keeps moving higher and higher. Every day is a struggle to love your body. You stop appreciating what it does for you (things like keeping you alive, pushing you through grueling sessions, and every day life) and start obsessing over what it looks like. You suffer from body dysmorphia.

But any seasoned athlete knows all too well you don't even realize you suffer from body dysmorphia until afterwards. The show day "high" wears off, the spray tan fades, and you put on a healthy amount of body fat. It's not until you enter a more normal and sustainable way of living (AKA off-season) that you really see how off your mind was all along.

Eventually, you feel an itch to pull yourself out of your off-season and jump into another dieting phase to prepare for a show. You love the grind of prep. You love the commitment, energy, and effort it requires. You find yourself reminiscing and looking back through your Camera Roll at old check-in photos and posing footage from your last prep. And then in your head you're thinking, "Holy wow, I looked so good. I was so conditioned. I was so ready. How was I ever unhappy with this package? How could I ever find the justification to cry over how 'awful' I looked in these photos?" You sit there in awe of how you could have ever doubted yourself.

Body dysmorphia is real and it's common--don't ever think you're the only person experiencing it. Find comfort in knowing that every time you compete and transition into an off-season, you become more aware of your bias. You hold a better perspective each time you push through the preparations for your next contest.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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To All The Nurses In The Making

We tell ourselves that one day it'll all pay off, but will it actually?
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I bet you’re taking a break from studying right now just to read this, aren’t you? Either at the library with friends or in your dorm room. Wherever you may be, you never get the chance to put your books down, at least that’s how it feels to most of us. It sucks feeling like you’ve chosen the hardest major in the world, especially when you see other students barely spending any time studying or doing school work. The exclamation “You’re still here!” is an all too frequent expression from fellow students after recognizing that you’ve spent 10-plus hours in the library. At first it didn’t seem so bad and you told yourself, “This isn’t so difficult, I can handle it,” but fast-forward a few months and you’re questioning if this is really what you want to do with your life.

You can’t keep track of the amount of mental breakdowns you’ve had, how much coffee you’ve consumed, or how many times you’ve called your mom to tell her that you’re dropping out. Nursing is no joke. Half the time it makes you want to go back and change your major, and the other half reminds you why you want to do this, and that is what gets you through it. The thing about being a nursing major is that despite all the difficult exams, labs and overwhelming hours of studying you do, you know that someday you might be the reason someone lives, and you can’t give up on that purpose. We all have our own reasons why we chose nursing -- everyone in your family is a nurse, it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, you’re good at it, or like me, you want to give back to what was given to you. Regardless of what your reasoning is, we all take the same classes, deal with the same professors, and we all have our moments.

I’ve found that groups of students in the same nursing program are like a big family who are unconditionally supportive of each other and offer advice when it’s needed the most. We think that every other college student around us has it so easy, but we know that is not necessarily true. Every major can prove difficult; we’re just a little harder on ourselves. Whenever you feel overwhelmed with your school work and you want to give up, give yourself a minute to imagine where you’ll be in five years -- somewhere in a hospital, taking vitals, and explaining to a patient that everything will be OK. Everything will be worth what we are going through to get to that exact moment.

Remember that the stress and worry about not getting at least a B+ on your anatomy exam is just a small blip of time in our journey; the hours and dedication suck, and it’s those moments that weed us out. Even our advisors tell us that it’s not easy, and they remind us to come up with a back-up plan. Well, I say that if you truly want to be a nurse one day, you must put in your dedication and hard work, study your ass off, stay organized, and you WILL become the nurse you’ve always wanted to be. Don’t let someone discourage you when they relent about how hard nursing is. Take it as motivation to show them that yeah, it is hard, but you know what, I made it through.

With everything you do, give 110 percent and never give up on yourself. If nursing is something that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life, stick with it and remember the lives you will be impacting someday.

SEE ALSO: Why Nursing School Is Different Than Any Other Major

Cover Image Credit: Kaylee O'Neal

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5 Reasons Not To Vaccinate Your Child

Because natural immunity is so much better.

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There isn't any.

I understand that some parents don't vaccinate their children for various reasons pertaining to their child's safety. "Vaccines cause autism. Vaccines have all sorts of random chemicals in them. If your child is going to be vaccinated why will my child be a risk to yours?"

I've heard it all, and all of these statements have continued to live on by a complete lack of knowledge by the public. Here some common myths surrounding vaccines, and why they hold no actual merit:

1. “Vaccines cause autism.”

This is the most overused excuse not to vaccinate, and frankly, it's the one that makes me the most upset. Not only is it completely false, but it is the most horrible excuse to be used.

Even if this was the case (which it's not), would you actually rather have a child contract a horrible disease and possibly die than have a child with autism? I can't wrap my head around this, I just can't. The fact that so many parents would rather put their child's life at risk because they don't want an autistic child is just ludicrous to me. Even if vaccines DID cause autism (again, they don't), a child alive and healthy with autism is far better than a child with a debilitating disease, or worse, dead.

But vaccines don't cause autism. I can't believe this still has to be argued after various studies have proved this statement wrong. Don't believe me? The American Academy of Pediatrics compiled an entire list of studies proving that vaccines do not cause autism.

And the study that first caused this myth by claiming to find a connection between vaccines and autism? Yeah, the scientists in that study were found to have manipulated data and the entire study was retracted by the scientific journal it was published in.

2. “Vaccines contain all sorts of dangerous chemicals.”

This one has stuck around just because of a complete lack of chemistry knowledge. Vaccines are mostly water along with antigens, although they do contain other chemicals in them to help increase their effectiveness.

Some are worried about mercury in vaccines. Some vaccines used to contain thimerosal which breaks down into ethylmercury, which doesn't accumulate in the body and is different from methylmercury which is a toxin. But thimerosal has been removed from all infant vaccines since 2001.

Formaldehyde seems to be another worrisome topic. Higher rates of formaldehyde are produced by our own metabolic systems than are found in vaccines. The levels found in vaccines are so low that they pose no risk to us.

Another is aluminum. We take in about 30-50mg of aluminum today through food or water. Vaccines typically contain about 0.125-0.625mg per dose (about 1% of what our daily intake is).

Yes, of course these can be toxic to us. But it all depends on how much is put into our body. High amounts of these can be toxic to us, but are not in small doses. It's much like carbon dioxide, it's is always present in our atmosphere but at safe levels. Of course if we breathe in too much carbon dioxide, we could get carbon dioxide poisoning. It's all about how much we ingest.

3. “If your child is vaccinated then why does it matter if mine is or not.”

This one is pretty simple, not everyone is eligible. For example, infants don't get their measles vaccine until around 12 months. Vaccines also work better one some people than others, and vaccine protection can decrease over time, a thing called "waning immunity." Some are also allergic to certain vaccinations, and therefore cannot get them.

In all of these cases, by not vaccinating your child you are putting others at risk who don't have the benefit of being vaccinated against dangerous diseases. "Herd immunity" is what keeps dangerous diseases from plaguing our society. If the large part of society that are able to get vaccines do get them, they protect those that aren't able to get vaccinated. If enough people are immune, the disease will not be able to take hold and spread throughout a community.

4. “All these bad diseases have already been eradicated, so what’s the risk?”

While this was once true, unfortunately, it no longer is. Measles, mumps, whooping cough, and chickenpox are all examples of deadly diseases once thought to be eradicated or almost eradicated that are making a comeback today.

And guess what? All of these can be prevented by, you guessed it, vaccinations.

While some of these diseases may not be a serious threat in our country, yet, travel abroad is increasing drastically. If these diseases are common in these other countries that we travel to someone who is not vaccinated could contract the disease, and then bring it back here and potentially cause an outbreak.

5. “I’d rather my child just get natural immunity to these diseases.”

This is just an unsafe route to take. Sure, sometimes catching the disease will create a stronger immunity than vaccines. But this is all circumstantial and not guaranteed.

A couple examples include measles and chickenpox. If someone contracts measles they have a 1 in 500 chance of dying. With chickenpox, 1 in 1,000 children who contract this disease will develop severe pneumonia or a brain infection. Some also develop group A streptococcus (also known as flesh-eating bacteria).

This is a high-risk approach to diseases. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention compares this to wearing a seatbelt while in the car: "But you don't wear a seatbelt because you expect to be in a serious accident; you wear it because you want to be protected in the unlikely event that you are. If you're never in an accident, the benefit of wearing a seatbelt might be zero. But if you are, the consequences of not wearing it can be very high.It's the same with vaccines. Your child might never need the protection they offer, but you don't want him to be lacking that protection if he ever does need it."

Don't try and come at me with some bullshit excuse next time you tell me you aren't going to vaccinate your child. I've done my research, I know that the pros far outweigh the cons. I'm not going to change my mind on this. I think not vaccinating your child is irresponsible and are doing nothing but causing future issues for your child and others.

Do yourself, your child, and society a favor. Vaccinate your children.

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