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Think like a penguin to stay safe this winter

Groundhog’s day (February 2nd) is almost upon us.  I’m hoping for spring, but I’m counting on six more weeks of winter.  Unfortunately, slippery ice often comes with the cold temperatures of winter.  This ice makes for treacherous conditions, which for many leads to back injuries and broken bones (Smith & Nelson, 1998).  In order to walk safely on ice, the Centers for Disease Control recommends trading your Punxsutawney Phil impression for your best penguin impression.  The penguin waddle is regularly touted as a safer way to navigate across ice.  In order to do this, first, lower your center of gravity by bending slightly and pointing your feet outward.  Then instead of trying to fly across the ice, take small, shuffling steps and remain flat-footed.  If you need a little more balance, put your arms out to your side as well (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016).  Hopefully the prophetic rodent will give us more sunshine, but in case he doesn’t: Stay safe out there!



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, January 5). Prepared Penguins: Tips for a Safe and Healthy Winter. Retrieved from Public Health Matters Blogs:

Smith, R., & Nelson, D. (1998, January). Fractures and Other Injuries from Falls After an Ice Storm. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 16(1), 52-55. doi:10.1016/S0735-6757(98)90065-1


A Very Vegan Christmas – Pro Tips

The number of American’s participating in a Vegan diet has risen to new heights in the year 2017. In response to this, below is a list of tips to hopefully make that trip home to visit our non-Vegan family easier to handle. The following were adapted from Romesh Ranganathan’s Christmas survival guide for vegans:

  1. Accept you will be asked a lot of questions
    • Veganism is an unusual thing. Regardless of how many celebrities take it up, the fact is, you have chosen an extreme standpoint so be prepared to explain yourself.
  2. Accept that you are a difficult guest
    • The dietary limitations should speak for themselves as to why Vegans are difficult to cook for.
  3. Don’t let anyone touch your food
    • With fewer options comes less food available, protect your food at all costs.
  4. Pretend your food is disgusting
    • This goes for those who bring a Vegan dish to the meal. You love your creation and want to ensure it isn’t wasted by those just going for a taste.
  5. Avoid vegan cheese
    • Basically, cheese cannot be replicated for Vegans while keeping the same taste we grew up on. Save yourself the disappointment.
  6. Take your own dessert
    • This goes without saying, we all love dessert, so make sure you have something tasty there when the time comes.
  7. Be ready for some terrible jokes
    • Brace yourself, the lack-of-protein jokes are coming.
  8. Do not preach 
    • We make the decision to practice Veganism based on many factors. Most people know why we make this choice, so lecturing them during this time of celebration and time with family often does not get far.

I hope these help some of you Vegans out there this holiday season. Let me know if you have any other tips that could complement these listed please share in the comments!

Practicing Mindfulness for the Holidays

In last week’s blog, I shared a series of articles by Kesha, one of which was an essay she wrote regarding how the holidays can be a time of added stress for those living with mental illness. It’s the time of the year we are encouraged to spend with family and friends, surrounding ourselves with people who love us. But in getting caught up with all of the hustle and bustle, with all the lights and gifts, it can be easy to forget about finding time to take care of ourselves in the process.

There have been a number of posts that have appeared this semester on this blog regarding mindfulness, including one from Andrew regarding The Magic of Mindfulness, where he shared some of the benefits of practicing mindfulness meditation.

Below I have some more resources regarding practicing mindfulness, with a specific emphasis on this time of the year. I hope that they can be of some help to all of you for taking some time for some self-care, I know I need it after this semester. With that in mind, I look forward to sharing more posts again starting in January, and wish you all a safe and wonderful holiday season.

Mindfulness Resources –

Huffington Post: The 2 C’s Of Mindfulness For Healthier, Happier Holidays –

8 Mindfulness Tips During the Holidays –

5 Mindful Tips for Navigating Holiday Stress –

It’s icing on the cake…and calories

Smaller portions equate to fewer calories. But what sized portions are you serving? If you’re like most people, your portions may be determined by images on food packaging, not by nutrition labels. Most individuals who consider calories while serving food do not take into account added ingredients. Packages may display multiple ingredients, like frosting and the enclosed cake, but often frosting and other added ingredients are not mentioned in the nutrition facts. This means that the nutrition facts denoting 200 calories in a slice of cake fail to mention the additional 200 calories of icing covering the slice. When people understand that nutrition labels do not include added ingredients, they eat smaller portions to account for the increase in calories. Next time you’re buying cake mix you might want to consider what frosting adds outside of taste. It could help you cut a smaller piece.

Brand, J., Wansink, B., & Cohen, A. (2016). Frosting on the cake: pictures on food packaging bias serving size. Public health nutrition, 19(12), 2128-2134.

A generation’s view on HIV

Last week, Josh wrote an informative post on World AID’s Day, in which he brings up a key point about how HIV is perceived, and how stigma and discrimination dissuade an at-risk population from getting testing and treated. This points to a real need to understand how the population understands HIV, and what their attitudes are towards it. Kaiser Family Foundation recently wrapped up a study that could be insightful in this area.

In an article published on Nov 30th, they write ” an entire generation has been born and grown up without ever knowing a time when HIV did not exist” but that “they may be the first to see it end”.  KFF conducted a survey in which they interviewed (online and by telephone, in English) 1,794 18-30 year olds between January 25th and February 16, 2017. Of note, they “oversampled” Black and Latino populations, as these groups are disproportionately affected by HIV.

Here are some key findings from their report:

  • young people of color are more personally concerned about HIV, know more people who have HIV, and  are more worried about getting HIV than are whites
  • most young adults are not super aware of advances in HIV prevention and treatment (13% of respondents knew about PrEP–a pill taken daily as a preventative measure against the disease) and only 10% believe modern treatment is “very effective” in preventing HIV
  • stigma is still real: most young people would be comfortable having a friend or colleague with HIV, but many/most are uncomfortable having a roommate with HIV, having their food prepared by someone with HIV, or having a sexual partner with HIV
  • misconceptions: 38-58% of respondents believe that HIV can be spread through plates, glasses, toilets, spitting, or kissing–none of these are true
  • 54% majority of respondents have never been tested for HIV and 63% have never talked to a health care provider about it

Their results are consistent with other findings that advances in HIV prevention and treatment have not been effectively communicated, at least not to young adults.

From Ke$ha to Kesha: A Glitter Queen’s Ascension to Self-Care Goddess

Last week, pop-artist Kesha authored a piece for Time on the added pressure of the Holiday season for those living with Mental Illness. In the piece, she discusses the added pressures that this time of year can add, but you might be asking yourself, who is Kesha to give me life advice?

Following a year that included a highly publicized comeback single, accompanied by her second Number One album, a critically proclaimed tour, and her first Grammy nominations, one could say things are going well for the artist who’s early career was built on electro-pop and a quirky party girl aesthetic. While her new album highlights overcoming personal struggles and finding self-acceptance, it has not been all Rainbows for Kesha.

While promoting her albums upcoming release over the summer, Kesha released a series of letters to fans regarding each single that dropped, sharing an intimate and personal look into the process of how she turned her pain into art. She touched on her time in rehab for an eating disorder, her struggles with mental illness, and her decision to drop the $ from her name. Starting with a piece published in Lenny Letter opening up about depression, finding empathy, and the process of turning pain into art through Praying, to a piece from Rolling Stone where she shared about her idols and Female Empowerment in Woman, to Learning to Let Go and defining her own mantras in Huffington Post, to sharing in Mic on feeling like an outcast and her passion for equality on Hymn, and finishing with a piece in Refinery29 regarding the album’s title track, Kesha provided fans with a detailed look into her songwriting process and personal life.

In being vulnerable, Kesha not only reminds us that there is a reason to keep fighting when things are not going well, but also continues an ongoing effort to destigmatize mental health. Through her songs and her form of blogging, Kesha showed the world the destruction of perfectionism and the benefits of radical self-love.

But rest assured: I can speak from seeing her in concert this fall that our girl still loves her glitter. Here’s to continue to rooting for her to continue reaching for the stars and shining bright for her fans in years to come.


Kesha: The Holidays Are Hard If You Struggle With Mental Illness. Don’t Blame Yourself:

Kesha Fights Back in Her New Single, “Praying”:

Read Kesha’s Poignant Essay About Celebratory New Song ‘Woman”:

Learn to Let Go:

Read Kesha’s essay on her new single “Hymn” – a song for “people who feel like outcasts”:

Kesha: “What’s Left Of My Heart Is Fucking Pure Gold & No One Can Touch That”:

The Youngest and Brightest in Healthcare Reform

“When I was your age…”

takes on a whole new meaning when the person saying it has made Forbe’s 30 Under 30 list. A little intimidating, a lot impressive!

The 30 Under 30 2018: Healthcare  list features entrepreneurs, physicians, and even a few students. The youngest honoree appears to be Cathy Tie from Toronto, Canada. She published her first research paper at the age of just 16! Five years later, she owns the company Ranomics, which tracks gene variants to facilitate healthcare organizations and clinical labs with their information management.  Another organization, Healthify, was founded by 4 young visionaries (Manik Bhatt, Eric Connor, Daniel Levenson, and Alex Villa) and works with the nations largest insurers to connect Medicaid recipients with social services.

The list of impressive contributors goes  on and on- research into non-hormonal male contraceptives, a diagnostic test to measure drug adherence, testing nanoparticles to reverse muscle atrophy, a wearable device to discourage smokers from lighting up when they are about to relapse,  the streamlining of patients for clinical trials, and altering your own white blood cells to target cancer…

I had a pretty fun time scrolling through these projects–it’s encouraging to see the heart, smarts, and collaboration towards truly life-changing work.


Coffee… Good or Bad for Health?

I recently read an article that was published a few days ago in The BMJ regarding coffee consumption and health. I was curious to learn what the findings were, considering that I have heard mixed reviews over the years about the health benefits of coffee.

After conducting an umbrella review of over 200 meta-analyses regarding coffee consumption and health outcomes, Poole et al. (2017) found that drinking three to four cups of coffee a day was associated with lower risk of a variety of health outcomes. According to the article, researchers found that drinking three cups of coffee a day lowered risk for death and cardiovascular disease, compared to non-coffee drinkers. Coffee consumption was also found to lower risk of various cancers, as well as neurological, liver, and metabolic diseases. In women who are pregnant, however, high levels of coffee consumption were associated with higher risk of low birth weight, pregnancy loss, as well as preterm births. Additionally, coffee consumption was found to be associated with an increased risk of fracture in women.

A note that this study mentions is that current evidence on the topic of coffee consumption and health is mainly observational and of lower quality in nature. That said, researchers recommend that randomized controlled trials be used in future research to better understand causal associations between coffee consumption and various health outcomes.

Eliseo Guallar, professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published an editorial in response to Poole et al. (2017). Dr. Guallar comments that while coffee drinking is generally safe, people should not start drinking coffee for health reasons. Dr. Guallar continues in stating that “some population subgroups may be at higher risk of adverse effects” of coffee consumption. Additionally, Dr. Guallar expressed the importance of the amount of coffee consumption, asserting that there remains uncertainty regarding the effects of higher levels of coffee consumption. However, Dr. Guallar expressed that moderate coffee consumption is safe and can be a part of a healthy diet.


Poole, R., Kennedy, O.J., Roderick, P., Fallowfield, J.A., Hayes, P.C., & Parkes, J. (2017). Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. BMJ 2017; 359:j5024. doi: 

Guallar, E. (2017). Coffee gets a clean bill of health. BMJ 2017; 359:j5356. doi: 

Transgender Day of Remembrance

CW: Anti-Trans Violence, Homicide mention

Yesterday, November 20th, marked Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), which honors the memory of those whose lives were lost due to anti-transgender prejudice. Recognized annually on November 20th, TDOR was initially started in 1999 as a vigil to honor the life of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed a year prior. While many strides have been made in recent years in regards to trans visibility and awareness, transgender people still face violence at disproportionate levels.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, there were at least 23 deaths of transgender people in the United States that were due to violence, which at that point was the highest number ever recorded. In 2017, there have been at least 25 transgender people killed by violent means. These numbers are likely much lower than the actual rate of violence, as police can sometimes release incorrect names or genders of victims.

The experiences of violence are often intersectional, most of the victims counted were non-white transgender individuals, where race, class, and gender identity create an increased risk of experiencing violence. Below I have included some additional sources for further reading, and a link to, where they have a printable list of victims from the past year, that is often read at vigils honoring TDOR.

Sources –

GLAAD: Transgender Day of Remembrance –

Human Rights Campaign: Violence Against the Transgender Community in 2017 –

The New York Times: Violence Against Transgender People Is on the Rise, Advocates Say –

International Transgender Day of Remembrance –

A Blueprint to “Win” the War on Drugs

What can the United States learn from Portugal about the war on drugs?

A Guest Post by Becca Fritton.

On October 26, 2017, Trump declared the opioid crisis a National Public Health Emergency. As Andrew Bradford discussed in his October 27 post, while a first step, this announcement does not immediately open up additional funding for the crisis, but instead gives access to funding that already exists. Unfortunately, this funding is almost running out. [1] It is important to note that while this announcement raises the voice of the conversation around opioid use in the United States, many do not even consider this a beginning of a plan to address the epidemic.

Any discussion or solution proposed around addiction is remiss without discussing criminalization. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times put forth a stunning summary of how Portugal has managed to “win” the war drugs. While drug dealers still go to prison in Portugal, they have made it an “administrative offense” to possess or purchase a small quantity of drugs. Instead of going to jail or to trial, offenders attend a meeting with social workers who work towards preventing a casual user from becoming dependent on drugs. Rather than viewing an individual as a criminal, officials in Portugal focus on the individual’s health and help them find resources they need to stay healthy.

Those who are dependent on drugs need medical care, not punishment. The Health Ministry of Portugal also targeted certain neighborhoods and populations for passing out clean needles and encouraging methadone instead of heroin. At large events or concerts, the ministry would offer to test individuals’ drugs to advise if they were safe or not. Portugal’s government has also funded widespread use of methadone vans that supply users with a free and controlled amount of methadone.

This approach has worked extremely well for Portugal and now they have the lowest drug mortality rate in Western Europe, and one-fiftieth the latest count in the United States. [2] The United States should take note and begin moving in a different direction. Instead of funding prisons and jails, the government should place more funding and infrastructure in place to address addiction from a mental and public health standpoint.

Becca can be contacted via email at: rfritton [@] berkeley [dot] edu


[1] Allen, G. and Kelly, A. (2017). Trump Administration Declares Opioid Crisis a Public Health Emergency. National Public Radio. Retrieved from:

[2] Kristof, N. (2017). How to “Win” the War on Drugs. New York Times. Retrieved from: