ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Filtering by Tag: body image

Unhealthy expectations won’t help you succeed

inner_voice_bubbleThere is a little voice inside of us that loves to torture us. And in many cases, there is a part of us that loves being tortured. The voice loves to tell us how badly we’re doing, how other people are better, richer, smarter, thinner. The voice is a punk. The voice will try to convince you that it is ambition talking, that it is trying to make you better so that you can have all you want in life. The voice is lying. Ambition is not feeling perpetually behind. Ambition is not a constant berating of your current status. Ambition makes you feel good, not terrible. Ambition doesn’t want to make you better than others, it makes you want to be a better version of you.

The voice is a trickster. It will tell you that it’s only trying to help, that it wants to see you succeed by making you feel less than. The voice is manipulative because if we are not careful, the voice inside our heads that tells us we are not good enough will start to come out of our mouths. Then the voice will turn on our friends, our children, our partners.

In order to be the happy and healthy versions of ourselves we deserve, we should have ambition. We should strive for excellence and be wary of complacence. We should also give ourselves room to grow, and to falter. The clearest sign of a person with a future of success is not if they never make a misstep, it’s how they handle the constant missteps and how they treat others. The voice doesn’t know that.

Our Bodies, Our Neuroses

MirrorMirrorPop Culture would lead us to believe that most people hate their bodies, with a small percentage of people who fancy themselves Venus or Adonis incarnates.  Magazines will remind us to Love your body! Even the flaws! Which can seem to translate loosely into Love your body! Even though it’s kinda messed up. Loving your body isn’t easy, and it’s certainly not a done-deal because a celebrity is telling you to from a magazine you are perusing at the Houston Airport. Body acceptance can take a lot of work.

Let’s begin by addressing these “flaws” we all hear about. What is a flaw? Certainly something unhealthy should be treated differently than something that we just wish was airbrushed away. A stretch mark and an asymmetrical mole are two very different “flaws.” The former should be accepted and perhaps rubbed with some cocoa butter daily, but the latter must be seen by a doctor. If our so-called flaws are all non-health related (freckles, your natural body shape, hair texture, etc.) then we should do more than accept them as flaws, we should not consider them flaws at all.

The concept of a flaw is still based on the notion that there is a singular ideal. But not only is that ideal going to be nearly impossible to replicate, it’s also going to change, so why waste time trying to fit the mold? For most of us, it will always be difficult to look in the mirror and accept what we see, even embrace it. So start small, one piece at a time. And do get those moles checked. The peace of mind is worth the time in the waiting room.

For more on how young people are changing the way we think about beauty, watch the video made by students here.

Q & A: Is it true that fasting to lose weight can ultimately make you heavier than before you began dieting?

While it seems to make intuitive sense that fasting is the quick way to lose weight, it actually makes it a bigger challenge to keep weight off. Under normal circumstances the body uses glucose, the breakdown product of carbohydrates and fats, for fuel. The liver only stores enough glucose for one day. When you fast or severely restrict your caloric intake for an extended period of time, your body goes into "starvation mode." This means that your body begins to store fat instead of utilizing it for energy, and as an alternative begins to break down muscle mass to produce glucose for energy. The amount of muscle in your body impacts the rate at which you burn calories (your metabolic rate). The more muscle mass you lose, the more ineffective your body becomes at utilizing calories from fat, and instead starts to store them as body fat.

The longer the fast, the slower you will burn calories. As soon as your fast is over, you will gain weight faster than you would have previously – this is your body’s attempt to protect against another "famine." Those extra pounds will likely come back as stored body fat!

What do you, me and a beauty queen have in common?

Whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re 15 or 55, we all feel the pressure to look a certain way. Especially in our culture today, with rising rates of obesity and labeling of “the fattest states in America”, it’s a constant struggle to find our place in the middle of morbidly obese and frighteningly thin while staying healthy and happy. Kristin Haglund, Miss America 2008, revealed to CNN reporter Yasmin Khorram that even she was not immune, and succumbed to anorexia at the young age of 12. As a former Miss America, she continues to advocate for youth with anorexia and spread awareness about the disorder (Read More).

According to helpguide.org, people with anorexia refuse to maintain a healthy body weight, have a distorted body image and an intense fear of gaining weight or being fat. There are two types: restrictive type (strict dieting, fasting, excessive exercise) and purging type (vomiting or abuse of laxatives or diuretics).

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were no such thing as anorexia... If we could live happily and healthily without the constant anxiety about how we look or how much we weigh? But alas, it’s part of our world. Know the warning signs and know yourself.  More ifIknew info on the subject is here.

Paying with Plastic Promotes Poor Food Picks

It’s hard to keep junk food out of my cabinets at home and to avoid munching on unhealthy treats. But weekly trips to the supermarket can be taunting! Sometimes, it feels almost impossible to restrain myself from reaching for the cookie dough ice cream, chocolate covered pretzels, and barbeque-flavored potato chips. A strategy for avoiding these impulse purchases is to pay in cash rather than using a credit card. In fact, don’t even take a credit card to the store. When we pay in cash, we find it’s easier to monitor our purchases and we are less tempted to go over budget by purchasing unnecessary junk food. This is great for both our waistline and our wallet!

A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that shoppers consistently purchase unhealthy and unnecessary items when paying via credit card. Interestingly, both debit and credit cards contributed to impulse spending on junk food. This is notable because debit cards are more or less equivalent to cash since the money spent is automatically deducted from a bank account. This study demonstrates that it is the abstraction of plastic payments that influences poor consumer purchases.

What strategies do you use to avoid purchasing unhealthy food? Sound off below!

Reflecting a Realistic Image?

Israel recently passed a law making it illegal for men and women to be hired for modeling jobs if they are underweight according to the body mass index (BMI) scale. The new law will require models to produce a medical report from within the past three months certifying that their BMI is above 18.5. Similarly, advertisers must say if an image is manipulated to make the model appear thinner in the photograph than he or she actually is. This law was passed in an attempt to combat the spread of anorexia and bulimia. In Israel, as in many other developed countries, approximately 2% of teenage girls suffer from severe eating disorders. Supporters of this law claim that the fashion industry is, in part, to blame for their idealization of extreme thinness. They hope that promoting the use of healthy models will play a role in transforming cultural standards of health and beauty.

Meanwhile, critics of this legislation claim that the law should focus on health rather than weight alone. By focusing on numbers on the scale, they believe the fashion industry will be perpetuating another myth that fuels eating disorders – that health and beauty can be determined by pounds alone. Additionally, body weight fluctuates throughout the day, meaning that doctors’ tests may be inaccurate.


What do you think about this new measure? Sound off below!

Uniquely beautiful

“My mother sat me down and said ...you are beautiful to me but must know that you are beautiful for yourself. You should also be aware that true beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which means that how beautiful you are to other people is always going to be subjective to who is looking at you at that time, and since you will always be looking at yourself first, you should find your own beauty and feel good about who you are.” She went on to tell me that I needed to take the time to identify those things that I found to be beautiful about myself but also celebrate what I thought was weird or unusual because those were the special things that God had given to me that made me different from everybody else. I learned how to appreciate, embrace, and enhance those special things so that they would shine rather than be hidden...We learned to love and identify with what made us uniquely beautiful.”  BeNeca Ward (born 1976); Author

Check out our video "What is Beauty?"

"Spoon Theory”: An Exercise in Empathy

A close friend who lives with a chronic illness taught me a lesson about the challenges of her daily life by using a 5 minute exercise that Christine Miserandino, somewhat humorously, called the “spoon theory” exercise. You see, the main difference between somebody who is sick and somebody who is healthy is being limited in making choices between things that the rest of us take for granted. An able-bodied person like me can replenish her energy by taking a nap, working out, or drinking some coffee. But it’s often very difficult for a sick person to get this energy back.

The “Spoon theory” exercise uses plastic spoons as a tangible representation of a sick person’s energy. The exercise with my friend went as following:

  1. First, my friend gave me a handful of kitchen spoons, which symbolized all the energy I would have for an entire day.
  2. I was told that once my spoons were gone, they would most likely be gone for good.
  3. I was asked to describe my daily routine in detail.
  4. For every activity that caused my friend pain or that she found exhausting – activities as seemingly simple as getting out of bed, taking a shower, choosing clothing, driving to work, and typing on the computer – my friend took away a spoon from my supply.
  5. Once my supply of spoons began to run low, I was told that I would begin having to make decisions about how to spend the rest of my day.
  6. She reminded me that at least one spoon would be lost by driving home after work in rush hour traffic. Another spoon would disappear if I decided to cook dinner, yet another if I washed my dishes afterward.
  7. My previous plans for that evening were to go to the gym and later hang out with my friends. Each of these would diminish my spoon supply as well!

This five minute exercise helped me to gain a whole new understanding into my friend’s lifestyle and choices. How difficult it is for her to accomplish everything that she wants or needs to do on a typical day! I gained an infinite amount of appreciation and respect for how much she actually does.

I have since thought about the “spoon theory” whenever I have a long day at work or a tedious school assignment. I am all the more grateful for all the privileges that come with being an able bodied, healthy person!

The Power of Words

Words can hurt and words can heal.  Most of us have felt the sting of a cruel joke or felt humiliated by teasing.  Bullies seem to know just the right buttons to push and the hurt can last long after the abuse has ended. Once a thick-skinned kid who couldn’t care less what other people thought of me, when middle school started I began to feel a little unsure of myself. I was definitely an easy target – dorky (the first of my peers to get glasses!), clumsy, overweight, and with a mouth full of braces.

Bullies take advantage of a person’s insecurities. In my case, they called me names like “stupid,” “ugly” and “fat.” I tried my best to convince myself that no amount of teasing could ever get to me, reminding myself that “sticks and stones could break my bones, but words could never hurt me.” But unfortunately, this is far from the truth.  Verbal insults make you doubt yourself and your abilities. I became terrified that my personality and physique were inherently flawed. My confidence sank and school became an increasingly poisonous environment. My desperate desire to be accepted led me to become preoccupied with popularity. I went on crash diets in the hope that being skinny would make the teasing stop and begged my parents to buy me expensive clothing so I would look cooler. Even after the bullies matured and the teasing had stopped, I continued to feel self conscious, powerless, and depressed.

It was the kind words of friends and family that helped me overcome these emotional damages. My friends reminded me that I am lovable, friendly and intelligent. Their carefully chosen, supportive words of encouragement made me feel confident and strong. With their support, I was able to pick up the broken pieces and leave that part of my life behind.

My middle school experience taught me firsthand about the power words can have both to destroy and to heal. Words can be the most powerful of weapons and we should all be careful not to misuse the influence that they can have. Even name calling as a joke can be extremely hurtful. Let’s all be mindful of the words we use because we can never underestimate the impact that they might have on other people.

How did (or does) middle school experience affect your self esteem? Did it build you up as a person or hurt you? Write us your comment- we are curious about what your experience was like.

Baltimore Slutwalk

On September 17th, hundreds of women are expected to show up in West Shore Park (a stretch of grass in between the Maryland Science Center and the Visitor Center at the Inner Harbor) wearing revealing shirts, stilettos and hot pants. They will be proudly proclaiming themselves as “sluts” in protest against the prevailing notion that dressing provocatively is an invitation to be raped. Slutwalk Baltimore is just one event in a growing international movement to increase dialogue and raise awareness about prevalent attitudes in our society that blame the survivor in sexual assault cases. The first Slutwalk was hosted this past spring in Toronto as a response to a police officer’s public statement in which he claimed that women should stop dressing like “sluts” if they want to avoid sexual harassment, rape and/or assault. Many audience members were furious. They believed that “slut-shaming” further encourages both the legal system and the public to blame survivors rather than to place legal and moral responsibility onto the perpetrators of violence. No survivor ever wants to be raped or sexually assaulted, even if she happens to be “slutty.” Protesters pointed to statistics estimating that 15 out of 16 rapists walk free and only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail, largely because courts rarely convict accused rapists, and survivors of sexual assault are discouraged from reporting their crimes.

Slutwalk has spread to cities across the world. Slutwalk organizers and participants believe in reclaiming the word “slut” as an empowering expression of uninhibited sexuality in a world where violence against women, sex workers, and lgbt individuals is normalized. This has raised a number of questions and concerns. Many are critical of the Slutwalk movement for pressuring survivors to willingly accept the term “slut” as a part of their empowerment.  Many survivors do not feel comfortable or safe reclaiming this slur which has been violently used against them. Some critics feel that promoting “slutty” behavior among participants of Slutwalk encourages unhealthy and disempowering behavior, in addition to further perpetuating the hypersexualization of women’s bodies. They are additionally concerned that Slutwalk projects shame onto those who choose to be abstinent and/or modest.

Is reframing the word “slut,” a word that has been used to attack and label “loose” women, more empowering than rejecting the word completely? What messages do you believe Slutwalk sends to the general public? Sound off below!

Now You See It

I was watching my new guilty pleasure the other night – MTV’s new series Teen Wolf. There was one scene where the protagonist, Scott, was in the middle of a make out session with his love interest when his phone rang. He leaned over to turn it off and as he did, the AT&T logo flashed on the phone’s screen. “Nice product placement,” I thought to myself. With the decline of print media and commercial television viewing, advertisers are always looking for ways to keep up with the changing times. They have become very good at sneaking ads in to everything we do, from the shopping carts at the grocery store to the sidebar on Facebook. The next time you’re on your Facebook page, look at the ads if you don’t already.  It’s amazing how they tailor them to exactly what you would be interested in.  I recently went skydiving and posted pictures on my Facebook.  Suddenly I noticed that there were three new ads on my sidebar for skydiving schools close by!

For those of us who still occasionally read magazines, it’s important to realize that everything we see is a fantasy.  The models wish they looked like their finished photos.  I recently met a professional photographer’s assistant who told me that every photo that gets published is now altered in one way or another. It’s one thing to know this, but it’s another thing to remember it every time you see a picture. Seventy percent of women feel worse about themselves after viewing a magazine for only 3 minutes.

Advertisers know that their consumers are preoccupied with affluence, attractiveness, and achievement, and they use this to their advantage.  For example, look at Kim Kardashian’s ads for Sketcher’s Tone Up shoesYou can fire your personal trainer (What? Don’t you have one?), and achieve Kim’s attractive and sexy body.

Before you make any larger purchase, do your own research. Here’s one site which disagrees with the Sketchers claims. http://fyiliving.com/health-news/kim-kardashian-skechers-ad-the-toning-sneaker-scam/

One of the most tried and true methods of counteracting advertisements is to talk back to them.  I know it sounds silly but it works.  In my house we like to dissect them and laugh at how gullible the industry thinks we are.   Do you really think that Kim Kardashian fired her trainer and works out by just wearing these shoes?  Do you really think she wears them at all?  Just looking at the print advertisement, can you see that, while she is beautiful, she has been touched up?

Do I still want to go out and buy the latest and greatest mascara advertised?  Yes!  But I try to be an informed consumer and not just a mindless drone.

Attention Ladies AND Gentleman: Body Image, Revisited

For a long time, body image has largely been considered a women’s issue, but this is not at all the case! There is, in fact, increasing awareness of Photoshopping of media photos of female models and celebrities, but what many people don’t know is that similar photos of men are subject to the same type of digital enhancement. Women and girls may now be wary of idolizing such photos because of their unrealistic nature, but men and boys are now susceptible to believing in these harmful notions of attractiveness. So the next time you see a beautiful woman pictured in a magazine and think, “She doesn’t really look that perfect,” just remember: the male model pictured a couple pages ahead doesn’t really look that perfect either… No one does.

What is beauty?

With summer months around the corner, the magazine stands are full of advice: "how to get a beach body in a month" or "the fastest way to perfect abs". It can be easy to focus too much on what our bodies look like instead of what they can do. Check out this latest video from ifIknew, and remember to appreciate yourself! http://youtu.be/Q96jAe6bCh4

What does beauty mean to you?

For more on body image, click here.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Well, to start, a live woman's hips are generally wider than her head. Obviously, this picture is the result of some serious Photoshopping.

This photo appeared in a Ralph Lauren advertisement in 2009.  The picture was so shocking that it started discussions about whether digitally altered fashion photos harm women by promoting standards of beauty that are simply unattainable by natural, non-computerized means.

Some governments have discussed banning digitally altered images or requiring the addition of warning labels, much like the government requires for cigarettes or alcohol.  Some people argue that fashion photography is not supposed to show us something attainable.

What do you think?  Are these images dangerous?  Do they contribute to body image or eating disorders, or do they play upon ideas we already have?  Can or should they be regulated, or is it our own responsibility to be able to detect what's real and what's robot?

Sound off in our comments section!