Opinion | Nurturing better body image in college

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People have often placed a focus on attractiveness throughout history. These attitudes are often shaped by society, media, social media, and popular culture, and they can have an impact on how an individual views their own body. Body image can change throughout a person’s lifetime and can be strongly connected to their self-esteem and healthy lifestyle choices. Individuals with a positive body image are more likely to have good physical and mental health. However, many people struggle with developing and maintaining a positive body image, but putting time into it can allow an individual to be comfortable with who they are. While social media can create a positive influence on the mental health of some users, early evidence shows that it actually can have a negative impact on people’s perceptions of their bodies. Users must be mindful of social media’s negative impact on their body image because the effects can be devastating to the user’s mental health. 

As college students, feelings of one’s body image are incredibly important during this time. A positive body image may be difficult to maintain due to lifestyle factors and changes we experience during these years. Especially now in a generation where media consumes most of our lives, we are constantly exposed to a world of comparison. According to a National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) report, 95% of universities report an increase in students using mental health services. These are students who are struggling with body image or any psychological issues that are related such as specific eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder. 

NEDA suggests these 10 steps to work towards having a better body image: 1). Appreciate your body for all it can do; 2). Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself; 3). Remind yourself that “true beauty” is simply not skin deep; 4). Look at yourself as a whole person; 5). Surround yourself with positive people; 6). Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person; 7). Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body; 8). Become a critical viewer of social media messages; 9). Do something nice for yourself; and 10). Use time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories and your weight to do something to help others. 

Within this club, the e-board members work hard to provide a safe, inclusive, and diverse environment while spreading awareness about body image and everything that follows. In previous meetings, we have discussed underrepresented groups, women, aging, and pregnant people, as well as eating disorders and how to overall maintain positive body image. With high hopes of the opening of campus next semester, and face-to-face interactions being permitted, we will expect to continue our meetings and spreading awareness about body image.   


More from NEDA: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/ten-steps

MiKalia is the president of Reflections Body Image Program.

Leigha Hoffman is the Vice President of Reflections Body Image Program.

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