Exercise Is About Loving Yourself, Not Punishing Yourself

Exercise Is About Loving Yourself, Not Punishing Yourself

Stop exercising out of guilt. It's not worth it.
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"Ugh, I had too many cookies. I will have to go to the gym for hours later."

"I ran three miles, so I can have this ice cream."

"I worked out a lot this week, I can eat whatever I want."

"I cheated on my diet yesterday. I have to go work it all off today."

"I would love to have some of that dessert, but I didn't work out today."

Do any of those phrases sound familiar?

If one or more does, I am so sorry. I've been there. I know how horrible the constant guilt, work-out, repeat cycle truly is.

Exercise mindsets centered around food and dieting and working off what was eaten are unhealthy. They are dangerous and cyclic and a recipe for disaster.

But they are also the norm. They are promoted by society and normalized by peers.

You can find references to "magic" workouts on magazines. Exercise fads are almost as insidious as diet trends! They are discussed almost constantly.

Seriously, I dare you to go a day without hearing (or mentioning) working out, dieting, food or guilt around something you ate.

But, would you like to know a secret?

Exercise. Is. Not. A. Punishment.

Exercise isn't something you do because you think you had one too many cookies.

It isn't something you do because you want to eat a certain way later.

It isn't something that gives you permission to "let loose."

Our society treats exercise like the end-all-be-all of what you can and cannot eat. It is the magic permission slip for dessert. It is the go-to for guilty thoughts and fixing that cheat meal.

(Oh, and those cheat meals... those are bullshit, too.)

Food is not good or bad or healthy or unhealthy. (It's all about that moderation!)

Food is not something you earn.

Food is not something you compensate for with hours on hours of time at the gym.

Let me tell you something. I used to think that food was all of the above. I logged hundreds and hundreds of miles running. I worked out all the time.

I was miserable. I had an eating disorder that constantly told me food was bad. And I punished myself with exercise.

And now, years later, in recovery from my eating disorder and months and months away from compulsive exercise, I look around me and I see the same unhealthy relationship with exercise everywhere.

I hear it in conversations I pass on the street or floating around the air in cafes. I watch it in the monotonous strain of those who attend the college gym with a pained, dead look in their eyes.

It's not healthy.

But, as I have started to add exercise back into my life, I have redefined my relationship with it.

Exercise. Is. Not. A. Punishment.

Exercise is something you do because you have lots of energy and you want to move.

Exercise is something you do to relieve stress...and not the stress that comes from feeling like you ate something you "shouldn't have." (Shouldn't have really doesn't exist, unless, for example, you are lactose intolerant and had a lot of ice cream...)

Exercise is something you do to appreciate all that your body is capable of achieving.

Exercise is something you do because you feel strong and powerful and fierce.

Exercise is something you do to enjoy the outdoors and the fresh air.

Exercise is something you do only when you can enjoy it.

Exercise is something you do because you enjoy it.

Let me say it again... Exercise. Is. Not. Punishment.

Trust me, I have used it as one. The other, enjoyable, self-fulfilling, side of the exercise spectrum is a lot more fun.

Cover Image Credit: Lexi Ann

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Yes, I Had A Stroke And I'm Only 20

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
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Recently, I read an article on Cosmo that was written by a woman that had a stroke at the ripe old age of 23. For those of you who don't know, that really doesn't happen. Young people don't have strokes. Some do, but it's so incredibly uncommon that it rarely crosses most people's minds. Her piece was really moving, and I related a lot -- because I had a stroke at 20.

It started as a simple headache. I didn't think much of it because I get headaches pretty often. At the time, I worked for my parents, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd be late to work because of the pain. I had never experienced a headache like that, but I figured it still wasn't something to worry about. I went about my normal routine, and it steadily got worse. It got to the point that I literally threw up from the pain. My mom told me to take some Tylenol, but I couldn't get to our kitchen. I figured that since I was already in the bathroom, I would just take a shower and hope that the hot steam would relax my muscles, and get rid of my headache. So I turned the water on in the shower, and I waited for it to get hot.

At this point, I was sweating. I've never been that warm in my life. My head was still killing me. I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, trying to at least cope with the pain. Finally, I decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I picked up my phone to call 911, but I couldn't see the screen. I couldn't read anything. I laid down on the floor and tried to swipe from the lock screen to the emergency call screen, but I couldn't even manage that. My fine motor skills were completely gone. My fingers wouldn't cooperate, even though I knew what buttons needed to be pressed. Instead of swiping to the emergency call screen, I threw my phone across the room. "Okay," I thought, "Large muscle groups are working. Small ones are not".

I tried getting up. That also wasn't happening. I was so unstable that I couldn't stay standing. I tried turning off the running water of the shower, but couldn't move the faucet. Eventually, I gave up on trying to move anywhere. "At what point do I just give up and lie on the floor until someone finds me?" That was the point. I ended up lying on the floor for two hours until my dad came home and found me.

During that two hours, I couldn't hear. My ears were roaring, not even ringing. I tried to yell, but I couldn't form a sentence. I was simply stuck, and couldn't do anything about it. I still had no idea what was going on.

When the ambulance finally got there, they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back. "Are you afraid of needles or anything?" asked one EMT. "Terrified," I responded, and she started an IV without hesitation. To this day, I don't know if that word actually came out of my mouth, but I'm so glad she started the IV. She started pumping pain medicine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything.

We got to the hospital, and the doctors there were going to treat me for a migraine and send me on my merry way. This was obviously not a migraine. When I could finally speak again, they kept asking if I was prone to migraines. "I've never had a migraine in my whole life," I would say. "Do you do any drugs?" they would ask. "No," I repeated over and over. At this point, I was fading in and out of consciousness, probably from the pain or the pain medicine.

At one point, I heard the doctors say that they couldn't handle whatever was wrong with me at our local hospital and that I would need to be flown somewhere. They decided on University of Maryland in Baltimore. My parents asked if I wanted them to wait with me or start driving, so I had them leave.

The helicopter arrived soon after, and I was loaded into it. 45 minutes later, I was in Baltimore. That was the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital two weeks later. I had a drain in my head, a central port, and an IV. I honestly didn't know what had happened to me.

As it turns out, I was born with a blood vessel malformation called an AVM. Blood vessels and arteries are supposed to pass blood to one another smoothly, and mine simply weren't. I basically had a knot of blood vessels in my brain that had swelled and almost burst. There was fluid in my brain that wouldn't drain, which was why my head still hurt so bad. The doctors couldn't see through the blood and fluid to operate, so they were simply monitoring me at that point.

When they could finally see, they went in to embolize my aneurysm and try to kill the AVM. After a successful procedure, my headache was finally starting to subside. It had gone from a 10 on the pain scale (which I don't remember), to a 6 (which was when I had started to be conscious), and then down to a 2.

I went to rehab after I was discharged from the hospital, I went to rehab. There, I learned simple things like how to walk and balance, and we tested my fine motor skills to make sure that I could still play the flute. Rehab was both physically and emotionally difficult. I was constantly exhausted.

I still have a few lingering issues from the whole ordeal. I have a tremor in one hand, and I'm mostly deaf in one ear. I still get headaches sometimes, but that's just my brain getting used to regular blood flow. I sleep a lot and slur my words as I get tired. While I still have a few deficits, I'm lucky to even be alive.

Cover Image Credit: Neve McClymont

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College Girls, You NEED To Know These 8 Tips To Stay Safe From Human Trafficking

It could save your life.

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There are more human slaves today than ever before in history. Most people are unaware of how serious this issue is getting.

Many businesses are involved in human trafficking; there could be one right down the road from your house, school or college campus and you are not aware.

College girls are the main target for human traffickers. Not to scare you, but there could be one right down the road from your campus. It's important for you to be aware and stay safe.

1. Don't go anywhere that you are uncertain of.

There is a small business in my college town that is involved in human trafficking and I just found this out last week. If I didn't find out, then there is a possibility that I would have gone there in search of something to do.

2. Never go anywhere alone; always have a walking buddy.

Being a college student, I know how scary it can be walking to class or anywhere else in the dark. You constantly look behind you to see if anyone is following you; you have your mace in one hand and your phone in the other, ready to go. It is always a good thing to have a walking buddy just in case something does happen. It is less likely for something to happen when you are with someone than if you were alone.

3. Be careful with what you post on social media.

Human traffickers have been finding girls by looking at social media. Never post personal information or your whereabouts.

4. If someone throws eggs at your car while driving, don't stop

Human traffickers have been sitting on the side of the road waiting for cars to go by. When they do, they throw eggs at your windshield so that you'll stop your car and get out to look. If you try to use your windshield wipers to get rid of the egg, it will just spread over your windshield making it very hard to see so don't do it! If you pull over or get out of your car, they will jump you and try to take you away.

5. If you find a white bag on your car, don't take it off. Just drive away.

Human traffickers have been sitting in parking lots or along the streets waiting for people to come out to see a bag on their car. People are curious, so their first instinct is to take the bag off to look inside. When you do this, the traffickers will quickly grab you and you won't have a chance to get away. So do yourself a favor and just get into your car and drive away.

6. If you get a text saying someone complimented you, don't reply.

Human traffickers use this technique to get your location without you knowing. Once you click on the links or reply to the message it gives them the opportunity to hack your phone so that they can track it. They will find your location and follow you until they get the chance to jump you. It is in your best interest to just delete the text message.

7. Red slips on your windshield? Ignore it.

Human traffickers use this technique the same way they use the bag technique. They have been placing these red slips on windshields of cars so that you will get out and inspect it. Once you inspect it, they will come and snatch you up. Just ignore it and drive away.

8. Be aware of your surroundings.

When you leave your house, college dorm, store, etc. be aware of who and what is around you. There have been reports of women being followed in Walmart with their kids. There are multiple men following these women everywhere they go in the store. When they check out, there are men around and behind them in the line, also in the next line over. Be careful and make the manager or any of the staff know what is going on.

Report any of these findings to the police right away. Human trafficking needs to stop. Please keep yourself, friends and family safe.

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