American culture and media have created a nearly impossible image of the perfect human body for both men and women. Body image has become a hot topic around college campuses for good reason. Statistics from the National College Health Assessment report regarding the issue have found that 21 percent of college students said that their appearance was “traumatic or difficult to handle.”
The issue not only affects college-aged women. Studies have found that 67 percent of women ages 15 to 64 withdraw from life-engaging activities like giving an opinion, going to school and going to the doctor because they feel bad about their looks.
The University of Virginia Women’s Center is holding its annual event, “Celebrate Every Body Week,” from Feb. 25 to March 1, including a one-hour seminar for U.Va. faculty and staff, “Body Image: Challenging the Myths and Gaining a Healthy Perspective,” on Tuesday at noon in the Women’s Center.
The Women’s Center has programs that aim to create a “body-positive culture” and community where everyone enjoys a healthy relationship with food, exercise and body image. The center’s Eating Disorders Education Initiative works to reduce the incidence of eating disorders, disordered eating and exercise and body image concerns among students. The initiative is the first program of its kind and is becoming a model for college eating disorders prevention programs, said coordinator Amy Chestnutt, who works with groups and students across Grounds to achieve a body-positive culture.
Two of the center’s Counseling Services interns, Robyn Sharkey and Cathy Erickson, will facilitate Tuesday’s workshop, which is open to both men and women. The group will discuss current cultural messages of the ideal woman and man, the ways those messages are perpetuated in the culture, how to challenge those messages both internally and in the community and how to gain a healthy perspective on body image. The format will include open discussion, role-playing, brainstorming and a question-and-answer time. Participants are encouraged to participate but can just observe if preferred.
To reserve a spot, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants may bring their own lunch.