Body image more than just weight

Published: Feb. 26, 2013

While this week is "National Eating Disorders Awareness Week," the Counseling and Psychological Services office (CAPS) on campus is hosting a series of events to bring awareness to eating disorders and body image during the month of March.

"When talking about body image, a lot of people automatically think about issues around weight, however body image is not just about weight and shape," said Andrea Iglesias, a psychologist and counselor with CAPS. "Body image really refers to your relationship with your body and can include how you feel in your body and how you feel about different body parts, the color of your skin, your hair texture and gender expression among many other things."

On Friday, March 1, from 12-2 p.m. in the UMC Alferd Packer Grill area, CAPS will host a healthy body image event that will include an information table on "How to Help a Friend with Eating Disorders and Body Image" as well as some interactive games.

"A lot of people have stereotypes about who struggles with body image and eating disorders, but most people have body image concerns at one time or another," Iglesias said.

How students feel about their body and the way they look can impact their sense of belonging on campus. Overall, there can be a mounting pressure for students to assimilate and fit in to be valued.

"What this tells us is this is not just an internal and individual struggle, this is a social and cultural problem that we must all address in order to work toward having a more inclusive community where students can feel the freedom to appreciate, celebrate and express who they are," Iglesias said.

There are things you can do daily, Iglesias says, to help improve your body image:

  • Appreciate the great things your body allows you to do every day.
  • Help promote a culture of body acceptance by paying attention to the language you and people close to you use to talk about body image, and try to make a conscious change.
  • Focus on health and not appearance. Think about things you can do that help you feel good in your body, that give you more energy, and that give you the message that you are important and worth caring for. Try incorporating some of these activities in your schedule every day.

Campus resources include:

Upcoming events include:

  • March 13, 12-2 p.m., Will Vill, "Wellness Wednesday" event that includes a body health quiz, games, a "stress break" and additional information about healthy body image.
  • March 21, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., UMC Alferd Packer Grill area, "Body Health Quiz" and additional information about healthy body image.