When it comes to fitness in 2019, there are some things that are consistent. Dumbbells, yoga pants, circular tracks, and an array of ropes and pullies make the experience that much more exciting. No matter where you go to do your workout, whether running around the neighborhood or attending exercise classes in the park, you are bound to see a millennial somewhere in the mix.

According to a report by the Physical Activity Council (PAC), the millennial generation is more physically active than our forerunners. But what are the cultural drivers for the phenomenon of activity we are witnessing or participating in?

Some believe that our media consumption influences how we see ourselves in ways that may not be the most positive.

Traditional media have been shown to influence individuals’ body image in mostly negative ways, by promoting unrealistic and unattainable body shapes appearances,” said Rachel Rodgers, an associate professor of applied psychology at Northeastern’s Bouvé College.

“Social media is a newer form of media,” she adds. “However, the research suggests that the effects are very similar. In fact, the impact of social media might be even greater due to it being such a visual platform, and the fact that there is no longer a clear distinction between the idealized images of ‘media people’ and those of peers.” Rodgers participated in an email interview.

Throughout all of what we indulge, there are times where we cannot avoid seeing the model with long legs and tailored frame on every poster. These images routinely challenge the body images of so many people.

And it is impossible to miss the chiseled man on the cover of GQ and gush over his appearance but automatically assume that a larger person is unhealthy.

“It is one of those stigmas,” says personal trainer Breanna Lomax. Lomax is based in Indianapolis and has worked as a trainer for more than 3 years. “Just because you’re bigger doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy. People think that because you’re overweight you’re lazy, and that’s not the case at all.”

The world praises weight loss. However, if a person is not losing weight or working out regularly, that can create spaces of comparison. However, we have to analyze all of the factors that go into our physical make-up. With that, working out is not always the cure dealing with a negative body image.

“It’s more than just you working out,” says Lomax. “In order for you to be happy, in order for you to be satisfied, I can fix everything on your body, I can fix as much as I can on your body. But, there is always going to be something. There are some things that you have to be happy with because that makes you who you are.”

In this era of body positivity, the negative connotation of being overweight is being rewritten—and rightfully so. Although there is a social push to love oneself wholeheartedly and unapologetically, actually caring that action out can be more difficult than expected.  

Naturally comparing ourselves to other people who do not have the same genetic make-up as we do can have negative results. And sometimes, it is not easy to detect if a personal view is not positive.

It is very difficult to tell if people are struggling with body image issues, because they can be unrelated to how attractive a person is perceived by others,” says Rodgers.

Trying to muddle one’s way out of self-deprecation is extremely difficult and takes serious amounts of time.  Time is something that many of us do not realize is a privilege. However, for others, the thought of having enough time to workout is inescapable.

It can definitely be difficult. It requires a lot of dedication and discipline,” says Residence Hall Director at the School of Visual Arts New York City, Danielle Watson. “I have had to make the sacrifice of losing about an hour or two of sleep every morning, so that I can go to the gym before work. I know that if I wait until the evening times after work, I’ll be too tired.”

Tired is the word. When we engage with content on social media an examine those who are more physically active, we have to take into consideration how their time is being managed. Are they in school? Are they working multiple jobs? Do they have children? Are they a primary care-giver for a relative of family member? Are they differently abled in a way that prohibits a continuous or rigorous regiment?

“Finding the time is extremely stressful between full-time parenting and work when most personal trainers only offer select classes,” says Kaylah McInnis. The 22 year-old works in customer experience and also has a 5 year-old son. “Limited options leave me with the ultimatum of a healthier lifestyle or much need rest from my daily routine.”

According to a study conducted by the Park Nicollect Melrose Center, approximately 80% of U.S. women don’t like how they look, 34% of men are dissatisfied with their body, and over 50% of Americans aren’t happy with their current weight.

So, for those people who constantly consume images that challenge their body image but don’t necessarily have the time or resources to work out, what are their options? Sadly, there are not very many.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students projected to attend American colleges and universities in the fall of 2018 was 19.9 million. Many, if not all of these institutions provide some recreational facility for students and faculty alike. And for some students, not having the pay to workout is pretty advantageous.

“The financial obligation of having to pay the monthly fee,” says graduate student Quaneshia Chandler. Quaneshia is pursuing a masters in clinical psychology at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. “Growing up where I did, there are no workout facilities. We grew up in a low-income area, we did have those things readily available for us.”

Depending on where you come from, it is not uncommon to not have a local gym. And although going to pursue a degree alleviates pressure and provides access for some, it only pushes the privilege for others.

According to the 2018 Sports and Fitness Industry Association Topline Participation Report, the last couple of years resulted in increased inactivity for those whose annual household incomes are less than $50,000. On the other hand, those whose income was at $75,000 or above saw a displayed increase in activity.

It only makes sense that the average monthly memberships in cities like Boston can cost more than $100. Some memberships are actually double that, like Equinox, which costs $215 monthly.

The financial disparities that we see within our communities is a direct link between health and physicality. Boston magazine reports that there is a total of 1,063 gyms in the Greater Boston area. 581 of those facilities are gyms and health clubs, another 278 are sportwear stores, and the remaining are yoga studios or independent instructors. This makes sense when we consider the job market and the affluence within Boston.

“Maybe implementing some programs for students or for people who fall below a certain income,” says Chandler. “Gyms and recreational facilities should be more accommodating to the financial identity of people.”

Although the millennial generation is dubbed more active and physically than our predecessors, we must analyze why we are working out more and who specifically is working out. There are limitations and layers to the conversation.

Before we can give ourselves a pat on the back for working out, we need to truly dissect what is pushing us to hit the gym. The gym may give you a rounder bottom and more flat tummy. However, it is not the one shot to a more positive perspective.

Individuals who experience body image concerns are unlikely to see those concerns decrease through engaging in appearance-modifying behaviors,” says Professor Rodgers. “Body weight and shape are by no means malleable to the extent that contemporary culture would have us believe. Very few individuals manage to change their appearance in a lasting way through healthy means.

So, to my fellow millennials working out is cool. But understanding that working out is a privilege is that much cooler.

I am completely unsure of what I want to write about for the blog post. I am thinking of something along the lines of health and wellness with millennials of color. For one of the interviews, I would speak with Yvel Joseph who is a certified personal trainer and Track and Field Coach. I would also speak with Leeyan Redwood, who is a student athlete here at Northeastern. I am thinking of talking with someone who is not very active when it comes to their physical life. And also a professional who may know some psychological implications as to why some millennials are not as physically active. 

On March 15, at least 50 people were killed and another 50 were injured in a mass shooting at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Churchchrist.  Sadly, instead of being met with free worship in a holy space these people were met with hatred, danger, and insurmountable violence. For me, I was shook by the terror that took place. Although I am not desensitized to these senseless moments, I am aware that these things are not uncommon and will remain present unless we address the issues of white nationalism and white supremacy for what they are—hatred.

This tragic event happened on a Friday, the Muslim holy day, when many practicing Muslims attend various worship services at their respective mosques.

“It is a racial thing. But yes, the religious aspect does connect as well. But, I believe it is racial.” says Danzel Jones, minister in training at Rehoboth Lighthouse Full Gospel Church in Haverhill. Jones has been in training for 10 years and grew up at Lighthouse, “Whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish so on and so forth, every time something like this happens it’s always at a place of worship for people of color.”

Since the tragedies of 9/11, the Muslim population and others have been targeted and demonized in ways that only fuel separation and angst. The belief that the Muslim population is one of hate and destruction still exists today, even though, in reality, the faith focuses primarily on declarations of faith, the paying in alms or charity, and fasting.

For many people like myself, hearing the news about what took place in New Zealand only reminded me of the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, and other times that white nationalism has plagued the religious spaces of people of color—specifically black people. In the past, there were attacks on the lives on Jewish people and anti-Semitism is still very present in America. However, the Jewish community was welcomed into society in ways that other groups of people have not. Also, many people who identify as Jewish are also white-passing. Therefore, decreasing the chance of being assaulted, insulted, or attacked for what they believe or what they look like.

The first recorded burning burning of a black church occurred in South Carolina in the early 19th century. Since then, church arson has been one of many default responses of racists who were upset with progression.

The reason black churches remain a target is because this space has always been a symbol of direct hope in the face of American racism. It serves a beacon to the African American community. Churches also were hubs for civil rights organizations. Because of this, the black church became an easy target for groups like the Ku Klux Klan, which began burning and bombing houses of worship across the South.

Hate crimes within the United States have increased each year since 2016. This increase is part due to police departments reporting more hate crime data to the FBI. The other factor is the spread of dangerous rhetoric by President Trump and other political figures. Although this normalization of hate speech is specific to America, feelings and alignments have no border walls. Referring to the white nationalists that marched in Charlottesville as “fine” people and equating immigrants with criminals has enduring effects.

Within the United States alone, there have been one to 11 or more anti-mosque incidents in all but six states in the country according to a study conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union. Those state are North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Alaska, Vermont, and Delaware. Massachusetts has somewhere between five and 10 anti-mosque incidents.

“It is true that thoughts and prayers are appreciated and welcome,” said Danzel. “But at the same time, what else I can I do besides pray to support these people?”

Support for the Muslim community can be specific to each individual. Some may prefer sentiments and words of support. Others may feel the need for something more prominent.

I think some people were genuinely saddened by the situation, but I don’t think that was the proper support for the Muslim community,” said Hibo Moallim who is a practicing member of the Muslim faith. “I don’t mean to compare tragedies but with seeing city is shut down and laid up and colors just to support Paris after what happened. Filters and flags everywhere. I didn’t see this type of support for my community. But instead we saw the media make excuses for why this terrorist did what he did. “

We see this type of bias in many incidents and media has a way of making sure we do not miss them. The glorification of the white experience is both conscious and subconscious while the demise or trauma for black and brown people is secular in comparison.

Removing the narrative of the white experience being the default experience is heavy work. Society as we know it revolves around what it means to exist as a white person. However, connecting people and molding those relationships between those who believe similarly and those who do not is what is most important in this case after confronting our racial prejudices and biases.

“People are people,” said Louis De Leon who identifies as agnostic. “And when people go through trauma or hard-times we should be empathetic regardless of race or religion or anything like that.”

At the core, we are all human. Sadly, there is a strong feeling that there is hierarchal value to different lives. Our society, our justice system, and our lack of empathy have proven that to be a fact. In order to come out of this, we must truly face the ugliest parts of who we are in order to produce a world that is more open, honest, and reflective of who we truly want to be.

In the end, sending prayers and thoughts in horrific times is nice and welcomed. However, faith without work is dead. And we as a people have a lot of work to do.  

One thing that I am always grateful to Twitter for is somehow allowing George M. Johnson to come into my feed. Aside from the fact that he has the same name as my father, George is a vocal and accountable activist and writer.

George has published and worked with the likes of TeenVogue, BuzzFeed, Vibe Magazine, and Entertainment tonight. Now activism is something that is being more and more normalized. It also developing in ways that provides nuance and understanding in difficult situations or unknown terrain.

For me, engaging in George’s work was easy to digest because the way he is writes is very similar to how he speaks and engages with his followers on social media. With that, we often see that George is human and he gives us a space to get to know him personally, ask questions, spill tea, and still walk away with information that is both educational and sustainable.

For example, his work on the sexual assault of Terry Crews and the bias we have towards men in situations like this is one of the best pieces I have read. Most of George’s work looks at the world through multiple lens that shift in and out of focus. Thus, providing a scenery that is inescapable.

He also mixes and matches his identities in his work that is both authentic and invaluable—something that I personally am trying to perfect. A great example of this his outlook on the black community valuing and rooting for black lives until those black lives are queer. Thus, highlighting a lot bias and prejudice within the black community towards some of its most vulnerable members.

With that, Johnson also has written a memoir entitled, “All Boys Aren’t Blue”, where he discusses his childhood and ways in which we can all be better allies “in the struggle for equity and equality.”

I personally enjoy the tenacity and vulnerability of Johnson’s writing. I think that it is needed more than ever. And I personally have a lot of respect and renowned for the artist that is George M. Johnson.

This column is a little dated. However, it dives into the different layers of queerness and how being queer is not a singular, tunnel-visioned experience. I enjoyed the read and the way the author related to it. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/22/opinion/theres-no-right-way-to-be-queer.html 

When I graduated from college, I walked out into the world excited to begin my new life. Undergrad was a place where I naturally thrived. Like many people, I threw myself into academics, extra-curriculars, and all the social events that I had an outfit and partner-in-crime for.

Don’t get me wrong. Those four years delivered undeniable struggles in unimaginable ways. I graduated knowing that I had a community of people supporting me and holding me accountable. I needed them the most when I left and moved half-way across the country. In that move, I soon realized that I was experiencing bouts of depression in subtle and passive ways. With that, I didn’t know who to talk to professionally.

In a resource I found some time ago, I discovered that a graduate student’s risk of anxiety and depression is more than six times higher than that of the average person. For many students like myself, there is a sense of loss in changing identity, unreasonable and unhealthy expectations, and financial stressors. All of these things play into our psyche in ways that I had not yet experienced before.

Upon arriving in Boston for graduate school, I jumped out the Uber to figure out what this city had to offer me other than great seafood. Within the first weeks, I immediately began to see myself a little differently.

The worst part about the transition initially was doing introductions for each class. “Hello, I’m Terrence Johnson and I am from Mississippi.” It wasn’t bad because I was nervous or unsure of myself.

But when people heard me speak and I told them where I came from, some of them immediately began to question my intellect, disapprove of my look, and doubt the legitimacy of the institution they chose to attend. This ultimately played into my mental space by amplifying the beginning stages of post-graduation depression. Funny thing is, I had no idea that I was experiencing this phenomenon until months had passed.

Many black people have a strained relationship with physicians for many reasons. Historically, health care has used black bodies, much like the rest of American society, without consent or acknowledgement for selfish advancements like Henrietta Lacks and the Tuskegee Experiment.

For me, having a black person that could relatively relate to what I was experiencing through one of my lenses was important to me.  But in 2013, only 5.3 percent of psychologists were African American and that number had not increased much since.

Finding that fly in the buttermilk was tough. Honestly, it should not have been. There is a strong need for black and brown mental health physicians for multiple reasons. There are several stigmas that surround mental difference for black communities. There are also specific experiences the amplify the need for more people of color in the field to provide spaces that are free from racism and microaggressions.

Shortly after, this idea of post graduation depression grew into imposter syndrome. Why should I be here? What impact could I have? How am I a part of the ranks of people like this?

I tried to understand this rainfall of emotions under the umbrella of all of my personal identities. I was not prepared for those feelings to control who I was and my actions.

And I knew that talking about mental health and discussing my personal differences could emphatically help who I was and what my experience looked like. But who would I talk to?

I found solitude, though, in those who surrounded me and in the family I have back home. Being able to discuss my emotions in a safe, nonjudgmental environment changed my perception on how I viewed myself, my experience, and the negative passive aggression of classmates.  And I knew that if I had experienced this, then there had to be hundreds of others who were having a similar revelation that could be more severe.

There is no way to completely prepare for the graduate transition. There is definitely no one teaching us or giving us tools to help carry our identities into these spaces in a healthy way. There are not enough mental health physicians of colour. And there are not enough white physicians that can intentionally empathize with a black or brown experience.

I am unsure of a holistic way to to remedy this. This is true. However, there is a strong possibility that there is a black student working diligently at this moment to be a beacon to someone like me.

Keep going, you matter more than you know.

 

 

 

2018 was a year that challenged and changed Ariana Grande. Yeah, it was really cute and really chaotic. From her third No. 1 album and her first No. 1 single to rounding out the year with the death {not sure “loss” is clear enough} of her ex and a broken engagement, Grande’s life was  full of turbulence. With all of these things coming off the heels of the terrorist attack at her show in Manchester in 2017, the common person would think she’d take a break and center herself.

Well, Ariana isn’t common, and it shows in her new album, “thank u, next,” which was released earlier this month. One thing we can always count on with Ariana are the vocals. Her voice is butter on the undercurrent of R&B melodies and basslines with pop overtones. Musically, the album shines through as a beacon of forward-moving music. This idea of moving forward is reflected within the sassy and sultry lyrics of the songs.

Now, this is a big step forward for Grande. Just three years ago, she was singing how she wanted a man to make her a “Dangerous Woman.” On the contrary, “bloodline” dispels any of the inhibitions of needing or wanting a man—especially wanting one not on her own terms.

Throughout every song, there is this constant message of living life by her own guidelines. Along the album opening with a ballad-like anthem, “imagine,” discussing what simple, healthy love can look like, and then transitioning into “needy” and “NASA” — needing space, time, energy and a myriad of other things plays into bringing this relationship into fruition. Nevertheless, still on her terms.

This is amplified in the grinding, full-throttle song “bad idea.” Many of us have been in situations where we leaned on another person to help us “numb the pain” in more ways than one. Honest, real, vulnerable and most of all relatable.   

Grande previously stated in a Billboard interview that she wanted “to release music like rappers do”— freely. Grande’s goal is to release music without any restraints, since so many want to fit her into cute box wrapped in a pink bow. Grande is still trying to be more than the little red-headed girl from “Victorious” who transitioned to a lengthy pony. She’s stepping into her womanhood her way. With the album being written and recorded within only a few weeks, it makes sense that it be airy and light while still packing intricacy and layering—as only one would imagine womanhood.

Even within the dark places of the album like “ghostin,” where we hear Grande deal with loving what is assumed to be Pete Davidson while still vulnerable and weighed down by the loss of Mac Miller, the soft song radiates love and mourning with lyrics like,

Look at the cards that we’ve been dealt
If you were anybody else
Probably wouldn’t last a day
Heavy tears, a rain parade from hell (From hell).”

She is still bleeding out to Pete, apologizing and crying throughout the lyrics for causing him pain through trying to survive her own trauma. Selfless and selfish—the beauty of her rawness is undeniable. Usually this type of lyrical writing is most commonly found in R&B. Her infusion of loss and love applique over instrumental silk and satin makes for a finished piece of musical fabric that you can cuddle with on a rainy day and know you are not alone.

No one wants to be alone, especially when we have fallen in love with the potential of a partner and not the reality of that person. “in my head” is literally my first heartbreak when I was an undergrad. When my friends and family saw “a demon, I saw an angel,” Grande depicts the beginning of the end for a lot of people, including herself.

“thank u, next,” which is the name of her album as well as one of the songs, and official first No. 1 single is coupled with other songs like “7 rings,” her second No. 1 single. Collectively, each song rounds out the album, focusing solely on enjoying the moment now, moving on from the past, and becoming okay with an imperfect piece of perfection.

Ariana owns her agency in this album. Not that just that, she’s defining what that means exactly without authorization from any man. This is a testament that we have yet to see the fulfilled artistry of Ariana. She’s just getting started.

The album can be found on all streaming services including iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon Music. The album can also be purchased in person at retailers.