By: Emily Hillhouse
Last month, Body Appreciation Week encouraged students at the University to look at their bodies with pride and be comfortable in their own skin. The week long celebration of positive body image gave students the tools and resources necessary to begin their journey towards self-appreciation. Speakers and peer educators encouraged others to not stop at a week, but to keep working to improve their body image every day.
This can be extremely hard, as the constant pressure some feel to change themselves and engage in harmful behaviors continues to exist. With the knowledge gained from Body Appreciation Week, a student may be willing to seek help for their eating disorder, but they must personally work and find ways to recover amidst the stress of college.
The scary thing is, there are many college students who are close to meeting or who already meet the qualifications for being diagnosed with an eating disorder who never seek treatment. This means that statistics for eating disorder prevalence are lower than reality and that there are students suffering who are not getting help (Stice, 2002). For these people, working everyday to achieve body positivity may seem impossible, simply because they are not aware of how harmful their behaviors actually are.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder or feel like you may be close to being diagnosed, here are a few practical ways to improve your situation and work towards a more positive body image:
Get help if you are not already. At the University, there are multiple places you can go to begin treatment, such as the Counseling Center, the Student Health Center, and the campus dietitian, Sheena Gregg. At the very least, find a free and easy to access resource online, such as the National Eating Disorders Association’s website.
Pay attention to your food and how it is affecting your body scientifically. A professional, such as the campus dietitian, will be able to make a meal plan for you. Focus on following that meal plan and pay attention to the way food helps your body, instead of how it may affect your weight.
Focus on your thoughts and analyze why you feel a certain way about your body. Negative thoughts that contribute to poor body image often do not make logical sense when looked at closely. For example, if you feel “bad” for eating a normal amount, spend time thinking rationally about how eating regular sized meals is completely natural.
Allow yourself breathing room in two ways. First, accept that you will not only think positive body thoughts, but recognize when your mind is going down the wrong path. Second, appreciate all the things that your body can do, and that it does for you. This is a good. Eat dessert. Skip the gym if you feel tired. You can do things to feel good and not feel guilty afterwards.
Events like Body Appreciation Week teach students valuable information and can help those struggling to find a starting point, but it is up to the individual to continue improving their body image past the week’s festivities. By seeking professional help and implementing positive habits, students can further the efforts of Body Appreciation Week in their own lives and work to become more body positive.
Stice, E. (2002). Risk and maintenance factors for eating pathology: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 825-848