Want to mess with your mental health? Go on a diet.

Multimedia Journalism
elimination_diet

Infographic created by Bridget Creel.

By Bridget Creel

According to Webster’s dictionary, “diet” refers to “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” However, average people would define “diet” as a verb or an adjective, in which it would mean “to cause to eat and drink sparingly or according to prescribed rules” or “having a smaller number of calories than usual.”

For those on a mission to lose weight, practicing an elimination diet can be the first step to slashing calories and noticing a physical change. But taking a step back, what about the mental change in the body? Students at Elon University discuss the psychological effect that dieting has on a person’s mind, mood and behavior, which could be enough to deter anyone from dieting.

“There are a host of psychological factors that influence eating behavior that dieticians fail to take into account,” said Josie Spinardi, author of How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too. “Having a list detailing which foods are good for you and which are bad, does absolutely nothing to equip you to follow that list. Rule-based eating relies exclusively on willpower—and willpower is the ultimate fair-weather friend. Willpower only works, or works its best, when you don’t need it. When you’re well rested and life is going smoothly, determination can keep you from the candy bowl. But the minute you’re tired, stressed, lonely, grumpy, bored, and off your game, you don’t have the strength you need to win a brute force battle of the will.”

Typical gluten-free and dairy-free meal for Kelsey: lean protein and vegetables with gluten-free sauce. (Photo taken by Bridget Creel).

A typical gluten-free and dairy-free meal for Kelsey: lean protein and vegetables with gluten-free sauce. (Photo taken by Bridget Creel).

Kelsey Price, a senior at Elon University, has experimented with elimination diets since freshman year, and not by choice—instead, due to allergies and intolerances. Initially, her doctor told her to eliminate dairy from her diet and from there, Price’s feelings of discomfort when eating disappeared. However, a couple years later, the sickness came back and after a series of tests, Price had to eliminate gluten from her diet as well.

Although eliminating foods from the diet can benefit health, it can completely backfire if a person does not replenish with foods that have similar nutritional benefits. Unfortunately so, it can also reverse the weight loss effects and overall health effects on the body.

“I think any sort of drastic changes to your diet really effect your body,” Price said. “So, for a time when I started to cut out dairy, I felt really tired and lethargic because I wasn’t getting enough protein in my diet from milk, so you sort of have to recognize that if you cut something out, you still need to get nutrients from somewhere else. Cutting anything out is pretty detrimental because you’re not getting what you would be getting from that source and that’s going to come back to bite you. Either you feel or your body is not going to sustain that type of diet and you will just crash and binge eat all the carbs, sugar or candy that you want.”

Although Kelsey has no choice but to eliminate dairy and gluten from her diet, at times it has taken a toll on her mental well-being. When she goes out to eat, she keeps certain words in mind when she reads a menu. At first, it made her uncomfortable to constantly ask the waiter to modify her dishes at restaurants.

“I think it gets very stressful, mentally speaking, to constantly have to be reading labels in the grocery store to make sure everything is OK to eat,” said Price. “If you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, I think that that mental stress doesn’t do anything good for you—you’re just adding more rules to your life and then if you happen to break them, then you get into this rut of self-loathing or you’re very judgmental on yourself.”

“Diets are an ineffective and disastrous tool for losing weight,” said Spinardi. “Dieting is scientifically proven to lead to binge eating.”

Lauren Snow, a senior at Elon, operates on a modified-Paleo lifestyle, mostly vegan and eliminates grains from her diet. In the past, she experimented with different diets to promote weight loss but now she has found this diet choice is sustainable and a lifestyle choice.

“Diet is such a bad word,” Snow said. “It’s a fad word. I really dislike the word diet. Paleo is on the basis of what our ancestor’s ate. I don’t look at it as a diet, but a way to be healthy. Since I already don’t like grains, I wouldn’t be eating them anyway.”

Snow has used guidelines from the paleo diet to keep in the back of her mind as she cooks and grocery shops. In the past, however, Snow was eliminating foods to lose weight, but not replenishing with proper nutrients.

Lauren Snow uses FitBit to track calories in and calories out to ensure she is receiving proper nutrients.

Lauren Snow uses FitBit to track calories in and calories out to ensure she is receiving proper nutrients. (Screenshot taken by Bridget Creel).

“I think a diet plays games on the mind,” she said. “I think you trick yourself into not wanting something that you really do want and I think that depriving yourself from the things that you really do want is not a healthy way to live. The more you crave something without giving in, the more crazy-obsessed you become over it.”

In a diet study by UCLA published in the journal American Psychologist, three major findings were discovered, all of which displayed the negative effects of dieting on mental health. According to Traci Mann, UCLA associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study, people would be better off not even attempting a diet so that their bodies avoid the “wear and tear” from losing and gaining weight.

“At one point, I did not eat peanut butter,” Snow said. “Actually, I didn’t eat peanut butter for a year. The amount of will power it took for me to cut it out for a year was not OK. My mind was going crazy. I couldn’t do it.”

In another study, “The Ancel Keys ‘Semi-Starvation’ Study,” a group of healthy men were required to limit their calories to 1,600 per day. Obvious physical results such as changes in body temperature, hunger levels and physical discomforts were not even the most significant outcome of the study. Instead, the psychological impact of diet restriction cause an increase preoccupation with food, severe emotional distress and binging and self-reproach.

Infographic by Bridget Creel. (Data retrieved from Arthur Frank, medical director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program)

Infographic by Bridget Creel. (Data retrieved from Arthur Frank, medical director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program)

“I think it overtakes your life a little bit,” said Kayla Hammer, a junior at Elon. “It’s really hard at first to eliminate things you’ve been eating for so long. Even when you eat a salad, you put shredded cheese on there or something. You have to learn to eliminate even the little things.”

Although diets have always been temporary for Hammer, the long-lasting effects of dieting have mentally impacted her and caused her to try different diet methods.

“Even after I was done with paleo, even just being on a diet temporarily changed my mindset so much that I was thinking about every meal that I ate,” said Hammer. “Have I already eaten a lot of cheese today? Do I need cheese on a salad? Anything that that I had eliminated from my diet previously in paleo, I was constantly thinking about what I was eating, even when I was off paleo.”

Hammer has tried many different diets and found that the constant worry and thought-process behind preparing meals and thinking about the next time to eat was mentally draining.

“I was always constantly worrying at the end of every week, ‘When do I have time to meal prep this week?” she said. “And if I don’t have time to meal prep this week, then I will just skip a snack or skip breakfast because I don’t have meals ready for that and I need to go. I need to be on the go and I can’t eat a granola bar because that’s not on paleo.’”

Weekly meal prep calls for grocery lists, where only certain items are allowed. (Photo taken by Bridget Creel).

Weekly meal prep calls for grocery lists, where only certain items are allowed. (Photo taken by Bridget Creel).

The mental toll then took a physical toll on Hammer’s body when she stopped giving her body the proper nutrients, due to lack of time or convenience. Hammer believes that if diets are temporary and if the proper research is done beforehand, it can be very successful for the mind and body. However, if people do not replenish with what they are eliminating, he or she will run into a huge problem.

“As a college student, I think it is very mentally draining telling yourself what you can and can’t eat because you have so much else that’s going on in your life that you shouldn’t be worrying about what you eat,” she said. “Even if you start on a diet with the goal to lose weight, that’s fine, but the whole reason you’re losing weight is because you’re being conscious about what you’re eating. So know why you’re on the plan in the first place and do your research.”

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Individual Reporting Project Update

Multimedia Journalism

By Bridget Creel

Infographic by Bridget Creel.

Infographic by Bridget Creel.

Although the term “elimination diet” has several different meanings, it is generally referring to a removal of a specific food or food group from the diet. Popular terms such as “gluten-free” and “dairy-free” have become prevalent in the food production world in response to food allergies. However, elimination diets are not always used to solve food allergy or intolerance issues, but instead by choice. Whether the elimination diet is by choice or not, the psychological effects of depriving oneself of a food source can cause greater damage then is let on.

According to Elon junior Kayla Hammer, the Paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, eliminates anything a caveman could not create himself.

Q: WHAT ELIMINATION DIET HAVE YOU TRIED?

Paleo is the caveman diet, eliminating anything that cavemen couldn’t create themselves. So a diet with fruit, vegetables and meat fish, staying away for any kind of steak. Definitely no dairy. No grains anything like that.

 Q: BASIS OF PALEO?

Paleo wants to put the purest of nutrients into your body, nothing that’s manufactured, everything that you can simply grow in your backyard or obtain without any extra production process.

 Q: MEAL PLANNING?

I think it overtakes your life a little bit. It’s really hard at first to eliminate things you’ve been eating for so long. Even when you eat a salad, you put shredded cheese on there or something. You have to learn to eliminate even the little things.

Even when you’re out with friends, they ask you why you’re not ordering certain things and you try to explain to them the diet that you’re on and it’s very frustrating when people just don’t understand why you’re trying that. So, at first it was very hard to get adjusted when you’re eating something for so long and then you’re just going to literally the bare minimum.

One of the big difficulties with paleo is spicing things up because you’re keeping things at such the bare minimum, there’s not a lot you can do with it. So, I would spend a lot of time searching on the Internet different paleo recipes. But again, I’m a college student, so I’m on a college student’s budget and time. So it was really hard to get to the grocery store every week and be refreshing my spices and things like that. It’s very hard to spice things up when you don’t have time to cook elaborate meals with different variations of dressings. A lot of paleo is making your own dressings through the pure ingredients. So it’s all about time management and being able to use those pure ingredients and switch it up so you don’t get bored and frustrated with your diet.

 Q: VIEW ON DIETS V. CHANGE IN LIFESTYLE? WHY WAS YOUR DIET TEMPORARY?

I use the paleo diet as a change of mindset. So, I told myself I would stick with paleo for at least 2 months and if I stuck with it for at least 2 months, I would try one more month. And so, I continued to push my mind that way and I did think of it as very temporary I was like, “This isn’t something I wanna stay with but I know this is something that’s gonna help my mind mold more to thinking about what I eat at every meal.” And I think that’s something so great about the paleo diet being temporary was I stuck with it for three months, I set a goal for myself and I said after these three months, I’ll be done with it. So, after I was done with paleo, even just being on it temporarily changed my mindset so much to me thinking about every meal that I ate. Have I already eaten a lot of cheese today? Do I need cheese on a salad? Anything like that that I had eliminated from my diet previously in paleo, I was constantly thinking about what I was eating, when I was off paleo.

 Q: WAS IT EVER DRAINING TO WORRY ABOUT WHAT YOU EAT ALL THE TIME? MENTAL STRAIN?

 As a college student, I think it is very mentally draining telling yourself what you can and can’t eat because you have so much else that’s going on in your life that you shouldn’t be worrying about what you eat. You’re on the go so much, you should just be able to eat whatever you want or what’s in front of you. What I learned from paleo is I worked through those mental hardships to get to where I am and be able to control what I eat because although I didn’t stick with paleo, although I don’t agree with everything that it had to offer at the time, I think it did help me change my mindset to eat better, eat healthier and have a more mindful way of eating rather than just eating whatever I want, whenever I want.

But when I was on it, it was very mentally draining because I was always constantly worrying at the end of every week, “When do I have time to meal prep this week? And if I don’t have time to meal prep this week, then I just skip a snack or I skip breakfast because I don’t have meals ready for that and I need to go. I need to be on the go and I can’t eat a granola bar because that’s not on paleo.” So, once I did that, it became very physically draining instead of mentally draining because if I didn’t have time to meal prep, I couldn’t eat in certain places, so I would just skip eating cause I wasn’t allowed to eat certain things that were around me. It was very mentally draining to keep up with how much you have to meal prep when you’re really watching what you eat.

 Q: THROUGH AN ELIMINATION DIET, THE MOST NEGATIVE IMPACT IS NOT REPLENISHING WHAT YOU ARE MISSING OUT THROUGH THE ELIMINATION. WHAT’S YOUR VIEW ON PEOPLE WHO DO NOT DO THE ELIMINATING CORRECTLY?

If you are on a diet or eating plan, even if you are vegetarian, vegan, you need to know the nutrients your body needs from what you’re not eating: meat, rice, dairy, whatever that may be, you need to know that you’re body still needs those nutrients. I think that some people just overlook because maybe physically, they cannot eat it because physically, it will upset them. And that’s fine. But if you take a pill or anything to replenish yourself with those nutrients, you need to remember that. Because on paleo, I’m eating everything I’m required to eat but if I don’t eat that, if I skip a meal, I’m not getting those nutrients anyways. It’s just about making time for yourself and making the conscious choice to know that you still need to be getting those nutrients.

You need to do your research. I think a lot of people forget that. A lot of people hear these things and they don’t research a lot about it. One of the biggest things is you need to know what you’re eliminating, why you’re eliminating it and what you can take to replace that if you are eliminating it. And I think that’s one of the things that people forget.

People will go on things like Herbalife, kicks, because people will hear about it. You’re replacing a whole meal with a shake. Ask yourself: What nutrients is that shake supplying you? Are you getting enough protein, fruits and vegetables? You need to know if you choose to make the conscious decision to replace a meal with any kind of other meal plan, are you getting what your body needs to keep that energy up? Sure, change your meal plan, change your eating plan, that’s fine, as long as your body’s getting the nutrients to keep your energy up because if you’re not, that eating plan is not doing anything for you except for losing muscle, losing fat and losing energy, which is nothing we want to see in our bodies.

 Q: WHAT’S YOUR DIET LIKE NOW?

After paleo, I tried to stick with eliminating a lot of bread and dairy out of my life because I think that’s something I used to eat a lot in my previous diets. But after paleo, I noticed how much I had been eating cheese, milk and bread. I tend to get salads now instead of wraps, I’ve switched to almond milk instead. So just kind of consciously making choices like that, that I learned from being on paleo a few months, I try to implement here. I have taken dairy back in my diet: cheese, eggs, anything like that. As I said, if you do your research, know that paleo allows eggs sometimes. So, it’s all about knowing your research, knowing what you’re doing with your body and just trying it out. If you like it, if you don’t you can learn from it if you do enough research and take it into your regular-life diet and implement it for a healthier lifestyle.

 Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE THE MAIN REASON BEHIND DIETING?

I think overall that people should do their research before they just do something that they’ve heard is the current fad. I think diet is all about the psychological benefits because that’s the main thing I got out of being paleo—being more conscious about what I eat. Even if you start on a diet with the goal to lose weight, that’s fine, but the whole reason you’re losing weight is because you’re being conscious about what you’re eating. So, even if you don’t lose weight, you’ve learned from that diet to be conscious about what you’re eating. I think whether it’s the physical aspect or the psychological aspect, you need to know the reasons why you’re going into the diet. Personally for me, I think diets should be made more for the psychological aspect in what you learn from them, rather than what you look like because looks don’t mean anything if you’re not getting the right nutrients in your body. You could be the skinniest person in the world and be really low on your protein or fruits for that day. It really needs to be the psychological over the physical because you need to be getting the right nutrients no matter what. You can learn how to get those and eliminate the bad things in your life and that’s what you can learn from diets, not just that number on the scale.

Charlie Hebdo attacks become a debate of free expression versus religious tolerance

Multimedia Journalism
Infographic by Bridget Creel

Infographic by Bridget Creel

By Bridget Creel

The aftermath of the terror attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has sparked a deliberation between the American values of free expression and religious tolerance. According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, “about three-in-four Americans (76%) have heard at least a little about the attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.” After speaking to several locals living in the Burlington, North Carolina area, people seemed to know more about the attack than the percentage of people reflected in the poll.

The poll also stated that 60 percent of Americans said it was OK for Charlie Hebdo to publish the cartoons, but 28 percent said that the cartoons should not have been published.

“I definitely think the attack was wrong,” Kelly Foran said. “Without a doubt, violence is always wrong and never justified. Freedom of speech is a universal right but in Europe, there is a gray area for freedom of speech.”

The gray area for freedom of speech has also been referenced by Pope Francis, who admits that the attacks are wrong but that it was also wrong for the magazine to provoke the religious group in the first place. Pope Francis addressed that limits should be stated to eliminate any miscommunication or chance that a massacre like this could happen again.

Infographic by Bridget Creel. (center photo taken by Bridget Creel & headshots taken from elon.edu)

Infographic by Bridget Creel. (center photo taken by Bridget Creel & head shots taken from elon.edu)

Gerry Waterman, associate chaplain for Catholic life at Elon University, agrees with the Pope that offensive words can provoke dangerous actions

“Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing but when it affects and hurts someone on a very personal level, there is a natural aversion to hearing something that hurts us and maybe even some type of violent reaction,” Waterman said.

In this case, the natural aversion for the Jihadist Muslim group was to kill many of the people responsible for the publication of the offensive cartoon.

Based on the concept of freedom of speech, Charlie Hebdo had the right to publish the cartoons. However, there are people, similar to the 28 percent that believe the magazine was too offensive through the publication.

“I personally don’t think they should publish such cartoons, or at least consider if there are other ways to achieve their satirical ends,” said Joel Harter, associate chaplain for Protestant life at Elon University. “The best satire has a moral or political purpose; it doesn’t just make fun of others for comedic or shock value.”

According to an article by The Washington Post, there is a divide that currently exists between journalists who are torn between the right and ethics of publishing the cartoons.

“I don’t think you should attack religious things in books,” Philip Greene said. “There are so many variations of religion and no one will ever feel the same way.”

For those who responded to the poll that Pew Research Center conducted, the people who were against the publishing of the cartoons said it was strictly a matter of respect for other religions.

“The whole situation could have been prevented,” Virginia Greene said. “I think it could have been avoided but I also think that good Muslims need to stand up through other ways than killing.”

Elon University Creates ‘The Sexy and Genderful God’ Series to Engage Students During Winter Term

Reporting for the public good

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By Bridget Creel

Students, faculty members and organizations at Elon University created a series of discussions to stimulate conversations about gender, sexual identity and sex within progressive Christianity. Each week claimed a different theme such as Gender, Feminism, and the Bible and Sexuality and Supporting LGBTQIA Christians.

The final discussion, Dating and Sex for 21st Century Christians involves thoughts from SPARKS, Joel Harter, associate chaplain for Protestant life and Marisa Thompson, associate rector at Holy Comforter.

“We’ll share theological resources from scripture and other Christian sources for helping students make wise choices about sex and relationships,” said Joel Harter. “Our point is that each person needs to think and pray through this for themselves and make decisions that are right for them and their partner, and that no one should feel pressured into sex or feel that there’s only one way for Christians to think about sex.”

Harter encourages the discussions to be very open and student-driven and hopes that it will spark more conversation about these topics in the future. Harter worked with Sparks to plan a discussion that would challenge students to think about the ways different people perceive the current “the hook-up” culture that has been created.

The final discussion will take place on January 21 at 7 p.m. in the Truitt Center. For more information about the event, check out the event page here.

Report: Student debt could be related to college location

Reporting for the public good
Student Debt and the Class of 2013 Report

Student Debt and the Class of 2013 Report

By Bridget Creel

The November 2014 report released by the Institute for College Access and Success said that students who took out loans to attend college graduated in 2013 with an average debt of $28,400. Based on the report, the debt of students in the Northeast and the Midwest was significantly higher than the debt of students going to school in the West and the South.

Private universities, such as Elon University in North Carolina, that do not grant full scholarships work to keep the tuition at a lower cost, however there are students that cannot attend the university due to the cost.

“The average debt for Elon graduates graduating in 2013 was just over $28,000 and we see about 44 percent of our students graduating with student loans,” said Lisa Keegan, the dean of admissions at Elon University.

Keegan uses data to compare the different geographic markets in order to work with the board of trustees to keep the tuition as low as possible.

Infographic by Bridget Creel.

Infographic by Bridget Creel.

“On average, we’re about $10,000 less than other private schools,” said Keegan. “We look at that data and break that down by geographic markets as well from where Elon students are coming from.”

Keegan has found that compared to private universities in the Northeast, Elon’s price differs by about $15,000.

“Elon’s financial model is really sound,” said Keegan. “We’ve been able to grow and provide lots of new opportunities because we have such a sound financial model. It’s unique in the higher education market place in that we don’t meet full need. We don’t scholarship students at the same level that lots of other schools do. To compensate for that, we try to keep our overall cost low.”

“I’m quite nervous about my loans,” said Elon Senior Corbin McConnell. “However, it’s better just to learn to know they are coming rather than worry. I invested in my future and that’s the most important part.”

Keegan explained that the conversations with prospective students and parents always get to be difficult and there are cases when students cannot come to Elon due to financial implications. The cost of any university is just as important as considering the value of the experience. There must be early conversations about whether or not the tuition is realistic for the whole course of the four years, she said.

Alex Ward

Alex Ward

“As tuition increases, student loans increase and that is a huge problem for the national debt,” said Alex Ward, a graduate of Elon’s class of 2014. “There is no guarantee that the loans will get paid back.”

Regardless of the cost of the public or private nonprofit college, 70 percent of students in 2013 used student loans to help pay for their education.

Although Elon cannot give a lot of money to incoming students, Elon has increased the amount of scholarships over the years. According to Keegan, by the year 2020, the plan is to triple the need-based financial aid.

For more information on the state by state data of student debt, check out the interactive map.

Exercise can reduce depression symptoms

Editing and Design: Curation Project

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 10.47.37 PMBy Bridget Creel

It is very common to result to prescription drugs to mend symtoms of anxiety and depression. For some people, medications work and for others, they must result to other methods. Exercise happens to be a natural antidepressant because chemicals that are released during exercise can act against symptoms of depression.

Doctors not that it is important for someone who is depressed to keep moving and go about their day. It is easy to want to stay inside and not move but any exercise has been found to be successful in people with depression.

Exercise helps people make better choices

Editing and Design: Curation Project

By Bridget Creel

When a person takes control of their health, exercise and diet play a huge role in increasing the quality of life. Could it be possible that more exercise could lead to healthier choices when it comes to diet?

According to an article by certified personal trainer Shelly Greenfield, that is exactly the case. People operate on a rewards basis and Greenfield points out that instead of rewarding yourself with a treat after exercising, you automatically receive the treat of willpower and ability to make positive and healthy choices. Often times people confuse emotional cravings with what their bodies really need instead.

Exercise causes people to think twice before reaching for something unhealthy. When the body engages in positive behaviors, such as exercise, it improves the way the mind works.