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  • Confidence, Health, Lifestyle, Sports

    My Figure Skating Journey

    On my third figure skating lesson, I broke my finger.

    It must have been a spectacular sight: my tall, fairly stable body was brought crashing to the ice by a girl not more than half my height and no less than a third of my age. It was really only a matter of time, seeing as I was older than everyone in my skill group by at least a decade. However, I had never truly felt my age until I was kneeling on the ice, finger throbbing, at eye level for the first time with my group mates and trying to comfort the crying young girl who had accidentally tripped me.

    A scenario like this had never really crossed my mind when I entered the sport.

    I decided to take lessons initially because a close friend of mine had introduced me to competitive figure skating as a spectator sport. I would watch full broadcasts of past World Championships and Grand Prix circuits while making art, doing homework, on long car trips, and whenever I had nothing in particular to do. Before I knew it, I had familiarized myself with all of the common terminologies of the sport and had a ranking list for which skaters I expected to win which medals at the 2018 Olympics. Watching the fast, dramatic, yet elegant athleticism of the top athletes reminded me of my days as a dancer in elementary school. I felt my childhood joy reigniting, and decided to give figure skating a shot. Yes, I may have under anticipated just how much time and effort would be needed before I could actually land a Lutz or perform a perfectly executed scratch-spin, but I was motivated like I never had been before and the world wasn’t about to stop me from trying.

    I asked for lessons for my seventeenth birthday.

    Even though the closest rink to me was thirty minutes away on a day with no traffic. I didn’t even own a pair of skates, yet I went to my first class that March. I was aware that I would be the oldest skater in my beginner group, as many of the female skaters my age were already in the professional bracket. However, the swarm of tiny five and six-year-old girls zooming around the ice in tutus caught me completely off guard.

    My newfound confidence dwindled.

    I was in way over my head thinking that I could ever reach the level of the awe-inspiring women I watched so religiously on Youtube. My dreams of standing on the top of a podium with a medal hanging proudly around my neck slipped into the realm of the unattainable. I doubted that I would ever even land a small bunny-hop, much less a graceful triple Salchow. It would only occur to me after I had passed the basic classes and looked back on them, that those tiny girls with all of their talent and potential, probably felt the same as I did. Suddenly I didn’t feel so different from my teammates, despite the fact that none of them could even tie their own skates yet. The throbbing in my left ring finger felt more like the first landmark on a long journey than a detour.

    It has been a year and a half since my first lesson.

    My finger has completely healed (except for a small bump in my knuckle that will probably never go away) and my coach has praised me for how fast I picked up on the technical elements of figure skating. She tells me to breathe before I take the ice for my first competition, and the gold medal I hang over my bed later that day makes me excited for what will come next.

  • Health

    Illnesses That Mimic Your Period Part III

    Illnesses That Mimic Your Period Part III

    Do you feel a burning in your throat or your chest after consuming spicy foods? The food may not have even been spicy, it could have just been extra sweet. Do fruits keep you up at night, forcing you to sit straight up or elevated in bed because the pain is too much? You may be experience Acid Reflux. Acid Reflux is a common experience for most people, but if it is haunting you day and night, then you might be part of the percentile with GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). GERD is an Acid Reflux disease that takes on a whole new meaning to heart burn.

    Although there are few symptoms with GERD to coincide with menstrual cycles, it is still something that most young girls do not consider looking into. Here are some common symptoms for Acid Reflux Disease according to the Mayo Clinic ( ):

    • Burning in your throat/chest
    • Regurgitation of food
    • Lump in throat feeling
    • Sour liquid taste in throat
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Disrupted sleep
    • Asthmatic problems


    Sometimes these symptoms can be brought on by foods that you would not think would cause them. I personally experience acid reflux when eating fruits, ginger products, and garlic. Drinking milk can subside these pains, but it is more effective to take medication or to avoid eating foods that are problematic for yourself. Bread can sometimes help with the awful taste, as well as crackers, but do not eat these if you experience gluten sensitivities (unless you have gluten free bread/crackers).

    There is another disease that does not present itself all at once but can be just as uncomfortable as going through your monthly cycle. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that is still being researched, but has a few known symptoms provided by the Mayo Clinic ( ):

    • Joint pain
    • Stiffness
    • Fever
    • Exhaustion
    • Skin rashes that can get worse with Sun exposure
    • Headaches
    • Stress
    • Dry eyes
    • Confusion
    • Shortness of breath

    These symptoms can come in waves or all at once, or you may not even have more than three of them for you to be diagnosed with Lupus. Joint pain, fever, headaches, and stress are all common ailments with your menstrual cycle but can be on a much greater scale if instead they are Lupus related. If your pain does not go away with your cycle, then it might be time to get in touch with your primary care physician and discuss other possible causes, such as autoimmune diseases.

    Here are some helpful tips from me, as someone who experiences all (but Lupus) the fore-mentioned illnesses:

    • Watch what you eat. That does not necessarily mean that you need to change your diet completely but be mindful of how much of the “trigger foods” you ingest. A “trigger food” is a food substance that causes illness related symptoms.
    • Exercise helps with IBS and your menstrual cycle. Try doing some yoga, go for a walk, or go swimming.
    • Speak with your primary care doctor about medications or natural remedies.
    • Take vitamins!
    • Drink lots of water.
    • Buy a heating pad and ice packs.
    • Try getting a massage from either a professional or from someone close to you.
  • Health

    Illnesses That Mimic Your Period Part II

    Illnesses That Mimic Your Period Part II

    The idea of a gluten free diet seems to have struck a nerve for those who believe it to be a new fad diet rather than an actual life threatening/altering disease. It is okay to not want to eat gluten if you do not want the extra pounds, but it is also okay to eat it if you do not have any sensitivities.

    Here are some symptoms of Gluten sensitivities according to Beyond Celiac web page ( ):

    • Gas or abdominal pain
    • Bloating
    • Headache (migraine)
    • Foggy memory or not being able to think clearly
    • Joint aches
    • Numbness/ tingling in appendages (fingers, legs, arms, etc.)
    • Constipation or diarrhea
    • Exhaustion

    Again, there are similarities between the symptoms for gluten sensitivities and menstruation. If you were not specifically looking to solve the symptoms listed above, you may just account them to your cycle. Try cutting bread/wheat/gluten from your diet for a week or two and see if some of your pain goes away. If you have a more serious reaction to gluten than the above list, please contact your doctor to discuss Celiac’s Disease (a gluten allergy).

    If this pain does not go away with the absence of gluten, then try taking heated baths, taking naps, getting massages (whether professional or from a friend), and possibly cutting out dairy products (the symptoms for lactose intolerance will be listed below).

    If you are experiencing headaches that are not normal for you, or are incredibly painful, you may want to research migraines.

    Migraines are a more serious and painful version of a headache. It may start off like a normal headache and progress or you may have preempting symptoms.

    According to The Mayo Clinic ( ), there are four different categories for Migraines: Prodrome,  Aura, Attack, and Post-drome.

    Here are the main symptoms to look out for in all the categories:

    • Mood changes
    • Craving different foods
    • Headache
    • Stiff neck
    • Becoming thirsty or needing to use the bathroom
    • Visual problems (seeing spots, stars, blurred vision, etc.)
    • Heightened hearing (or hearing nonexistent sounds)
    • Being sensitive to light
    • Confusion

    You do not have to have all the symptoms listed above to be experiencing a migraine, but if you are having any of them that accompany a headache or are followed by a headache, then making an appointment with a neurologist might be a good option. The mood changes, headaches, food cravings, and heightened senses could be attributed to your menstrual cycle, but when accompanied by the other symptoms or all at once, then it may be a migraine.

    Another common illness that mimics menstrual pains is Lactose intolerance. This illness may seem like an embarrassing topic for some but should not hinder you from receiving proper care for your digestive tract. It is all a part of life, and almost 75% the American population struggles from some form of Lactose sensitivity.

    Here are some common symptoms for Lactose intolerance provided by the Mayo Clinic ( ):

    • Diarrhea
    • Nausea, and sometimes, vomiting
    • Abdominal cramps
    • Bloating
    • Gas

    These symptoms are experienced after the consumption of dairy products. Try not eating anything with dairy for two weeks if you think you might be lactose intolerant. Once you have established a change in your dietary habits and you are functioning better, it is okay to resort to eating a little bit of dairy a week. There are also plenty of dairy free and gluten free recipes on the social media site Pinterest.

    If you do not feel comfortable discussing these symptoms with a parent or guardian, then school nurses and councilors are available to you. The Children’s Hospital of Alabama is also an available resource when needing to see a doctor or to get a second opinion for something ( ).

  • Health

    Illnesses That Mimic Your Period Cycle Part I

    Illnesses That Mimic Your Period Cycle Part I

    I’m sure you have heard by now what puberty does to your body. If you have not, then I recommend checking out the “tough topics” tab at the top of this page and clicking on the heading “Puberty”. There are many things a young girl has to worry about in high school, including personal health, but when does your health start to affect your average day? What do you do when that happens?

    There is some normalcy in having to miss a day or two of class or not being able to always participate in events due to menstrual problems, but when these symptoms keep you from almost always participating, then it could be more than just your average cycle.

    To help with some of the pain you could try looking into Midol or Advil. Or if you prefer a more natural solution, then heating pads, warm baths, certain yoga poses, and exercise can help with the pain. Exercising may seem like the last thing you want to do when on your cycle, but it really does help, even if it is light exercise like walking.

    If none of these things make a difference in your cycle, then you could be looking at a more aggressive period or an additional illness on top of the normal flow.

    Let’s start by identifying the problem.

    Some common female (and male) illnesses that are looked over include IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Gluten intolerance/sensitivity, Migraines, Lactose intolerance, Acid Reflux Disease, and Lupus. These diseases seem to ward off conversations because most teenagers believe the changes in their hormones cause the pain or discomfort. While that can be true, it is not always the case, and it is often the reason more chronic illnesses are not considered. I will split this discussion into three parts so that all the symptoms and resources are available to you.

    Here is a checklist of symptoms that relate to Irritable Bowel Syndrome according to the Mayo Clinic ( ):

    • Pain, discomfort, cramping or bloating located in the abdomen (stomach area), that can be managed by passing a bowel movement.
    • Mucus in the stool (slimy texture)
    • Constipation or diarrhea
    • Weight loss
    • Bleeding from the anus (or hemorrhoids)
    • Anemia (the lack of iron in your blood)
    • Pain when using the restroom or passing gas
    • Difficulty swallowing

    Some of these symptoms are different for each person, but majority of them mimic other hormonal changes. Weight loss, bloating, anemia, and even constipation could be viewed as typical monthly menstrual issues. If these symptoms happen more frequently than one or two weeks a month, or if you are experiencing more than two of the above symptoms, then it may be time to consider scheduling an appointment with a Gastroenterology.

    In part two we will discuss two other common illnesses and their familiarity with the menstrual cycle.

  • Body Image

    What is “Beach Body Ready?”

    What is “Beach Body Ready?”

    What exactly does “beach body ready” even mean? Let’s start by looking at the origin of the phrase and how it was initially used in context.

    In 2015 Protein World showcased a bold advertisement in the subways of New York for weight loss supplements. These ads featured a bright yellow background and the words, “ARE YOU BEACH BODY READY?” prominently displayed next to a thin conventionally attractive white woman in a yellow bikini giving the audience a smouldering look.

    The ad garnered a good bit of criticism and negative attention. Two different feminist groups at the time spoke out about the ad, and why they felt like it was unacceptable. One of these groups explained that it contributes to a culture that hypersexualizes women’s bodies. Shortly after pictures of the ads circulated on social media, a petition was started on to have the ads removed entirely. The petition accumulated over 70,000 signatures.

    Now, in 2018, a plus sized clothing brand is getting attention for using the phrase “beach body ready” in a way that subverts the message of the original ad. It features the same bright yellow background but with three different plus sized women standing next to each other. The words “WE’RE BEACH BODY READY” are prominently displayed next to the women.

    So if we take into the consideration the origin of the phrase “beach body ready”, it’s probably safe to say that it is used to describe thin bodies. The previously mentioned plus sized clothing brand used the wording of the original ad to reimagine what “beach body ready” should mean, as opposed to what it actually means.

    With all this discussion of what it means to be “beach body ready”, I wrote a short quiz that can be used to determine if you are “beach body ready”.


    Q1- Are you at the beach?

    Yes: Great! Then you’re halfway there.

    No: That’s fine, actually. You don’t need to be at the beach to be beach body ready.

    Q2- Do you have a body?

    Yes: Excellent! Then you are beach body ready! All you need to be “beach body ready” is have a body. It doesn’t matter what your size and weight is. Just wear what makes you comfortable. If you want to wear a bikini, then go for it. If not, then wear whatever you want.

    No: I highly doubt that you don’t have a body. You probably wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t have a body. Since you do have a body, congratulations! You’ve met literally the only requirement in order to qualify as beach body ready. Wear whatever makes you comfortable and happy in your own body. The world is a much more pleasant place to be when you are comfortable in your body.
    Obviously that was kind of a joke.

    So let’s go further into what it actually means to be beach body ready. The original ad implies that one must have a certain body type to be beach body ready, and presumably you must lose weight to achieve a thin appearance akin to the one that the woman in the advertisement has. The media constantly reinforces a very homogenous idea of beauty for women. In TV shows, we see mostly thin & conventionally attractive women with husbands and boyfriends of various body sizes and weights.

    My best advice would be to take care of your body because it benefits your health and well being, not because you want to look a certain way. Take ownership of your body for you. Studies do tell us that exercising the appropriate amount and eating right has wonderful effects on our mood, muscle and bone health, energy level, skin health, and even memory.

    But don’t ever let someone fat shame you as a way of motivating you into getting healthy. Studies also show that fat shaming someone causes them to gain weight more rapidly.