From November 1st to November 5th, Bellarmine University’s Peer Wellness Center participated in the Body Project, an initiative that helps college students develop healthier body images, build self-love, and acquire confidence in themselves.
As part of the initiative, representatives of the Peer Wellness Center host workshop sessions designed to help attendees recognize how our culture can cause negative body images and confidence issues. Next, attendees are given tools and activities meant to help them look past these negative standards and outlooks society perpetuates and achieve both self-appreciation and a healthier body image.
“It’s about accepting who they are and the body they’re in,” said Peer Wellness Educator Abby Nelson. “It is important to know that you have worth, even if you don’t feel like it.”
Along with the Body Project, Bellarmine University’s Peer Wellness Center is a participant in National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW). NEDAW is an initiative that takes place in early Spring that brings attention to the signs of eating disorders and unhealthy dieting habits and educates people on the topic of body positivity.
According to Bellarmine University’s Associate Director of Campus Wellness Emily Werner, participation in NEDAW informs students on, “What is healthy eating…what are warning signs of unhealthy eating habits?”
The goal of Bellarmine University’s Peer Wellness Center is to assist students, faculty, and staff with their Eight Dimensions of Wellness. The Eight Dimensions (financial, spiritual, physical, etc.) are a series of physical and emotional wellness areas that represent a person’s overall health and personal satisfaction. A major priority for the Peer Wellness Center is addressing eating disorders and unhealthy dieting habits and their impacts on a person’s physical and mental wellness.
“When something is out of line and out of balance, it affects other areas of wellness,” said Werner.
Participants in the program are expected to complete questionnaires, self-evaluation initiatives, analyses of the costs of unhealthy eating habits and unrealistic body standards, and other activities meant to build self-appreciation and help people recognize signs of disordered eating and negative body images in others.
“It’s a lot of self-evaluation, bringing out the things that may be taboo and not talked about,” said Peer Wellness educator and Body Project participant Carlee Monaghan.
The initiative has helped Monaghan identify signs of unhealthy eating practices in her peers and given her the tools to help those struggling overcome their negative habits. It has also helped her look past common stereotypes regarding eating disorders, such as the misconception that a person struggling with negative eating habits always shows physical signs of under or overeating.
“I see friends now and identify disordered thoughts, disordered habits…it can happen very fast,” Monaghan said. “It’s more mental than physical…It’s super important to help people before they get to that skeleton because that’s the worst-case scenario.”
For students experiencing difficulty with their eating habits and body positivity, NEDA’s national hotline for such issues is (800) 931-2237.