This week the UNH Office of Health Services and Eating Concerns Mentors are sponsoring Fat Talk Free Week. Monday, October 22 through Friday, October 26, students will have the ability to address issues with body image that plague them as individuals, or us as a society. You may have noticed papers over mirrors around campus this Monday, toting “Trust us, you look fabulous and beautiful! Be kind to yourself and celebrate your inner beauty! You are so much more than what you look like on the outside.” This was a part of “Mirrorless Monday,” which is a new aspect of FTFW this year. Forgoing the mirror for a few looks encourages individuals to have confidence without the need to look “perfect.” If you’re an avid visitor of the Memorial Union Building, you may have passed this week’s “inspiration stations.” Since the Facebook event for the week encourages you to stop by without knowing what it will entail, I will do the same and provide no information except that they will be held daily until Thursday in Union Court from 11am-1pm. It gives you a wonderful boost for the rest of the day!
If you have yet to notice the giant, disproportionate, Barbie in Dimond Library, I suggest you do so immediately. Toting a 39 inch bust, 18 inch waist, and 35 inch hips, this display shows what Barbie would look like if she were a real woman. The figure comes with a set of facts on display, stating Barbie’s measurements, and facts that may lead young girls to begin to question their body image early in life. Yesterday I met with Dawn Zitney, the Communications and Information Coordinator for Health Services to discuss Fat Talk Free Week, and she provided the following insight:
“We bring Fat Talk Free Week to campus as a part of the Eating Concerns Mentors group—they’re a peer education group out of Health Services—they’re actually supervised by our nutrition educator Suzanne Sonneborn – they do two big campaigns one in the fall, one in the spring, and the one in the fall is Fat Talk Free Week. It’s really just a time to educate our community about the importance of shifting our conversation from talk about body image and the way people look to talking about who we are on the inside, and hopefully part of that conversation is going from promoting the “thin ideal,” where for women we have to be really skinny, or for men we have to be super bulky and muscular to the healthy ideal where we all have different body shapes and as long as we feel good in our bodies it’s all that matters.”
Beyond the above mentioned activities, the Eating Concerns Mentors and Alpha Chi Omega presented the film Miss Representation, written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. It showed on Tuesday evening in the MUB. This film highlights the difficulties women have today reaching positions of power due to society’s emphasis on sexuality, youth and beauty as a means for defining worth. Not only was the film shocking, but life-altering. It truly opened my eyes to the issues society creates due to its image of “beautiful.” Around the same time the Eating Concerns Mentors hosted an online chat for those who are currently having body image issues, or know someone who does. Sara Fechner, a co-leader of Eating Concern Mentors since her sophomore year said,
“As a co-leader of ECM I am very passionate about Fat Talk Free week. Phrases like “you look great have you lost weight?!” and “I feel fat.” and “she doesn’t have the figure to wear that.” are SO terribly common, they have become the norm of everyday conversation. The point of Fat Talk Free Week is to “Change the Conversation” (which it says on our UNH fat talk free week shirts!) and bring attention to these hurtful phrases, thereby changing the norm…I had a friend who struggled with an ED in high school and I felt so helpless then. I lost her as a friend over the course of her struggles, so when I found out that this program existed (Started by Eva-Molly Dunbar ’12) I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I have loved every minute of it!”
As difficult as it is for me to admit on the internet for all to see, I used to weigh 60 lbs. more than I do today. About a year ago I made the conscious decision to lose weight for my health, and for my future. Although I am now a normal weight for someone of my height and age, I still get uncomfortable when friends or strangers comment on another girl’s weight or appearance. It makes me wonder what they would have been saying about me in August 2011, and how I would have been viewed simply because I wasn’t a “typical” size. I feel as though, even though I am getting healthier week by week, my discomfort with the way women view each other, and potentially view me, will never improve. In our society it is entirely too common for girls my age to compare themselves to each other, leading to depression or eating disorders. Can someone please share with me what the issue with being happy with yourself is?
I am extremely guilty of having used “Fat Talk” weekly, daily, and sometimes hourly, when seeing myself in the mirror. Going through a transformation like this encourages me to pick out what the issues I have with myself are, rather than what I am achieving. I have also been guilty of saying, “that girl should not be wearing that!” …who am I to say what someone else should be wearing? …or to comment on how someone else looks? Especially when I know what it’s like to look in the mirror and know that someone may have said I was fat, but I know I left “fat” behind 25 lbs. ago. Our society needs to be stopped. Growing up I witnessed two people who I love struggle with eating disorders, believing that what they looked like was more valuable than the amazing people they are. In America today, over 10 million women struggle with bulimia and anorexia. Healthy has been confused with skinny.
It is time for the students at UNH, and at campuses all over the country, to make the pledge to end Fat Talk. I encourage you to attend the events that are left for the week, and to make positive changes in your life—without the negativity of Fat Talk.
Check out facts and more on Twitter. #UNHEndFatTalk