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Forgetting the ladies: How the SGA and IFC tailgate system disenfranchised half the student body

I wrote this story for Unwind Magazine, a publication on campus at University of Maryland. Check it out!

Unwind Magazine

By Alicia McElhaney

Photo by Lillian Braun Photo by Lillian Braun

When the Student Government Association and Interfraternity Council started brainstorming ways make game day tailgates safer and less disruptive to College Park residents last year, the solution seemed simple—to move the tailgates on campus.

Residents of College Park and surrounding areas responded well—less tailgates meant less 8 a.m. mayhem every Saturday, and even less after-game partying.

“This year we’ve found there’s been a real diminishment in noise,” John Rigg, president of the Calvert Hill Citizen’s Association said. “The university has found a way that we can live together with students in harmony.”

Despite the initiative finding success in College Park residents, the SGA and IFC forgot to include one vital group in their tailgates – the women.

The current tailgating system supplies fraternities with wristbands—two per brother, one for themselves and one for a guest—they can distribute to sorority members or even friends…

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Back to Maryland!

It’s been awhile, no? Summer really got crazy for me toward the end – I was working full time at the Tribune Review, and I took a three-week study abroad trip to Salzburg, Austria that was pretty life changing. Since returning from the trip mid-August, I finished up my internship and packed up my things to return to the University of Maryland and my brand new efficiency apartment. You know what that means? My own kitchen, and cooking meals for one person – myself. It’s been an interesting transition over the past few days, I’ll admit it. I was incredibly anxious to come back to school, especially because this is the place where my eating disorder really took hold during freshman year. However, I have had a lot to keep me occupied in the week before class begins – I’ve been training to teach group fitness classes (7 this semester, I’m going to die!), sharing dinner with friends, visiting D.C. and, of course, taking in a bit of the College Park nightlife.

While I’m excited to see my friends, to begin my internship at the Feminist Majority Foundation and for classes to start, I’m mostly excited about using my own kitchen. While I have more than enough cabinet space and all the refrigerator room in the world to store my several favorite cheeses, the electric stove has proven to be difficult for me to conquer. That being said, I’m going to share my first meal with you, as it ended up being pretty awesome! This meals serves one person and has all the major food groups covered – zucchini fills the role of vegetable, pasta is our starch, salmon, our protein, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese for dairy. Yum! The best part? This dish took me about 25 minutes to whip up.

Let’s get cooking!

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Lemony Salmon and Zucchini Pasta For One
This dish is gluten free and dairy free adaptable. It contains no peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, soy or shellfish.

Ingredients:
1 salmon cutlet, thawed (I got mine in a family pack from Wegmans!)
1/8 box of angel hair pasta
1/2 zucchini
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon
Pinch of garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

1. While bringing water to boil in a pot, set up two separate pans on medium high heat, each with 1.5 tablespoons olive oil warming.
2. In one pan, place the salmon cutlet. Sprinkle with lemon, salt and pepper and cook on each side until it becomes opaque through the middle. If you start to see white, you’ve cooked it slightly too much, the fat is starting to bleed out. When done cooking, cut into bite sized chunks and place in a bowl.
3. While the salmon is cooking, cut the zucchini into thin discs and place in the pan. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder and let brown on both sides. When finished, place in a bowl with salmon.
4. Once the water comes to a boil, cook pasta until al dente. Drain and place in the bowl. If it looks a bit dry, coat with 1 tablespoon pasta water or 1 tablespoon olive oil.
5. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy!
Adaptations: For dairy free, skip parmesan sprinkling. For gluten free, use gluten free pasta.

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On Ditching the Scale

I mention in my About section that an eating disorder took up much of my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. While allergies had their own role in this, I want to write today, not about my food allergies or to share a deeee-licious recipe, but to discuss weight, scales, BMI and how you (yes you!) can stop abiding by their rules and regain control over your life.

Back in the dark ages (I so affectionately call those eating disorder years) I weighed myself every single time I went to the gym, which was almost daily. Between those days, my weight would go up and down, but it tended to average out to a pretty small number. Regardless, on days I thought it was too high, I restricted my diet, and on days  I thought it was low, I felt a smug sense of pride as I completed my upteenth set of crunches.

How (excuse my French, y’all) fucked up is that? A tiny digital number that told me how much space I was taking up would literally dictate how happy or sad I felt in a day. And don’t even get me started on the scale at the doctor’s office. I was convinced it was rigged and would add pounds to my weight so that when the doctor told me my BMI was in a “healthy” range, I was upset. I wanted to be underweight.

I went through recovery (intensive counseling and group therapy at my university) and one very recent week, I realized that number no longer mattered. During recovery, I had avoided the scale like the plague. At the doctors office, I would step on the scale backwards and ask the nurse to not tell me the number on the scale. While I knew I was protecting myself from the meltdown that always came with seeing my weight, I think doing this also made me really fear what the number actually was. But two weeks ago, I had to go to the doctor. I did my blind weight as always, but I accidentally peaked and when I saw the number, I felt nothing. I didn’t feel that crushing defeat of the number being higher than I expected (it was pretty much the same as ever, actually), but I also didn’t feel ecstatic that it was low. For the first time in my life, I felt freed from the scale.

Ditch the scale

So here’s my challenge for you. Regardless of whether you read this blog because you’re an allergy kid like me, you really just like making pretty food, (or you’re my mom), I challenge you to ditch the scale and to free yourself from the power these numbers have over your life. Here’s how!

1. Accept that this will take time.
Unfortunately, breaking a habit won’t happen overnight. If you weigh yourself on a regular basis, it will not be easy to stop. While for some, stopping cold turkey may work, for others it may work to cut back on weighing. Set a goal, like three times per week, rather than twice daily. Continue to reduce as time goes on!

Another thing that works is setting a timer before you weigh yourself. Start with two minutes and continue to add time. During that timer, distract yourself by reading a book or going for a walk. The wait makes weighing yourself less compulsive and more of a thoughtful process. Usually after thinking some, the desire to weigh goes away. Don’t beat yourself up, though, if you do decide to weigh yourself. Next time, you may not have to after you wait.

2. Think about what the number actually means.
Does weighing less make you a more valuable person? Why? What things that aren’t weight-related make you feel valuable? Along with time, ditching the scale takes a shift in values. When you have thoughts of losing weight, think about things that you can gain when you don’t focus so consistently on weight.

3. Do something therapeutic with your scale.
Since your scale is starting to take up less headspace, it’s often helpful to do something therapeutic with it. Many people like to smash their scales. The act of destroying something that has had so much power over you for so long can feel so amazing. Southern Smash is a great way to do it in a group! Others decorate it, creating art, rather than making their scale seem so terrible.

4. Blind weights are better than blind dates.
So you’ve ditched the scale at home, but what happens when you have to be weighed at the doctor’s office or for other important appointments? The best thing to do is to ask for a blind weight. This means that you face away from the scale numbers, and ask the nurse to not tell you your weight. Most are amazing about this – they really understand not needing to know a number. Only once I had a problem, which happened when a nurse implied that the number my weight was at was something to be envied. I was frustrated, because I wanted to devalue weight, but I had to realize that not everyone understands this. When you have an appointment, be willing to advocate for yourself. After the first time, it gets easier. Now I can happily say, I have no clue what I weigh! It feels great 🙂

What are your thoughts? What ways are you ditching the scale? 

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What’s up, buttercup?

Hey there pretty spring beans! It’s been a helluva while hasn’t it? As I’m sure you can guess, this school year turned from fun to crazy pretty fast. A lot of allergy stuff happened with my school that involved a mid-semester move during the fall, and since then I’ve not only lost the kitchen I did have, but also realized I had a lot of regrouping to do, both mentally and physically. The good news is that my allergies are back under control now, and that soon I will be finishing my sophomore year and returning home to cook.

Until I start posting glorious recipes and all about the life lessons I learned this year in school, please check out the updated About Me section or follow me on Instagram for some pretty pictures of food. Also, I would love to hear from YOU about what sort of posts you’re looking for! Need some packed lunch ideas? I’m the queen of it! Want to know what exactly it’s like to use an Epi Pen? Done and done! Or maybe we can shift the focus on more fun things, like crafting and reading good books! Do tell in the comments section below – I can’t wait to hear from you all!

New Kitchen Supplies!

There are only six weeks left until I move into my apartment at school, and I am getting really excited. The biggest piece of excitement stems, of course, from my own kitchen. I’m on the hunt for the best (and cutest 😀 ) gadgets. Lately I’ve come across three different pieces that I love – a chalkboard jar for storing little candies, spices or snacks, a cutting board covered in cute polka dots (I ADORE polka dots), and a zester for cheese and lemons. I was able to find the jar and cutting board really cheaply at Marshalls, while the zester was a great birthday gift!

What are some of your kitchen essentials? What is the cutest tool in your kitchen?

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Revitalizing Breakfast: Tropical Oatmeal

Next to cream of wheat, oatmeal is typically seen as one of the plainest and most drab breakfast foods. And for good reason. Without additions, oatmeal is a warm and creamy lump of mush. But just as we turn lemons into lemonade here at Munchies Just For Me, we can turn oatmeal into an interesting dish that makes you excited to wake up in the morning – even if it’s before ten a.m.

From a food allergy standpoint, oatmeal is hugely adaptable. In its purest form, oatmeal contains NONE of the eight most common allergens (milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts and treenuts). However, finding pure oats for oatmeal can be a little more difficult. Bob’s Red Mill sells oatmeal that is safe for those with allergies to wheat or gluten. If you are not allergic to wheat or gluten, most other brands of plain oatmeal are safe, but as always, be sure to read the label!

While the little kid in me always loves to wake up to the Quaker Dinosaur Oatmeal, I like to spice my breakfast with fresh fruit combinations that leave me feeling satisfied and brighten my morning. My favorite combination? Peaches and coconut!

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Peach Coconut Oatmeal Recipe:

1 package of plain instant oatmeal (or 1 serving of instant oats, per box instructions)

1/2 ripe peach

2 tablespoons sweetened coconut flakes

1/2 cup rice milk (you can use regular, almond or soy milk interchangeably)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1. Combine the instant oatmeal and rice milk in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for one minute (or follow the box instructions).

2. While the oatmeal is heating, slice up your peach into bite-sized pieces. Save the rest for an afternoon snack or for tomorrow morning!

3. Take the oatmeal out of the microwave and stir in the peach slices, coconut and brown sugar. Enjoy!

Welcome Wagon

Hello world! Welcome to Munchies Just For Me, a blog about healthy, yummy and allergen free food.

You can learn more about the story behind the blog here. Look for new recipes and product reviews, as well as a list of exchanges very soon, as Munchies Just For Me, once a dream of mine, becomes a reality. 

Join me in my journey to create nourishing and allergen free meals that are also delicious!

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