By Evan Stoecker, CSU graduate student, nutrition and dietetics
I have a favor to ask you, dear reader. I know, we’re only just starting to get to know one another, but I promise this will contribute to a moment of positivity to your day.
Step 1: Set this paper down or reading device down, just for a second.
Step 2: Take a deep breath and a moment to relax and clear your head.
Step 3: Tell yourself, out loud, or, at least, in your head “I LOVE ME! I LOVE MYSELF FOR EXACTLY WHO I AM!”
My goodness, doesn’t that feel great? It’s so easy to forget these days, it seems, to just remind ourselves every once and a while that we are beautiful people with a little positive self-talk. But, it is not entirely our fault.
This week, February 27th through March 3rd, is Colorado State University’s (CSU) annual Body Acceptance Week. The week, sponsored by a number of campus partners at CSU, plays host to a number of events designed to celebrate positive body image. It is designed to help to reign in our focus about how we think and talk about body image on a regular basis. It also happens to correspond with National Eating Disorders Week.
Undeniably important in nature, it is interesting to consider why it is even necessary to have such a week. Take another moment to consider this point.
In thinking about this point in particular I found myself reflecting on my upbringing in Southern California. San Diego, to be specific. While I was never outwardly shamed by friends, family, or otherwise, I felt shame in regards to my body as I hit my mid-teenage years and it persisted for many years afterwards. Admittedly, I still find myself struggling with this as I, out of habit, check my body shape in the mirror before taking a shower and before I get dressed.
This came to be because of the environment I lived in compounded by expected societal ideals that we, as a country, seem to hold. Southern California is arguably one of the areas of focus when “healthiness” is discussed. Everyone looks at Southern California as a sort of haven for the physically fit and nutritionally enlightened. It is this intense focus that I felt growing up. I felt that I needed to fit the stereotype. To fit the ideal. I NEEDED a six-pack. I NEEDED to never be over a certain weight. These perceived needs led to me developing unhealthy relationships with both exercise and food. These perceived needs led me to have what could have been labeled a mild form of body dysmorphia. I never looked good enough. I never ascertained, as I saw it, enlightenment.
It finally took the insistence of one of my best friends to get me out of it. He helped me realize that I was taking things too extremely. He helped me realize I was already good enough. That I was a beautiful person. While, as I mentioned, I still struggle with this on a daily basis I am in a much better place because of him. I have learned to not only accept myself, and thereby my body shape, but to love myself for who I am.
What’s more is that I know I am not the only one. In fact, I am only one of millions that deal with this struggle in one form or the other each and every day. The National Eating Disorders Association estimates that about 30 million Americans are challenged by the manifestation of an eating disorder at some point during their lives. This doesn’t take into account all the others, like myself, who don’t fall into that category.
Body image and eating disorders are both real and very relevant issues in our society today whether they are present or talked about in your bubble or not.
This piece, however, is not meant to be somber. It is to bring more attention to how we talk about and surround ourselves with ideas of “perfection” in regards to body shapes and looks and that we need to make a change on and individual and societal level about that. Lauren Adams, a mental health student coordinator for the CSU Health Network helped organize Body Awareness Week at CSU and commented on this very idea, “unfortunately, the media we consume every day gives false images of what we think we should look like, and that takes away from our self-love and self-acceptance…” This idea that there is some ideal body shape or size or look is just flat out untrue.
We are who we are and we are beautiful as we are.
Know that. Repeat that. Tell that to your friends. Spray paint it on a wall. Blast it out in your social channels. Join me in writing about it. All I ask is that, right now, take a pledge to not only love yourself more but to spread body and general positivity to those around you. This means that along with replacing negative self-talk about your body with positive notes, but to also stop making even what you may feel are inconsequential jokes about body shape, weight, or otherwise. I promise you that you, your friends, and all those you come into contact with will lead brighter lives.
Go ahead, take one last moment to tell yourself you are beautiful and, while you’re at it, turn to a neighbor or tell the next person you see they are beautiful. Why? Because you are. And they are, too.
You can find more information about Body Acceptance Week at source.colostate.edu/celebrate-everybody-body-acceptance-week/ and about Eating Disorders Awareness at nedawareness.org.
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