Body Image Awareness Week Begins Monday at UW

February 25, 2008

Do you value a person's attractiveness and worth based on how much they match an "ideal" standard of thinness? What do you say about yourself when gazing at a mirror's reflection? Is your life measured by the size of your jeans or the number of calories you eat? Do you put yourself down when you cannot refuse a piece of cake and then run to the gym in a panic to burn off the calories?

Those are just some of the things to ponder during Body Image Week Feb. 25-29 at the University of Wyoming. The program recognizes National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, says Brenda Tracy, University Counseling Center mental health counselor/outreach coordinator.

Anyone who answers "yes" to the above questions may need to consider some facts, Tracy says.

"A person might want to consider how their life is being controlled by unhealthy and unrealistic body image standards," she says. "Or maybe they know someone who is tormented and is never pleased by how they look."

An informational table will be set up during the entire week in the Wyoming Union for people to learn more about eating disorders. This information table will be run by student organizations such as the Student Health Advisory Committee, the Wyoming Student Athletic Trainers Association, Student Athlete Advisory Committee and the Student Dietetic Association. about Body Image Week posters will be displayed in the Wyoming Union and Coe Library.

The mirrors in Half Acre Gym will be covered all week to bring attention to how people focus so much on body image and not necessarily on their health, adds Andrea Coryell, University Wellness Program coordinator.

Tracy says that eating disorder screenings are always available at the University Counseling Center. The Counselor Education Department offers movies that can be shown to classes or student groups. The movies inform students about the prevalence of the use of shame and repression in media and advertising.

"This week is a good time to learn more about eating disorders and how we acquire these unrealistic expectations," Tracy says. "Or maybe it is time to get help for a friend."

She adds there are constant messages in today's society, particularly for females, that women are just "not good enough."

"This often translates into trying to control one's body image to be acceptable by using severe measures of weight control, usually involving binging or purging. Sadly, the physical impact of this behavior can often result in chronic illness and even death," Tracy says. She adds such behavior crosses all levels of society. Research suggests that males also may be receiving more media messages regarding dieting to the "ideal" muscular body type.

"People should know the differences between facts and myths about weight, nutrition, and exercise," she adds. "The most important thing to remember is to accept people for who they are. Make sure your feelings for another person don't depend upon their weight, shape, size or eating habits."

For more information, call Tracy at the University Counseling Center at (307) 766-2187 or Coryell at the Wellness Center at (307) 766-2712.

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