By Emilie La Breyere, staff writer
Philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir once said, “To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself.” This past week, the University of Missouri—St. Louis’ Counseling Services encouraged students to build such confidence and combat unhealthy body images in the Nosh of the Millennium Student Center. Karen Munkel of Counseling Services explained, “What we’re doing is trying to promote Love Your Body Week, which is focusing on body positive messages. A lot of times, people are focusing on only the negatives and we want people to focus just on the positives.” The team hoped to assist in combating the negative emotions and shame that so many people feel in regard to their physical appearance.
Laura Holt, Ph.D., a member of Counseling Services, stated that Love Your Body Week is “a pushback against the pervasive message that you should hate your body.” She went on to say that the outreach has been encouraging the campus to be “fat talk free” all week. What she means by “fat talk free” is not saying things like ‘I am fat’ or anything
else negative about one’s body. She and the other counselors are concerned that people get into the bad habit of saying pessimistic things about themselves and not even realizing that they do so. Love Your Body Week attempted to break that habit and focus on what people like about their bodies.
To physically display body confidence, Counseling Services created a Love Your Body Mural for anyone on campus to add to. The mural, located in The Nosh, consisted of pieces of paper that individuals had written on. Each piece of paper said, “I love my…” and in the blank, people wrote something that they adore about themselves—whether it be their eyes, smile, facial hair, or even their derriere. Holt said, “Even if you want to change your body, even if you want it to be different, you can still love it. It’s not like you have to wait to love your body.” The mural showed how many people believe they are wonderful just as they are, an idea that is so rarely promoted.
In addition to the mural, the outreach effort displayed some unique pieces of art. The Love Your Body Week tables were covered with broken bathroom scales. These scales had their weight gauges removed and were covered in pictures, paintings, and written sentiments. Some were encouraging, some were funny, and some were touching, but all of them echoed the same body acceptance message. Munkel explains that the “Scales are for Fish” project comes from women of the St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute “that are dealing with eating disorders and they, as part of their recovery, transform the scales into art and personal messages and part of their healing.” The pieces served as an important reminder of the “weight” put on individuals by society’s beauty standards. The “Scales are for Fish” project summarized what Love Your Body Week was all about: the belief that people are unique, beautiful, and searching for acceptance and that acceptance can be found within individuals.
In addition to its art displays, the outreach handed out pamphlets, bracelets, stickers, and other goodies to help spread awareness. They even offered a free Zumba class for students on November 11.
Love Your Body Week will culminate on November 16. Cathy Lander-Goldberg of the St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute’s Eating Disorders Program will give a Love Your Body Revolution workshop in MSC 225 from 12 to 1 p.m.
For more information about Counseling Services or to make an appointment, call 314-516-5711 or visit their webpage, www.umsl.edu/services/counser/. Counseling Services is located in 131 MSC and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.