This year, the University of Idaho will recognize National Eating Disorders Awareness Week in a unique way.
Instead of calling it Eating Disorders Awareness Week, UI will recognize Body Positive Week to invite students to increase their self-esteem by improving the way they see their bodies. Campus Dietician Marissa Rudley said the university decided to make the switch because the topic of body image applies to more college students.
“Body image issues are everybody”s issue,” Rudley said.
Instead of simply bringing attention to the problem of eating disorders, Body Positive Week works to prevent habits that can lead to eating disorders, Rudley said. It also will celebrate the diversity of body sizes on campus and promote healthy lifestyles.
She said the message of this week may go on longer and could grow into a bigger development at UI.
“We really want this to be not just one week of events, but to really be spreading a movement on campus,” she said.
Though the focus of the week will be different, Rudley said many of the events will be similar to past years. The Counseling and Testing Center will hold eating disorder screenings in the Idaho Commons Thursday, and Vandal Health Education and the Women”s Center will have a body positive table at the Idaho Commons Wednesday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
UI senior Nathan Stark is in charge of the tabling event, and is involved in many other events for Body Positive Week. Rudley said she”s enjoyed the different perspective Stark has brought to the week as a male and a track athlete.
“He, I think, understands sometimes the pressures – males experience the pressures, too, of fitting certain body norms,” she said.
Stark acknowledges that more women struggle with body image issues than men, but said that some men do have issues with their body. He said he never struggled with body image himself, but said he noticed the impact body image issues had early on in his life when he got involved in sports.
“There”d be guys who were hesitant to take their shirts off,” Stark said. “Or even with swimming, they”d swim with like the bodysuits or upper body things.”
UI Alumna Amy Pence-Brown will give the keynote address for Body Positive Week at 7 p.m. Thursday in the International Ballroom of the Bruce Pitman Center. Body image activist Pence-Brown is renowned for standing blindfolded in a bikini in the middle of a Boise farmers” market and allowing strangers to draw hearts and other messages on her body.
Pence-Brown said she became an activist when she realized that she was content with being overweight, but no one else she knew seemed to be confident with their size.
“I Googled the words, “Why am I fat and happy?” Because I was literally the only person I knew who was content with my body at 250 pounds,” Pence-Brown said.
When Rudley asked Pence-Brown to be the keynote speaker, she said she agreed because she knows college is an impressionable time for many people. Pence-Brown said she is excited by the opportunity to help students feel confident about the feelings they have about their bodies.
Rudley agreed that college is a crucial time for individuals where many of their life values are formed. She said she hopes through Body Positive Week, students may learn to promote positivity within themselves and in others.
“If you do not believe that your body has self-worth or that you appreciate your body, it is very hard to treat it well,” Rudley said.