Category Archives: Body Image

Skin Health Series 2

Summer is about to begin and you may be tempted to get an early start on your tan.  Here is “need to know” information about tanning salons that could help you avoid serious health risks down the road.

According to Spencer (1998) the ultraviolet radiation from the artificial light in tanning beds is linked to skin cancers and other types of skin damage.  Indoor tanning beds are associated with a 50% increase in the risk of basal cell carcinoma (i. e., skin cancer).  In fact, 90% of melanomas are estimated to be caused by ultraviolet (UV) exposure (1).  “Tanning beds use fluorescent bulbs that emit mostly UVA. The UVA radiation is up to three times more intense than the UVA in natural sunlight”. (2)

The tanning bed industry often makes inaccurate claims about the benefits of artificial tanning.  For example, the industry claims that indoor tanning promotes the production of vitamin D which is important for bone health and has been linked to reduced risk for cancer.  The industry also claims that indoor tanning helps protect against sun burn.  In reality, an indoor tan provides “the equivalent of a sunscreen rated SPF 4 or less”. (2)   And you can obtain all the vitamin D that your body needs through a healthy diet.

Given the science behind the dangers of indoor tanning, you might be wondering why people still do it?  Harrington and colleagues (2011) found that the ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from tanning beds stimulates areas of the brain associated with reward and, therefore, encourages excessive tanning. (3)

  1. Spencer, J. “Tanning beds and skin cancer: artificial sun old sol = real risk.” Clinics in Dermatology4 (1998): 487-501. Web.
  2. Harvard Women’s Health Watch – By the way, doctor: Is a tanning bed safer than sunlight?
  3. Harrington, C. R., Beswick, T. C., Graves, M., Jacobe, H. T., Harris, T. S., Kourosh, S., Devous Sr, M. D. and Adinoff, B. (2012), Activation of the mesostriatal reward pathway with exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) vs. sham UVR in frequent tanners: a pilot study. Addiction Biology, 17: 680–686. doi:10.1111/j.1369-1600.2010.00312.x

Skin Health Series

As the weather warms up and everyone starts to head outside, we need to remember to be kind to our skin. One of the most important ways to take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun. While soaking up some rays can be good for the body, by increasing the amount of Vitamin D, excessive exposure can cause wrinkles and age spots, and can increase the risk of skin cancer (1). Research shows a strong dose-response relationship between UV exposure and skin cancer, the more time you spend tanning, the higher the risk of developing melanoma and other types of skin cancer (2).

Exposure to UV is not the only way source of irreparable damage to the skin. Tanning beds, which rely mainly on UVA light to create a tan, have been classified by The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as carcinogenic to humans (2). In fact, studies show that occasional use of tanning beds triples the risk of developing melanoma.

Fortunately, there are simple approaches to help protect from damaging UV rays. The best way to protect yourself from UVA exposure is to not use tanning beds. Tanning beds are dangerous, and offer virtually no positive health benefits.

Here are three ways to protect yourself from damage caused by excess exposure to the sun(1):

  • Wear sunscreen when outdoors with at least 15 SPF and reapply every two hours. Regular daily use of a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent (3).
  • Seek shade or shelter during from about 10 am to 2 pm when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Wear protective clothing when you are outdoors for prolonged periods of time.

As you head outside this summer, remember to protect yourself to ensure that your skin, and your body, stays healthy and happy!

  3. Green AC, Williams GM, Logan V, Strutton GM. Reduced melanoma after regular sunscreen use: randomized trial follow-up. J Clin Oncol 2011; 29(3):257-263.



Self-Compassion is the concept of loving one’s self and being sympathetic to one’s mistakes. Practicing self-compassion can create positive wellbeing as well as decrease anxiety and depression.[1]

Self-compassion and being nice are important because both of these things can actually improve your well-being.  Kristin Neff, Associate Professor in Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin, explains the three layers of self-compassion: self-kindness, sense of common humanity, and mindfulness. If used together, all three can promote the strong sense of wellbeing that most of use desire. Learn more by watching Dr. Neff’s TED talk:

[1] Elements of Self-Compassion. Web. 30 Mar 2017

The Body Monologues

On Wednesday evening students from HealthWorks, a peer education program in University Health Services, organized and performed The Body Monologues. The event was inspired by National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and included members of the Penn State W.O.R.D.S. (Writers Organized to Represent Diverse Stories) performance team. The performers shared their personal struggles with body image and their journeys to self-acceptance.

A HealthWorks student performs her monologue. Photo by Michelle Mehallow.

From gymnasts to runners, fashionistas to dancers, they told decidedly different stories that all centered around how they learned to accept their body in the face of ever-changing societal norms.

As part of the event, members of Orchesis Dance Company performed a piece that a story about humans battling their personal struggles. One dancer explained the piece illustrated that humans can win the battle, but that the struggles they will always be a part of the person. In the discussion portion of the event, students agreed that “Self-love is a process,” albeit a slow and ongoing one.

Maddy Galascio, a HealthWorks student and monologue performer, said she was introduced to the project last semester and it piqued her interest. At first, she didn’t think she had a strong story to tell but ended up delivering a moving performance about her struggles as a competitive gymnast. For Maddy, the best part of participating in The Body Monologues was bonding with her fellow performers. She said, “We’re really close now because we’ve been through so much together.”

The Body Monologues was a resounding success, and an example of how impactful discussions like these can be to college students. Opening up the conversation about self-acceptance, body image, and health is beneficial to not only the audience but also to the cast.

Written by Healthy Penn State Ambassador – Michelle Mehallow

Eating Disorder Resources

“Eating disorders — such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating – include extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. They are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females and males. In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life” (NEDA, 2016)

Are you interested in learning more about eating disorders? Visit the websites below. You’ll also learn about how you can foster a body positive environment.


Are you or someone you know struggling? A team at Penn State’s University Health Services (UHS) and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can help. The staff are dedicated to working with and helping students who are battling eating disorders. Use the contact information below to call for an appointment.

Healthy Eating and Living Support (HEALS)
University Health Services (UHS) Medical Appointments 863-0774
UHS Nutrition Clinic 863-0461
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) 863-0395

Diet? What Diet?

Are you fed up with “diets” and realize that they just don’t work?  If so, you’ll be happy to know that research also shows diets don’t work (Mann, 2007)[i].  Diets often eliminate food groups and cause an imbalance in nutrient intake. Typically, diets are too restrictive to maintain on a regular basis.  They leave people feeling deprived, which in turn back fires and can cause people to overindulge in the foods they were avoiding.  If you want to make healthy changes to your diet, reject the diet mentality and embrace intuitive eating.

Intuitive eating (Bush, 2014)[ii] means listening to your body. Honor your hunger by eating.  And respect when you feel full.  Challenge the food police that categorize food as “good” or “bad” and instead, enjoy all food in moderation. Make food choices that reinforce your health and make you feel well.  When you are bored, stressed, or feel emotional, instead of using food as your comfort, engage in an activity that will help you manage your stress and work through your emotions.  Respect your body so you can feel good about it and be the best version of you.

Want to learn more about intuitive eating?  Read Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.  You can browse through the book in the student resource area in 201 Student Health Center.

[i] Mann T, Tomiyama AJ, Westling E, et al. Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. Am Psychol. 2007;62:220–233.

[ii] Bush H, Rossy L, Mintz L, & Schopp (2014). Eat for Life: A Worksite Feasibility Study of a Novel Mindfulness-based Intuitive Eating Intervention. Am J Health Promotion (July/Aug):380-388.


Penn State Student Health Assessment Report – 2016

Do PSU students get enough sleep?  How about enough exercise? Are students eating enough fruits and veggies?

The answers to these questions and more can be found in the 2016 Student Health Assessment Report.  Data in the report are based on the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) that was conducted at Penn State. The report provides information about PSU students’ health habits, behavior, and perceptions.

The survey was conducted in March 2016 with a random sample of 10,500 students.  Students were contacted by email and invited to participate in the online survey. The report highlights the responses of 1,776 Penn State students who completed the survey (a 17% response rate). When compared to the overall University Park student population, females, White students, and Asian Students were over-represented among survey respondents. As a result, caution should be taken when interpreting these data as the data may not accurately reflect the health behaviors of the University Park student population as a whole.

PSU Annual Report 2016

Eating Disorder Awareness

Eating Disorder Awareness

If someone is showing signs of an eating disorder, early intervention can significantly decrease the likelihood that a more serious, life threatening eating disorder will develop. Early intervention can prevent years of struggle and can lead to greater chances for full recovery. [1]

Here are some of the signs that a person may be struggling with an eating disorder:

  • Chronic dieting despite being underweight
  • Constant weight fluctuations
  • Obsession with calories and fat contents of food
  • Engaging in ritualistic eating patterns, such as cutting food into tiny pieces, eating alone, and/or hiding food
  • Continued fixation with food, recipes, or cooking; the individual may cook intricate meals for others but refrain from eating
  • Depression or lethargy
  • Avoiding social functions, family and friends. May become isolated and withdrawn
  • Switching between periods of overeating and fasting[2]

The National Eating Disorders Association offers a free and confidential online screening for eating disorders. The screening only takes a few minutes. At the end, you will be given information and next steps.

Campus Resources:

Internet Resources:





Love Your Body Week: October 19th-23rd

HealthWorks peer educators spent the week encouraging students to love, appreciate, nurture, and respect their body.   Students who attended fitness classes in White Building during this week were welcomed with positive messages on the mirrors and hearts decorating the walls, encouraging them to think more positively about their bodies.  Peer educators encouraged students to write why they love their body on a sticky note or write a negative thought they have about their body on a balloon and pop it at the Love Your Body table in various locations on campus throughout the week.  Those who live in the Residence Halls may have noticed sticky notes with positive messages adorning the mirrors on their floor.  To find out more about how you can foster a body positive environment for others and yourself check out:

Love Your Body Week Balloon Display
Love Your Body Week Balloon Display

Brian Cuban to Break Silence on Eating Disorders in Men

Eating disorders among boys and men have come to be known as a silent epidemic. While an estimated 10 million American men will struggle with a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their lives, the issue isn’t widely addressed.

Penn State alum and best-selling author Brian Cuban is looking to change that. As part of UHS’s Love Your Body Week (October 27-31), Cuban will speak about his successful recovery from depression, 27 years of eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, and drug addiction. An advocate for mental health awareness, Cuban seeks to break the male eating disorder stigma and reassure others that recovery is possible.

The event is free of charge and will be held Monday 10/27 at 7 pm in the HUB Auditorium.