Body image: Health at every size

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by Kelsey Jordan

Over 24 million people in the United States are currently suffering from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorders, and thousands more are on restrictive diets, says the World Health Organization. Science Daily reports that 65 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 45 have disordered eating behaviors, and an additional 10 percent identify with having a diagnosable eating disorder. This means, three out of four women experience disordered eating and negative associations between food and their body image.

Many college campuses and national non-profits aim to promote body image satisfaction, rather than perpetuate the idea that skinny equals happy. Health at Every Size (HAES) is a body positive organization that aims to challenge social pressures to be thin and redefine how health, size and happiness are viewed in the United States.

HAES supports the idea that every body is different and health truly does look and feel different for everyone. What felt good yesterday, may not feel good two months from now.

The HAES pledge says that the best way to improve health is to honor the body. This means to accept and respect the natural diversity in body types, eat in a flexible manner and appreciate the natural movement of the body. Find movements, stretches and exercises that are enjoyable. As of yet, 6,624 people have signed the HAES pledge.

Jean Kilbourne, media literacy advocate and expert on women and girls’ body image in the media, explains in the video Killing Us Softly 4 of the Media Education Foundation, that women are portrayed dangerously thin in the media, which has a widespread impact on the body image of women and girls.

HAES offers an extensive list of resources for eating disorders, healthy weight loss and body positive campaigns throughout the country. Volunteer, job, research and activism opportunities are also listed to provide people who are interested in body image with opportunities to network and share their knowledge.

Here at UMass Amherst, the Center for Women and Community offers 10 free sessions of one on one counseling per-semester. University Health Services offers four free counseling sessions, and a support group for people recovering from eating disorders led by Julia Moss.

Some UMass students wish there were more ways of getting support for eating disorders on campus.

“There is nutrition counseling at the gym, therapy at UHS, but nothing affordable and convenient for students, at least that I know of,” said junior Sarah M. “More importantly, there isn’t a program that combines nutrition education, mental health, physical health and therapy.”

The pressure to be thin is everywhere. HAES and its principles could be the start girls and women across the country need to promote self-love and healthy bodies.

Kelsey Jordan can be reached at [email protected]

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