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Archive for the ‘Healthy Relationships’ Category

Every time I go to the store lately I see things declaring, “Happy Fall Y’all!” or some variation. While many people love all things fall, I am not a fan. Yes, you read that correctly, I am not a fan of fall. First, the changing colors on the trees means the leaves are dying in preparation for the long, cold, dark months ahead. The marked shortening of the days means that soon it will be dark when I leave for work and dark again shortly after I get home. “Sweatshirt weather” means it’s too cold to swim or stand up paddle board, two things I enjoy. While we still have time to take our boat out, we will have to bundle up while doing so. Then there’s the dreary, rainy, blah days that are characteristic of fall in Ohio. So, while many of you are basking in the season, some of us are struggling.

Woman with hat pulled down over her face. Face has a grimace.

For many years I did not realize why I lack the excitement and anticipation of fall like so many people I know. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized I have the winter blues, a milder form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that begins and ends about the same time each year. As the name implies and as many people understand it, winter blues and SAD often occur in winter, not late summer/early fall like my symptoms. After teaching about mental health, I finally realized that my disdain for fall actually has a cause. While winter blues and SAD typically DO occur later, they can actually occur ANY time of the year, and in fact, some people experience symptoms of SAD during the summer, sometimes referred to summer blues or summer depression. Since I do not have a background in mental health, I was surprised to learn this. Besides, how could ANYONE not LOVE summer and ALL that it offers? All joking aside, regardless of when someone experiences symptoms, there are things you can do to help.

As I looked back over my blog articles from the past, it appears I am inspired to write about this topic each year around this time. I think revisiting information about winter blues and SAD helps me to be more proactive in doing things to reduce my symptoms. The American Psychological Association provides these tips:

Person walking on a path through the woods with an umbrella.
  1. Experience as much daylight as possible.
  2. Eat healthily.
  3. Spend time with your friends and family.
  4. Stay active.
  5. Seek professional help.

I find exercising regularly, ideally outside, in addition to eating healthy, getting the appropriate amount of sleep, and spending time with my family to be helpful in warding off symptoms. It usually takes me a bit to get into a groove, especially as the days get shorter and shorter. Once I am able to get into a routine, I find I can actually enjoy some of the characteristic fall activities, though summer will forever be my favorite season.

Some of the risk factors for SAD include:

  1. Being female. Women are four times as likely to develop SAD than men.
  2. Living far from the equator. One percent of Florida residents compared to nine percent of Alaska residents suffer from SAD.
  3. Family history. A family history of any type of depression increases the risk of developing SAD.
  4. Having depression or bipolar disorder. Depression symptoms may worsen with the seasons if you have another condition.
  5. Younger Age. Younger adults have a higher risk than older adults. SAD can occur in children and teens as well.

So, as I remember all the fun summer activities that are no more, I will focus on things I can do to help me make the most of the changing seasons. Just don’t expect to see any fall decorations at my house until mid-October!

As always, if you or someone you love is struggling, don’t hesitate to contact a mental health professional or a primary care physician.

Written by Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by Roseanne Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Seasonal affective disorder. American Psychological Association. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/topics/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder.

Harmon, M. D. (2019, October 21). Fall: A sad time of year. Live Healthy Live Well. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/10/21/fall-a-sad-time-of-year/.

Harmon, M. D. (2020, December 11). What’s so great about fall ya’ll? Live Healthy Live Well. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/10/08/whats-so-great-about-fall-yall/.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2017, October 25). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) | Michigan Medicine. (2020, September 23). Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw169553.

Site-Name. (n.d.). Chestnut Health Systems. Get Help Now. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.chestnut.org/how-we-can-help/mental-health/learn-the-facts-mental-health/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/.

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Autumn is quickly approaching, but for older adults and their caregivers the word fall is more than just a season. For many older adults, the word fall can bring up fearful thoughts of injury, loss of independence, and even death. Unfortunately, the statistics support this fear. Falls are the leading cause of injuries for older Americans. Did you know that 1 in 4 older adults fall each year? It is a staggering statistic that leads to an older adult being treated in the emergency room every 11 seconds for a fall related injury. Falls among older adults are very costly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year, about $50 billion is spent on medical costs related to non-fatal fall injuries and $754 million is spent related to fatal falls.

However, there is an additional cost to consider. That is the impact that falls have on caregivers. Caregiving can be a tough job that can take a toll on the caregiver’s health, especially as their loved one’s health declines. A single fall can impact the care recipient’s health adversely. Caregivers have reported a significant increase in caregiver burden after a loved one’s first fall, and increased anxiety over concerns for their loved one’s safety and well-being.

Falls prevention is a group effort. The National Council of Aging has a Falls Prevention Conversation Guide For Caregivers that provides caregivers with tools to help them take preventative steps to reduce the risk of their loved one falling. Below are three steps designed to help prevent a loved one’s serious injury, help them stay healthy, and maintain an independent lifestyle. The information gathered in these steps can help start a conversation with the person you are caring for to determine if they are at risk for a fall, and develop an action plan.

  1. Complete the Falls Free Check Up Assessment to determine if the person you are caring for is at risk for a fall.
  2. Talk about falls prevention with others. Use the observations from Step 1 to start a conversation with family, friends, physicians, and the person that you are providing care. The guide includes conversation notes on how to begin.
  3. Develop a falls prevention action plan. Now is the time to put the information gathered from the first 2 steps into action by immediately creating a falls prevention action plan. The guide shares 7 action steps to help create the action plan.

Many people think that falls are just an inevitable part of aging. However, most falls are preventable. September 20th-24th, 2021 is Falls Prevention Awareness Week. This campaign brings awareness to the prevalence and prevention of falls. To find more information about the topic and Falls Prevention Awareness Week, visit the National Council on Aging or the Ohio Department of Aging.

Written by: Kathy Tutt, OSU Extension Educator, Clark County, tutt.19@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Kellie Lemly MEd., OSU Extension, Family Consumer Science Educator, Champaign County, lemly.2@osu.edu

References:

Cost of Older Adult Falls, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Retrieved September 13, 2021 from: https://www.cdc.gov/falls/data/fall-cost.html

Dow, B., Meyer, C., Moore, K.J., & Hill, K.D. (2013). The impact of care recipient falls on caregivers. Australian Health Review, 37(2), 152-157

Falls Prevention Conversation Guide For Caregivers, The National Council on Aging, Retrieved September 13, 2021 from: https://assets-us-01.kc-usercontent.com/ffacfe7d-10b6-0083-2632-604077fd4eca/fd1890e1-4a6b-4ede-9acb-4775de02f27f/2021-Falls-Prevention-Awareness-Week_Conversation-Guide-for-Caregivers_English_6-29.pdf

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Since my last blog article From Languishing to Flourishing, I have continued to ponder on what it means to flourish. Today’s blog post was inspired by this quote by Robert Fulghum… “‘Who do you think you are?’ That’s the big one, isn’t it? A flourishing life depends on how you answer that.” 

The quest for self-knowledge has fascinated philosophers and sojourners alike for millennia. Socrates told us that “to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” So basically, we need to know ourselves before we can know anything else. Self-Awareness is the ability to be aware of one’s inner life—one’s emotions, thoughts, behaviors, values, preferences, strengths, attitudes, etc., and how this inner life impacts behavior.

Person holding cell phone with reflection of own face

There is great benefit to knowing oneself. When you know yourself well, you can:

  • Live happier
  • Make better choices
  • Resist social pressure
  • Strengthen resilience
  • Boost self-confidence
  • Understand and tolerate others
  • Live with vitality and enjoyment

Author Meg Selig uses the acronym VITALS to help us understand how to achieve greater self-knowledge.

Values – Even by just thinking about your values, you’re more likely to act in accordance with them. What’s most important to you?

Interests – What are your hobbies, likes, activities? You can ask yourself these questions: What draws your attention? What piques your curiosity? What concerns you?

Temperament – This is the tendencies we were born with. Are you an introvert or extrovert? Do you like the big picture or the details? Do you plan ahead, or figure it out as you go?

Activities Around the Clock – What is your best time of day? Are you a morning or evening person? How do your biorhythms affect your day?

Life Mission and Goals – What have been the most meaningful events in your life… and how have those events impacted and shaped who you are?

Strengths – What are you really good at? What character strengths do you have? What do other people compliment you on? Knowing your strengths can boost your confidence. Additionally, understanding your weaknesses can give you a realistic picture of yourself and help guide you in areas to improve upon.

For more ideas and a meditation on how to advance your self-awareness, see this post by Harvard Medical School. According to this post, most people tend to overestimate their level of self-awareness. What can you learn about yourself this week? It just might surprise you!

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County

Sources:

Advance your self-awareness. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. Jan 13, 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/advance-your-self-awareness

SEL for Adults: Self-Awareness and Self-Management.” Greater Good in Education. 2019. https://ggie.berkeley.edu/my-well-being/sel-for-adults-self-awareness-and-self-management/

Selig, M. “Know Yourself? 6 Specific Ways to Know Who You Are.” Psychology Today. Mar 9, 2016. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201603/know-yourself-6-specific-ways-know-who-you-are

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White, round pills with a blue background

If you have ever had leftover medication that you no longer needed, did you store it in your medicine cabinet in case you get the same illness in the future and want to have it readily available? Maybe you kept the medication in case you need it again for pain?  If yes, that is NOT OKAY!

Everyday more than 4,300 Americans misuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time. Prescription drug misuse is a public health concern in the United States. Prescription drug abuse is using prescription medication in a way not intended by the prescriber. It includes taking a friends prescription painkiller for your nagging backache or someone’s anti-anxiety pills to help one become calm. The prescription drugs most abused include opioid pain killers, anti- anxiety medications, sedatives and stimulants. Every day, more than 128 people die from an opioid overdose, and this includes both prescription medications and heroin.

Where do most people who misuse prescription pain relievers get them? From their doctors, the internet, or from family and friends? If you said family and friends, you are correct. Since most individuals who misuse prescription pain relievers get them from family or friends, it is very important to dispose of leftover medications properly when you are done using them.

a white box with locks on them and it says medication disposal in writing on it.

How to dispose of medications

 Once finished with a prescription, you have three options for disposal:

  1. Safely dispose of medications by putting them in a drug drop box.
  2. Find a drug take back program. Many communities offer programs that allow the public to bring unused medications to a central location for proper disposal. Take advantage of the drug take back programs in your community.
  3. If you do not have a drop box or take back program near you, dispose of medication safely at home by following these steps: 
  • Remove pills from their original container and mix them with undesirable substances such as kitty litter, coffee grounds or dirt.
  • Place the mixture in something you can close, such as a re-sealable storage bag, empty can or another container to prevent the drug from leaking or spilling out.
  • Throw the sealed mixture into the trash.
  • Scratch out all your personal information on the empty medicine package to protect your identity and privacy. Throw the medicine container away.

Remember to do YOUR part and do not leave unused or expired drugs around. Properly dispose of medications to help combat the prescription drug misuse epidemic.

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prescription-drug-abuse/symptoms-causes/syc-20376813

https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/where-and-how-dispose-unused-medicines

http://www.generationrx.org

Written by Susan Zies, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator Wood County

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

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a computer with a refresh sign displayed

Last month our colleague Dr. Mark Light wrote an article about digital minimalism and encouraged us to take a 30-day digital decluttering challenge. Like Mark, I made the decision to delete the Facebook app from my phone this past year, and I have to say I don’t miss it! I was finding that for me, the stress and frustration I experience when I see political banter and misinformation circulating social media outweighs the joy of sharing personal photos, experiences, and updates on a regular basis. I now check Facebook about once a week from a browser to make sure I’m not missing any major life updates from close friends and family, but it is no longer part of my daily life. In doing so, I have found a way to personally practice digital minimalism – “a philosophy of technology use” from Cal Newport “in which you focus your online time on a small number of activities that strongly support the things that you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”

While this approach has worked for me, I recognize that not everyone may be ready to take such drastic actions as deleting social media apps from devices, even if they feel the urge to do some digital detoxing. In fact, some experts acknowledge that it may not be realistic to completely “break up” with social media. Chris Stedman, author of IRL: Finding realness, meaning and belonging in our digital lives, says “if we’re going to have a healthier relationship with social media, we’ve got to stop thinking of it as a mindless activity and start thinking of it as a meaningful one with the potential to reveal certain truths about ourselves.”

gardening gloves weeding a garden

Doing regular self-reflection and decluttering, much like a gardener would regularly check on and weed their garden space, can help you enjoy and find meaning in your social media use. For example, rather than endlessly scrolling through a social media feed, you might choose to stop regularly and assess what emotions are evoked by the content you’re reading. Does your social media use bring you joy and amusement, or does it leave you feeling anxious, discouraged, or frustrated? If the latter, you may do some decluttering by choosing to unfollow certain people or accounts. Taking regular breaks from social media can also be helpful. These are not permanent break-ups, but more like sabbaticals or vacations to disconnect and see life from a different perspective.

Whether you choose to become a digital minimalist or to simply do some digital decluttering, I encourage you to consider how digital detoxing could benefit you today.

Sources:

Aina, M. (2021). Glued to your phone? Here’s how to rethink your relationship with social media. NPR Life Kit. https://www.npr.org/2021/07/16/1016854764/social-media-balance-relationship-boundaries

Newport, C. (2019). Digital minimalism: Choosing a focused life in a noisy world. https://www.calnewport.com/books/digital-minimalism/

Written by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County.

Reviewed by Lisa Barlage, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

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a preschool child

Selecting the right childcare for your child has always been a big decision. Although the pandemic brings with it a new set of rules, many of the same questions still leave parents feeling stumped when choosing childcare. Here are some common considerations when selecting care for your child as well as information from Ohio’s two licensing entities, Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services (ODJFS).

Select the type of program that is right for your child.  Ohio has different types of programs such as child care centers, family child care, licensed early care and education programs, and child day camps. Each comes with specific licensing requirements.

Do your research. You can learn a lot about a program before ever stepping inside. Get references from friends and family. Search the program on social media to see if you are comfortable with their posting protocols. Do hours of operation meet your needs and are they flexible? Are tuition rates within your budget? What is their Step Up to Quality rating? What is their learning philosophy and curriculum? Review their current inspection reports to verify compliance with licensing rules. You can search your prospects at http://childcaresearch.ohio.gov/.  Once you have narrowed down your choices, schedule a visit. 

During your visit, ask questions and be observant. Are there enough materials for all children? Is the outdoor play area well-maintained and safe? How do the teachers interact with children and maintain ratios? Is family engagement a priority?  What is the pick up and drop off routine?  How are special occasions like birthdays or holidays recognized?  Although many questions should be addressed in the parent handbook, you should also take the opportunity to ask about staff turnover, security, and visitation policies.  If your child has any medical issues, ask how they are equipped to handle medical emergencies.  What are meal times like? What is their philosophy on discipline? Meet as many of the staff as possible, not just your child’s teacher. If you see children sitting in front of a television, keep looking. There isn’t anything a cartoon can teach your child that a good teacher can’t!

Go with your gut. If you get the feeling staff or children are not happy, the environment is not clean or safe, or there is no interaction between children and adults, leave. This is their first opportunity to impress you and if they don’t now, they never will.

Establishing a relationship with the right childcare for your family may take time, but the benefits of high-quality early experiences will last a lifetime! 

Additional Resources for families:

https://boldbeginning.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/bold/

http://education.ohio.gov/

https://jfs.ohio.gov/CDC/

http://www.odjfs.state.oh.us/forms/num/JFS08076/pdf/ 

If you cannot afford childcare, you may qualify for assistance through publicly funded childcare. Learn more at https://jfs.ohio.gov/cdc/Page4.stm.

Written by Heather Reister, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Butler County

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

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a girl crying

I have been dealing with “girl bullying” with my daughters. I even went to the school, but the teacher dismissed it and stated, “Oh, she wouldn’t do that! I can’t see her saying that.” At that moment I was angry that the teacher completely dismissed my daughter’s feelings and did not believe her. I instantly felt as if it was a waste of time having a discussion with her. I reminded her bullying is not just physical, it can be a look, a whisper, one person telling a group not to talk to an individual, or rumors and exclusion.

Bullying is not always physical, it can be emotional. Girls are more known for “relational bullying” which includes exclusion, forming cliques, gossiping, spreading rumors, nasty comments, cyberbullying, out casting, sharing secrets, and backstabbing. This usually involves recruiting others to do the same. Relational bullying can often have side effects. Some effects include depression, anxiety, withdrawal from friends and family, missing school, change in behavior, suicidal ideation, PTSD, confusion, and anger. 

We are halfway through the summer, and I thought I had given my daughters the tools they needed to ease the situation. I was thinking, “Haven’t we all been bullied? Haven’t we all felt not good enough, not part of the team?” I was completely wrong! Parents, times have changed! When we were bullied and left for summer break, we may have not seen our bullies until school started again in the fall. Social media has changed that for our children. The bullying does not stop during the summer, it continues through Snap Chat, Instagram, TIK TOK, and group texts. The goal is the same: excluding and out casting the victim. I have now made it a priority to monitor screen-time and the apps my children are using.  I have began monitoring their phones and have discussed the dangers of social media with my children. 

How can we help our daughters build resilience when they are going through this difficult time?

  • Don’t overreact– It is hard for parents not to worry, but if our daughters see us worrying and reacting, they may feel as if it is their fault and that they are not living up to our expectations. We need to be strong and listen to how they are doing and feeling.
  • Communicate and Listen– Be a good listener. Do not make assumptions or interrupt. After they finish talking, ask questions to let them know you were listening. Help them come up with solutions and include them in brainstorming solutions. Ask them questions like “What do you think you can say next time?” or “What do you think might work?”  and “What will make you feel better?” 
  • Validate Anger- Your child has the right to feel angry. Make sure they know they are valuable, and find ways for them to cope and build resilience. Let them know they can expect better from a friendship. 
  • Seek alternatives– If the bullying is occurring at school, let your child develop friendships outside of school. Use community resources to find activities they are interested in.
  • Talk to the School– Even if your child is developing new relationships outside of school you still to need to inform the school. Let your child know if you contact the school. If your child fears that contacting the school will cause more ridicule, you may want to come up with a discreet plan. Most teachers are willing to talk, and teachers can call out behavior or help deter bullying behavior. Be mindful that teachers may be in a difficult position if the bully is a star athlete or a child of a prominent community member. Even if schools have anti-bullying policies some policies may privilege some students over others. If this is the case you may need to contact the superintendent, principal, or school board.
  • Allow them to figure it out– Discuss what a “good friend” is with your child. Role play how to deal with conflict.  Discuss reasons why someone who is bullying is suffering. Remind them they need to treat people with respect, but they don’t need to be friends with everyone!

Sources:

Schatt, D., (2018) Relational Bullying:  What Is It and What Can You do About It, JEM Foundation. https://thejemfoundation.com/relational-bullying-what-is-it-and-what-can-you-do-about-it/

Marrison, E. (2020) Teens and Screens:  What Parents Should Know.  Live Healthy Live Well blog, Ohio State University Extension. https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/06/25/teens-and-screens-what-parents-should-know/

Canty, J., Stubbe, M., Steers, D., Collings, S (2014) The Trouble with Bullying- Deconstructing the Conventional Definition of Bullying for a Child-Centered Investigation into Children’s Use of social media.  National Children’s Bureau. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/chso.12103

Written by:  Kellie Lemly MEd, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Champaign County, Lemly.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Education, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

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a computer with a reload icon that reads "reset"

With a year of COVID behind us, we found that not being able to have face to face meetings and events forced us into more digital means of connecting. Youth experienced online school, employees worked from home, and even our entertainment and socialization involved technology – and all of this technology in our homes caused a digital fatigue. While there was somewhat of a reprieve in the summer, our smartphones still kept us digitally connected.

In September 2020, I discovered a book by Cal Newport, a Computer Science Faculty member at Georgetown University, called Digital Minimalism. He defines digital minimalism as “a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of activities that strongly support the things that you value, and then happily miss out on everything else”. Ironically, even though he teaches Computer Science, he has never been on social media. The other interesting thing I found was that he authored this book pre-Covid. Even though I enjoy technology and like to stay up on the latest digital gadgets, I was already feeling the fatigue of being attached to my phone 24/7. I decided to take his 30-day digital decluttering challenge consisting of three steps:

  1. Define your technology rules and limit your technology use
  2. Take a 30-day break from a specific technology, i.e., social media
  3. Reintroduce technology slowly

I decided to take a 30 day break from Facebook, which for those who know me is a challenging thing to do, as I have been on Facebook for 15 years. On October 4, I deleted the app off my devices and told my co-workers I would not be on Facebook for a month. While not intentional, my 30-day experiment ended the day after the Presidential election, so the biggest joy that I had was not having to see all the political banter. Overall, I only felt I missed two things while I was not on Facebook for 30 days: my daughter’s senior pictures that the photographer posted, and her senior night volleyball pictures, which my wife showed me on her phone. Prior to this experiment I was spending two hours a day on Facebook, or 1/12 of my day, or essentially one month of each year!

Cal Newport shares other ways of continuing in digital minimalism after completing the initial 30-day challenge, such as deleting apps on your phone that you frequent the most. I never put the Facebook app back on my phone after last November, and I now have to log in to a web browser to see Facebook. This extra step makes it harder to connect and I do not log on too frequently. Ultimately, most of us remember a time when we survived without being connected 24/7. I encourage you to set your own 30-day digital minimalism challenge, and then keep exploring ways to reduce your technology use and “happily miss out on everything else”.

Sources:

Alevizou, G. (2020). Virtual schooling, Covid-gogy and digital fatigue. Parenting for a Digital Future. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/parenting4digitalfuture/2020/04/08/virtual-schooling-covid-gogy/

Newport, C. (2019). Digital minimalism: Choosing a focused life in a noisy world. https://www.calnewport.com/books/digital-minimalism/

Written by Mark D. Light, Ph.D., Leader, Ohio 4-H STEM & Digital Engagement Innovations

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, MPH, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

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Choices of peanut butter on a shelf

As an Extension Field Specialist, I have coached traditional food pantries where food is pre-selected to help them transition to a client-choice model where food is chosen based on preferences and needs. Client-choice pantries provide a more dignified experience for people and can be more efficient at preventing food waste since unwanted items aren’t discarded. For many low-income Americans, choosing where and how to grocery shop might be viewed as a privilege reserved for those with greater incomes. The same could be said for people living in developing countries where food, water, and material resources aren’t as abundant. For those of us fortunate enough to have the privilege of choice, we face the challenge of having too much choice. Whether it be food, clothing, TV stations, housing, spouses, lifestyle, investments, hobbies, or even medical procedures, having too many choices can lead to isolation, paralysis in decision making, anxiety, and depression. At the societal level too much choice might lead to waste, tribalism, and perhaps public health problems.

Sometimes we are faced with so much choice that we don’t know what to choose and we become almost paralyzed in our decision making. We are afraid to make the wrong choice, and feel as if we need to further investigate all of the options, which takes time (something I seem to have less of). As a result, we sometimes put off big decisions. I’ve been thinking about purchasing a new insulin pump for my diabetes but there are so many products. In addition, working with insurance to purchase the new product is a headache, so I have yet to make a decision.

Another challenge is choice inflates our expectations and sometimes deflates our satisfaction if we think we made the wrong choice. For example, I was trying to decide between two restaurants the other night, one Indian, the other Mexican. I went with the Mexican and it was good, but part of me wondered if the Indian would have been better. As a result of this thinking, I wasn’t as happy with my experience and I likely missed out on some of the enjoyment of the outing. Although this example seems trivial, all of the choices we make everyday and the sometimes resulting stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction could lead to mental and physical health problems.

At the societal level, too much choice contributes to many small and large-scale problems. Material goods such as food, electronics, and clothing are discarded because people have the option of newer and better choices. I’ve wasted leftover food because I’ve had the choice of eating out. Too much choice might lead to tribalism, isolation, and less cohesion. Growing up, my family had three channels on TV. We watched whatever was on as a family. Now, my three kids are plugged into their phones watching their own shows, etc. I hardly get to talk with them. Thirty years ago, our nation was more cohesive and less tribal. Everyone watched the world series for example, since there weren’t as many options for sports. In terms of public health challenges, we have so many choices for fast food, unhealthy snacks, etc that obesity is more common than ever. We can choose whether or not to get vaccinated, which places others at risk for disease.

What to do? There are two dimensions of wellness to consider for guidance: spiritual and environmental. Spiritual wellness can help people become satisfied and grounded with who they are and with choices they make. Some traditions teach that desires and cravings lead to suffering and seek to reduce these states of mind. Environmental wellness can help people reduce consumption, or reuse new products etc. and thus not feel stressed about getting the newest and greatest item out there.

Obviously, choice is a good thing, and I don’t think any of us want to live in a world where we don’t have any choices. However, we need to reflect on the consequences of having too much choice for our own health, and the health of our families and communities. In any event, I hope this was helpful in some way and I am glad you “chose” to read this…….

Author: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition and Wellness Associate Professor, Ohio State University Extension, remely.4@osu.edu

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Sources:

Remley, D., Franzen-Castle, L., McCormack, L., & Eicher-Miller, H. A. (2019). Chronic Health Condition Influences on Client Perceptions of Limited or Non-choice Food Pantries in Low-income, Rural Communities. American Journal of Health Behavior43(1), 105–118. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/10.5993/AJHB.43.1.9

Schwartz, Barry. The Paradox of Choice. TED talk. Accessed on 7/20/21 at The paradox of choice | Barry Schwartz – YouTube

William and Mary University. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness. Accessed on 7/19/21 at The Eight Dimensions of Wellness | William & Mary (wm.edu)

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a woman smiling

Fat is a metabolically active tissue that plays a role in hormone control and regulation, keeps us warm, cushions our organs, and acts as storage for energy and vitamins. Fat is a vital and irreplaceable part of our bodies, and yet the word “fat” is almost exclusively used derogatorily. There are few words in our vocabulary that carry as much weight as the word “fat”. We live in fear of being called “fat”, go to extreme lengths to avoid gaining fat, and harshly judge others who we perceive to be “fat”. Though many individuals are choosing to reclaim the term “fat” as an objective descriptor of a body, much in the same way tall and short are used, fat bias is real and harmful.

Some studies suggest that fat bias, also known as weight stigma, is more prevalent and embedded into our society than discrimination based on race or ethnicity. Bias towards fat persons is on the rise, and it leads to poor social, mental, and physical health outcomes for those targeted by it. Many adverse health effects commonly attributed to obesity can be worsened or even caused by weight discrimination. People who have experienced weight discrimination have a 60% increased risk of death compared to those who have not, regardless of their BMI. This increased risk is attributable to several factors, one of them being the increased stress felt by those facing the discrimination. Another is the fat bias prevalent in the healthcare system. In a 2014 survey of medical students, two-thirds demonstrated overt bias toward fat patients, and half described them as “lazy, unmotivated, noncompliant, and unhealthy.” Whether this bias is conscious or implicit, studies show that doctors build less emotional rapport and spend less time with obese patients.

With fat bias being so ingrained into our society, dismantling the negative connotation of the word “fat” will not be easy. However, you can begin to dissect and act to change your personal biases using these steps from activist and author Aubrey Gordon:

  1. Acknowledge your own fat bias. It will be uncomfortable, but becoming aware of your attitudes and beliefs is the first step to changing them. 
  2. Diversify your social media. Fill your social media feed(s) with people of all shapes and sizes. We have grown up believing there is one ideal body type out there, and that is not realistic. Begin to immerse yourself in a world where bodies that don’t look like the traditional ideal are still deserving of love. 
  3. Do some research. Educate yourself on the wide-reaching effects of fat bias. Begin to break down some of the myths about size and weight that we have been taught to believe, such as “weight loss is easy if you just exercise and eat well”. Start with the studies linked in this blog, and then continue to learn more. 
  4. Have conversations with fat friends and family members. This one may be difficult, but it’s important to understand the experiences of those who may have experienced weight stigma. Ask how you can better support your loved ones in a world where they are or have been judged based on their size, and not who they are as people. 
  5. Speak up. When you see fat bias or become the target of it, do not just let it go on. Challenge the thoughts of those who make comments or openly discriminate. This not only brings awareness to those involved, but it sends a message to the fat people around you that you are an ally in this fight for equality. 

All people, no matter the size or shape of their body, deserve to be valued and treated equally. Let’s start taking the steps to make this a reality.  

Sources:

Gordon, A. (2020). 7 Ways to Uproot Your Anti-Fat Bias. Medium. https://humanparts.medium.com/7-ways-to-uproot-your-anti-fat-bias-54f01d76ec3b.

Gudzune, K.A., Beach, M.C., Roter, D.L. & Cooper, L.A. (2013). Physicians build less rapport with obese patients. Obesity;21(10):2146-2152. doi:10.1002/oby.20384 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3694993/

Hebl, M. & Xu, J. (2001). Weighing the care: Physicians’ reactions to the size of a patient. International Journal of Obesity;25:1246–1252. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0801681 https://www.nature.com/articles/0801681

Phelan, S., Dovidio, J., Puhl, R. et al. Implicit and explicit weight bias in a national sample of 4,732 medical students: The medical student CHANGES study. Obesity. 2014;22(4):1201-1208. doi:10.1002/oby.20687 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/oby.20687

Tomiyama, A., Carr, D., Granberg, E. et al. How and why weight stigma drives the obesity ‘epidemic’ and harms health. BMC Med 16, 123 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-018-1116-5 

Written by: Maddie Gottfried, Dietetic Intern, The Ohio State University

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

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