During a time when no one knew what the future had in store for us, recent graduates, such as Armando Ramirez, struggled to find employment following the end of his college period. Graduating from Oakland University in the summer of 2020, Armando applied to multiple different firms, hoping to locate something in finance. After securing a position at USF, his life at adapting to a new job during a pandemic was not easy, but has been doable – he continues to do some everyday activities, with precaution, while also going back and forth between working from his apartment and his office.
I followed Armando around for a typical “day in the life” of someone living through the Covid-19 pandemic as of March 2021. As the world slowly starts to open back up, our states continue to enforce certain restrictions and rules. For Armando, that means going into his USF office in Auburn Hills, Michigan, or working from home. Because of social distancing regulations, Armando had to work from home this day. He’s gotten used to working from home on certain days, but feels more motivated when he’s in the office working his 8am to 5pm shift.
Armando tells me, “Sometimes, I don’t even want to get out of bed or will consider my days working from home as ‘rest days’ and that’s why I kinda hope to be back in the office, all week, soon”.
The last year has taken a toll on the physical, mental and emotional state of a lot of individuals. One way that Armando keeps himself up and going is by counting to focus on activities he enjoys doing. Four times a week he takes a kickboxing class at “Title Boxing Club” in Troy, Michigan. Because of state regulations, it’s enforced to wear a face mask inside the building. The gym opened back up in November of 2020, which is when Armando returned, but social distancing makes it so that only a limited amount of people can join each class.
Armando has also always been a runner, so he enjoys going on runs after his boxing class or on his days off. Instead of going to another gym, he finds it more convenient to go on runs outside.
There isn’t much people can do right now, given that the distribution of the covid vaccine is slowly starting to be available to everyone. Therefor, Armando’s days don’t consist of a lot. He tells me how quarantine allowed for him to focus on himself and because of that, feels like he has become a better version of “Mando” – the name he goes by.
Body image is a struggle that many will come into contact with in their lifetimes. Not just weight, but anything from height, to skin tone, to body type. These insecurities manifest with different severities, and with different symptoms. We decided to focus on the way individuals felt about their bodies, how it has affected them and how they grow and embrace who they are.
Reality of Shopping
Most people enjoy shopping for themselves. You get to enjoy looking for what best suits your style and taste. Although a somewhat wider selection of sizes have become available over the past few years, and beauty standards have changed. However, these changes mainly address inclusion of more cultural backgrounds. Today, you can still easily find old many industry standards that refuse to yield to inclusion.
A blatant inconsistency you can find with common retailers is the size scale in comparison to the measurements of clothing. For instance, crop tops are a popular staple piece, but they usually run smaller. Some brands stick to only two sizes, where option 1 is considered “S/M” and option 2 is “M/L.” This silently excludes non-traditional body types and anyone considered “bigger” or “plus size.”
The popular fashion brand Brandy Melville, is known for their lack of diversity, and their exclusion of larger clothing sizes. The majority of their crop tops are either “one size fits all,” which typically just fit smaller figures, or are only “XS” or “S”. This limitation in clothing sizes affects the way individuals think of their body. These thoughts can begin as a private dismissal that these styles simply “aren’t for me,” and fester into a much larger issue. These individuals are being marginalized, because of how they look.
This lack of diversity raises the question, “How can this affect one’s mentality?” It’s easy for someone to feel negative for not fitting a “standard.” This self-deprecation in extreme cases, results in eating disorders or body dysmorphia. It also doesn’t help that few stores have one “plus size” section. Instead of integrating that clothing with other sections, they limit the clothing a person of a bigger figure could buy.
We see these issues in mannequin displays as well. Although it’s something everyone is used to seeing, having that “tall and skinny” display is very unrealistic. No healthy female body shapes fit that frame. The Journal of Eating Disorders reported, “The average female mannequin body size was representative of a very underweight woman and 100% of female mannequins represented an underweight body size.” That same journal also stated that “… only 8% of male mannequins represented an underweight body size.”
This applies to “plus size,” mannequins as well. You’re only given a look at what a bigger person would look like in a piece of clothing if you go to that section. There are no representations of an average body size. This type of manipulation sends an unrealistic message to consumers. A preteen might think they need to look that way in order to meet “normal,” standards. This precise line of thought has led to eating disorders at a young age as stated by the Association for Consumer Research.
Interview with Ana Escamilla
Ana Escamilla, 20 years old, is a college student majoring in Education. In her interview with Isabella Martinez, she sits down to answer some questions primarily focusing on how she views her own body.
Writer Leah Cambellfound:“An estimated 30 million Americans will struggle with an eating disorder in their lifetime, and a greater number of them are beginning on college campuses” . Many of these eating disorders that millions of college students face is from stress, anxiety, and depression. Additional reasons eating disorders may arise in college students include, “social pressure to make friends, romantic relationships, academic achievements, and fear of the “Freshman 15” [Weight gain accrued during a Freshman year gaining weight]. Oftentimes, students begin suffering from eating disorders when failing to cope with the stresses of life and college that they face.
Financial struggles sow the seeds that begin struggles with eating disorders. Unfortunately that makes sense when accounting for the lack of funds and time many college students have. It’s a lot cheaper and quicker to pick up fast food or order a pizza than it is to go grocery shopping and cook, especially for only one person. Many college students are so occupied with classes, homework, clubs, extracurricular activities and friends that they don’t often have the time, finances, or in some cases even the space (i.e. dorm rooms) to have a fresh and healthy home cooked meal.
With that being said, and as common as eating disorders are, the universities aren’t doing as much to help as they could. An NEDA study asked students whether they had eating disorder resources on their campus and the vast majority of the responders said no.
Journey Into Body Positivity
Nikki Fink’s journey into body positivity began in her teenage years when she was super obsessed with going to the gym and even starting to look into competing in bodybuilding shows eventually. Three years later she felt a change in her life and decided that the mindset she was stuck in for the last three years wasn’t healthy and she began to learn more about body positivity.
“Honestly I don’t want my kids to live their life like I did, so I want to set a good example for them. “
Nikki began to learn to be more body-neutral in the current body she had instead of always trying to change it. She now is still working on being comfortable in her skin. There are good days and there are bad days.
If Nikki were to give people advice to people who are beginning their body positivity and self love journey, she would tell them to not get discouraged if you have bad days. It’s a journey that you go on through life.
Nikki workouts to celebrate her body and moves to feel good, rather than punishing her body. She looks at all food as “good” food and there is no such thing as “bad” foods. Nikki has an empowering voice in the body positivity community. She hopes to be able to help other people on their journey and get them to love the skin they are in. We only get one body so we should embrace it and take good care of it.
“Embrace and love your body. It’s the most amazing thing you will ever own.”
Body Positivity Survey Results
We conducted a survey on social media asking how individuals felt about their bodies. From the 41 responses, 14 stated their body image issues started in middle school. We also found that social media played a big factor in the way people felt about their bodies, with 24 individuals responding that it has affected the way they view their body. Our responses indicated that 26 people felt the need to change their physical appearance in order to “fit in”.
We asked our participants what body positivity means to them. This is what some had to say:
“It used to mean thin and looking like the model type but now it’s about accepting my body shape and living a healthy lifestyle so my body is full of healthy foods rather than stressing about how I look I try to focus on how I feel physically”
Body positivity is not only feeling happy in your own body, but to know that people have different shapes and sizes and it’s okay. Not everyone will look the same. I originally only believed that it meant to be happy with yourself, but I never could be. But being surrounded with people that don’t have bodies like the photoshopped ones on social media helped me to see that a rounder stomach, a rounder chin, and even a small chest are okay.
“At first, to me, body positivity meant being extremely comfortable and happy in my own skin. However, this has been very difficult for me to achieve, and I think can be difficult for most of us. For me now, body positivity means honoring my body’s needs and celebrating all that my body can do, regardless of how it looks. I have been more at peace thinking about my body less instead of trying to love every single thing about myself when I can’t.”
Throughout our research, we came to the conclusion that no matter the body type, individuals can have body image issues. From our results, we have learned that social media and branding have an affect on the way we feel about ourselves. But we have also seen positive growth and change in the right direction as people and society become more accepting of who they are, no matter their shape or size.
One of the biggest dividers in the US is the rich from the poor. In 2018, nearly 7.5 million families were living in poverty, which is considered a 4.7% rate. As for that same year, Oakland County was home to 106,451 families that made less than $10,000. These factors then have to do with where people live, the medicare they receive and the foods they eat. Living in a lower-income area usually means that it’s a lot easier for families to access fast-food restaurants than large markets with a variety of healthy food options.
A city located in Oakland County is Pontiac. This city is considered to be home to lower-income families and is also the location of many fast-food restaurants. Despite this, there are only a handful of markets you can find in this area, but most of them do not have a wide range of healthy foods to choose from and if they do, the options can come out to be expensive. This doesn’t mean individuals can’t drive to the next city over and buy groceries there, but that might not come so easy to everyone. Lots of parents most likely work longer hours or can’t afford the gas money to do so and this way find it easier to buy food from a fast-food joint.
Eating out doesn’t mean not being healthy, but eating out because healthier foods aren’t as easy to obtain or may be too expensive is a form of housing disadvantage. This also doesn’t mean that adults don’t cook the proper nutritional food for their families, but what I’m saying is that it can come a lot harder to do so for the people living in this city. Doctors advocate eating healthier, but families in Pontiac are given it easier to eat unhealthy foods because of all the fast food restaurants the city provides with such little variety of healthy foods in the markets they do have.
It’s not uncommon for adults in the U.S to be diagnosed with some sort of health issue. On average, according to the cdc, this happens to 6 in 10 adults across the country. This may be whether it’s cancer, strokes, a heart disease, chronic lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, etc. What makes it worse is that there aren’t cures for most of these, only treatments. Although some people are diagnosed naturally, other individuals are the leading cause for theirs. The use of drugs, a poor nutrition and overconsumption of alcohol can all guide someone in the path of having some sort of health problem.
As previously stated, health problems is something everyone, if not most people, will have to deal with at some point in their lifetime. For my dad, Roberto Martinez, those deficiencies came much later in his life. When it comes to having both diabetes and prostate cancer, it’s hard to keep your head up, but my dad manages to most of the time.
Ever since I got my license, going with him to his doctor appointments and picking up his medications from the hospital is a common thing. Although some days are harder than others, he’s gotten used to the changes that came into his life after being diagnosed.
Drugs are a worldwide health issue that has caused the death of thousands of people. In some areas it is a lot more common than others, such as Pontiac, MI. This city, located in Oakland County, has had a drug problem for years. It’s not uncommon for me to read a news article of someone who has been caught with narcotics in this area. Pontiac makes it harder for people to grow that already come from low-income neighborhoods. This being not only because of housing discrimination, but because of drug involvement. The long-term health deficiencies caused from drugs, such as cocaine, can lead to: hallucinations, paranoia, mood-swings and poor diet.
Making sure I keep a positive mind set at all times can be challenging, especially during these times. As a college student, I remind myself that taking breaks to focus on my mental health is okay. One of the ways in which I do that is with Ballet Folklorico, mexican folk dancing.
I’ve been dancing since I was 8 years old and doing so brings me happiness along with peace. My worries and stresses disappear while I’m tapping my dance shoes and waving my skirt around.
Since I tend to focus on movement when it comes to my distractions, I also love going to random parking garages to skateboard or simply mess around with friends. There’s something about being able to run and jump around with the chill night wind that feels like some sort of relief. These different forms of activity help my mental health in the long run, they keep me put together in some way.
Immigration is a very important topic all around, but especially for those who deal with it first hand. Paulina Velasco, a journalist in California, took it upon herself to check in with those who help the Latinx community. Questioning them on their mental health and how they keep themselves focused and put together for their clients. I found it very different in a positive way because, of course, making sure immigrants are okay is number one.
This being said, you rarely get the story of the helper and how they manage themselves. It was interesting to read about the moxie and discipline that many hard-working, compassionate people exercise on a day-to-day basis. Hard moments and being scared all the time is something that isn’t rare for immigrants, so to see that these workers put their mental health first isn’t such a bad thing. Having the right mindset for these jobs is crucial and Paulina Velasco made sure to capture that in her interviews.
The way immigrants are portrayed in the U.S can have a huge impact on their lives. Studies, found by Emily M. Farris and Heather Silber Mohamed , showed that 54% of images with Latinos in them are representing them in a negative way. Reading these statistics does not come to a surprise for me. Rarely is it that you see on social media or a news broadcast talk about achievements done by immigrants, Latinos or Hispanics. Most, if not all of the time, coverage is being done to depict this community. This could have a huge impact on how society views certain laws that are, or are trying to be, placed to hold back the success of immigrants. These two different stories both come together to share, in some ways, the life of immigrants, Latinos and Hispanis. Though, it’s hard for someone to give this topic attention if not affected by it, it’s important to realize that the lives of these people are impacted by others’ decisions.