Monday, April 14

A Boost of Confidence: Exercising the Body and Mind

It is that time again. I have navigated the blogosphere and discovered two posts that were both informative and enlightening. I think it is generally true that all individuals could benefit from a boost of confidence. There are so many ways in which one can acquire that boost, the simplest of which is just a little bit of exercise. A variety of complications make things like volunteering at an organization a rather daunting process, but Anne Mahlum has managed to combine both of these methods rather effortlessly. In "Self-Empowerment Through Running," Dr. John Grohol, of PsychCentral, talks about Ms. Mahlum's remarkable ability to combine her exercise routine and compassion for human kind. At Cognitive Daily, Dave Munger talks about self-esteem building through different forms of exercise, and whether there are any differences in how one builds it. Again, for your convenience, I have posted the comments below and have linked them to their respective websites.

“Self-Empowerment Through Running”

Dr. Grohol,
What a powerful message this post and Ms. Mahlum send to us all. I must admit, I was misguided by the title of this post and assumed it was something different altogether, but in the end, it is quite fitting. My one concern is one you bring up yourself, "The most interesting thing to me is that the running club is actually a support group in disguise. Since “support group” often has a negative connotation, people feel more comfortable joining an affinity group." I do not think it is best to front as something other than what an organization is; if what is wrong with a support group is the hidden agenda, like the Alcoholics Anonymous influencing Christianity on its members, then how does that differ from this group? It is not my intention to hamper Ms. Mahlum's efforts in helping the homeless, but your comment put my mental gears into work. Would the homeless not pursue this wonderful opportunity either way? Something that also needs to be taken into consideration is the longevity of this program. Like many other groups, novelty wears out quite quickly and interest in programs feign. What makes this program any different? What ways can we help to further this program? Thank you for this post, which was not only inspiring but informative. Sometimes things like these seem impossible to establish, but people like Ms. Mahlum show us that a little bit of effort and a lot of heart go a long way.

“Is yoga better than other exercise for boosting self-esteem?”


Thanks for the post. I picked up on a few great tips now! If I had the choice between yoga and walking, I think I'd rather do the walking seeing that the results are the same. Although, in my opinion, the results are not the same. I have taken a few yoga classes, as well as tried to stay fit with walking, and the results are nowhere near each other. Walking did manage to whip me into shape, but yoga gave me that boost of confidence, as well as a rush of endorphins, that walking never did. My results were the opposite of what you posted--I felt much more physically self-confident after yoga than I did with the walking, and much stronger after walking than with yoga because my stamina increased so much. To be fair, in both cases my self-esteem went through the roof after desirable results were achieved, and vice-versa. In response to your perception of exertion for both being equal, hands down yoga is requires much more exertion than walking, at least in my experience. It seems obvious that yoga should require a lot of exertion, even at a beginner level as it requires full body exertion, whereas walking requires only leg work, would you not agree? As you stated "It's also possible that over a longer period or more intense participation, the physical and global self-esteem measures would also rise to significance," so the true difference of effects of yoga and walking on self-esteem are yet to be established, but any boost of confidence and self-esteem is beneficial to everyone.

Monday, April 7

"Weight-ism:" The Socially Acceptable Prejudice

Age, gender, sexual orientation, race--there are a number of factors that can single out a person without regard to their true self. Although it is illegal to discriminate against any one of these factors in a work environment, one type of discrimination continues to plague society. ABC News' Lee Dye wrote an article on a study conducted for a decade, published March 28 of this year, by research scientist and trained clinical psychologist Rebecca Puhl, of Yale University, and co-author Dr. Tatiana Andreyeva. The two studied a collection of surveys on "weight-ism," the discrimination of the overweight. An update to their data collected in 1995-1996 resulted in Puhl and Andreyeva having found an unsettling trend, an "acceleration" in weight bias. From 1996 through 2006, discrimination against the overweight had not only significantly risen, but also became more prevalent than other forms of prejudice. Since then, I venture to say that the tendency to discriminate against the obese continues. Puhl and Andreyeva assert that this will continue to "add fuel to the obesity epidemic," reminding one that obesity is a disease for which the individual is not responsible. They even go as far as to say that one "really can't expect [...] to lose more than 10 percent of [...] body weight and be able to keep that off." From personal experience, I beg to differ.

Puhl's claim is backed by years of scientific research that has indubitably linked obesity to genetics. Using the argument that race, age, gender, and the like, are factors out of our control, she ventures to say that weight is no different. The belief that it is difficult to sustain weight loss over ten percent of one's body weight is backed by expert panels, like the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Puhl does not discourage people to lose weight rather to refrain from believing that obesity is a "personal responsibility" one can easily overcome through will and determination alone. Thus, those discriminated against face an even tougher battle because of the stigma and stereotyping they endure. She states that weight loss is difficult to sustain and obesity is a genetic problem, as well as the social environment that has been cultivated in American lives continues "weight-ist" progression. True, it is hard enough to lose weight without the added social pressure and criticism, but something is amiss in her argument.

Dye makes mention of a healthier lifestyle being far more expensive than living off fast food and processed goods. Puhl would agree with Dye that when one cannot say "no to just two Girl Scout cookies," it should not be left to personal responsibility. At this point I must draw the line because Puhl downplays personal responsibility. Saying that the "toxic food environment" we live in keeps obesity at bay, Puhl alludes that this environment causes a mental warfare, a battle over nutritional choices, and that this very same environment nurtures the socially acceptable act of weight discrimination. Nutritional facts are there for the individual to take responsibility by becoming aware of their consumption though. Instead of eating inexpensive snacks, like chips and soda, or a cheeseburger, why not use those finances to buy a loaf of bread, sandwich meat, and condiments to make several meals a day? Should the government interfere by posting signs at every corner to remind one of proper nutrition? Should society create a nutrition police to control every personal choice of food consumption? Legal battles have already surfaced against numerous fast food producers, most notably against McDonald's as was famously documented in the film Super Size Me. Just how much is one personally responsible for their eating habits?

I'm not excusing discrimination against the overweight as that would be hypocritical, nor am I belittling Puhl's research, but at some point the individual must take accountability for their part. Instead of litigating, and shifting the blame to exterior motives, take the initiative to not only change behavior, but also take a stand against those who make it difficult to lose weight, whether its a stranger, a bully, a relative, or a corporation. Puhl's argument supports the "victim's" learned helplessness. The correlation between bullying and criticizingexists which perpetuates a vicious cycle of depression and obesity, but to say "that obesity brings social stigmatism and stereotyping, and that can lead to depression, discrimination and binge eating, so the problem just gets worse," is dangerous. Obviously, "weight-ism" being socially acceptable is an issue, one that needs to be rectified, but to disregard personal responsibility is a danger in itself. If "weight-ism" were outlawed, it would leave far too much room to be abused. The fact of the matter is weight can be controlled, while age, race, sexual orientation (controversially) cannot.

Puhl's research also brings to light findings that women are more at risk to face discrimination at different levels. For example, women begin to experience discrimination when their BMI (body mass index) reaches 27, as opposed to men at 35; moderately obese women are likely to face discrimination three times as likely as their male counterpart; and weight is the third most prevalent type of discrimination against women, under gender and age, and the fourth most prevalent among all adults. This upsetting news leaves one to ponder that both weight and negative thoughts and actions (prejudice/bullying/discrimination) are personal responsibilities, which no one should surrender to or give up to the general consensus. Athough Puhl mentions obesity is not strictly a medical "disease," she grossly undermines personal responsibility and fails to look at the overall picture and bring in other explanations for its prevalence. It is true that external factors play a role in many cases of obesity, but personal responsibility and personal will are also determinants in controlling weight.
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