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H.O.P.E. group discussion promotes positive body image

Jessica Giannone, General Assignment Reporter-

Maintaining a healthy body and mind isn’t just about the absence of eating disorders, it’s about the love and acceptance of the body, as the discussion in Wilkinson Hall on Feb. 23, “Love Your Body,” emphasized.

The discussion, sponsored by H.O.P.E. and Student Life, drew students of all ages, including Southern sophomore Jessica Martinez, who said it’s important for people to recognize the positive aspects of themselves.

“Pick things about yourself and embrace [them],” said Martinez.

H.O.P.E. Co-President and Treasurer Melissa Richard said a lot of people think their bodies are what give them worth. She said the increase in the “sexualization” of women in the media probably has a lot do to do with the pressures of maintaining the ideal appearance. 

“You might notice a girl who looks like a size four (on TV),” said junior psychology major Carisa Sanchez, “so you try to fill the void of that image.”

Brianne Kane, freshman co-president of H.O.P.E., said it can be a lot of stress to be “perfect,” and people are putting more pressure on themselves to meet that standard. She said if a person doesn’t feel like he or she fits in, one way to change that is to change the body image.

Kane said people often feel they can’t control things like grades and stress, but can control what they put in their bodies. 

Richard said there is usually a co-occurring problem, like depression or anxiety. People with eating disorders are constantly thinking about their weight because they lack the ability to control other aspects of their lives. 

“It’s consuming their life,” said Richard.

She said characteristics of a person’s personality relate to risks of disorders, and there is usually a shift in the way a person thinks and behaves. Being isolated and away from family or friends can also be a risk factor. Kane said that’s when no one is there to notice if a person hasn’t eaten. 

She said a person’s environment can also affect eating habits, but people don’t always realize it.

Family and friends are also an influence on people, said Sanchez. People want to make their peers and loved ones happy. She said trust in the people a person surrounds him or herself with plays a big part in confidence, as well as hanging around with people who aren’t negative.

Martinez suggested for the crowd to compliment their friends, and said that can also serve as a “karma thing.”

Richard said there are a lot of different extremes with eating disorders, so it’s hard to find healthy choices.

“There is a fine line between being aware of what you’re eating and obsessing over calories,” said Kane.

If a person is just dieting, Richard said that person values him or herself, and not just weight. She said with a disorder, all the person cares about is body weight.

Kane said when people are on diets, they have to be aware of their body and genes. It’s not about a number, because everyone is different.

“You have to know your right weight for yourself,” said Kane, “not what the scale says.”

Jessica Santora, a member of H.O.P.E., said denial is a “big thing” for people with disorders. She said when approaching someone who has an eating disorder, a person has to do it rationally, not accusingly, or go to a trusted adult.

Richard said because people get defensive, it is important to make “I” statements so the other person knows it’s just a point of view and not an accusation.

“You’re putting it back to yourself,” said Richard.

Kane said to let the person know someone has concern for them; be a pair of ears to somebody.

“They should know that you’re next to them, swimming with them,” said Sanchez.

Richard said it is important to make slow changes, just like with smoking, because it’s hard to make a drastic change.

Santora said the treatment process is long, and primarily about discovering the problems.

“It’s not an easy fix,” said Santora.

Some of the tips the H.O.P.E. group suggested to stay healthy and confident were for people to say one thing they love about themselves out loud every day, and to find something that makes them unique.

“It’s about appreciating the way that you look and who you are,” said Kane.

Free counseling and dietitian services are available at Southern at the Health Center and through H.O.P.E.

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