Promoting Healthy Body Image
"Sign here if you support no weight! A Declaration of Independence from a Weight-Obsessed World," read a sign touted by a life-size wooden cutout of a body that stood in Pulver Pavilion from April 19 to 23 read.
This cutout was part of a display for Student Health on Campus' (SHOC) week-long effort to make students on the Hill more aware of how physical appearance is perceived on campus.
A few weeks ago, SHOC asked students to participate in a campus-wide survey regarding their thoughts about body image at the College. SHOC members posted these survey results and opinions at a table in Pulver last week so that students could see the stereotypes and pressures that exist on the Hill.
The survey results showed that approximately 54 percent of students want to lose weight, and 84 percent of people say that they compare their body to others.
Charlie Wulff '11, a member of SHOC who helped work the table in Pulver, said he believed the survey results had a "rather positive response" and that a lot of people had stopped by because they "seemed to be interested in the subject matter."
When asked how they feel about exercising and the prevalence of eating disorders, 65 percent of students reported knowing someone who is currently suffering or has previously suffered from an eating disorder, and 63 percent of people said they feel self-conscious when they're working out.
Sarah Falkof '12, a member of SHOC and one of the head coordinators of the event last week, said that she hopes this event really "got people to think about their own and others' body image" in order to create a more "healthy environment" on campus.
Hilana Bernheimer '10, who also helped spearhead the event this year, said that SHOC's goal was to "make people aware of how they see their bodies," make students "feel good in their own skin" and encourage students to "embrace themselves, love themselves, and not feel the need to change because of some unrealistic projection of body image."
Bernheimer said the survey findings were "what [SHOC] expected, but [seeing it] made it so much more real. It was really chilling and eye-opening."
In addition to these statistics, the body image awareness table had a life-size cutout of Barbie and facts about what her actual measurements would be: she would be six feet tall, weigh 101 pounds and have to crawl to support her top-heavy frame. The table also featured a series of model photographs, some photo-shopped and some unedited. Passers-by then voted on which picture they thought was the most beautiful.
"One girl came by and said that this made her feel a lot better, knowing that even models are photo-shopped so much," Wulff said.
Bernheimer agreed and said students had a "really positive response." According to Bernheimer, the week was SHOC's "most popular event all year. People were really engaged [in] this. They were interested in the material and statistics [of which] they were a part."
Although Bernheimer is graduating in May and Falkof will study abroad next spring, they both hope that SHOC will make an effort to continue this event in coming years.
"There's this obsession with appearance [here on the Hill], and maybe we can start to change this attitude," Bernheimer said.
"I hope it generates conversations about [body image]," Falkof said. "It's one step toward breaking the pressure, and it's hard to change, but talking about it is a good way to start."