Miami University is known for its beauty, but this quality applies to more than its picturesque campus. In 2014, Business Insider ranked Miami first in both the “hottest guys” and “hottest girls” categories.
Ashley Wilson, a psychologist with Miami’s Student Counseling Service and chair of Miami’s eating disorder treatment team, believes that perception of Miami students’ physical appearance has contributed to body dissatisfaction.
“Miami students [according to that study] seem to struggle more with body image dissatisfaction than students at other universities across the nation,” said Wilson.
The Center for Eating Disorders defines body dissatisfaction as having a negative subjective evaluation of the weight and shape of one’s own body.
Data collected from the 2015-2016 academic year by the University of Michigan’s Healthy Minds Study revealed that out of the 1000 Miami students sampled, 8 percent screened positive for an eating disorder. That rate remains consistent with percentages at universities across the country.
Wilson contributes a large majority of these struggles to the pressure to conform to a certain look at Miami.
Laura, a sophomore, struggled with an eating disorder throughout her high school career. Although she remained healthy throughout her senior year of high school, freshman year at Miami presented challenges.
“In college it’s easier to compare yourself to others” said Laura.
Any major stressor, such as beginning college, can “trigger or re-trigger an [eating disorder] relapse,” said Wilson.
At Miami specifically, Laura said the “abundance of pretty, skinny girls” can alter one’s mental and health and body image.
This semester, April Smith, assistant professor of psychology, and senior Maddy Holbein brought an initiative to campus that aims to combat body dissatisfaction.
The Body Project is a national campaign that seeks to start a large-scale “conversation between women about body image, society’s expectations, and the thin ideal,” said Holbein.
This semester, the project is hosting four workshops led by trained peer leaders. Each workshop consists of two-hour classes that are held a week apart.
The final workshop of the semester will be presented from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Psychology Building, Room 302 on Oct. 29. Signup is required prior to the workshop and can be done online.
Throughout this week, The F-Word: Feminists Working on Real Democracy, is hosting Body Positivity Week.
Body Positivity Week aims to “celebrate the diversity of bodies and the forms they can take, to promote self-love and self-acceptance, and to promote positive visibility and representation of non-normative bodies,” said Hannah Alt, treasurer of The F-Word.
The organization is staging events such as Body Positive Yoga this Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Armstrong Student Center. The week’s keynote speaker, Kimberly Dark, will give a presentation titled “What I Learned From Fat People on the Plane” on Friday in the Armstrong Senate Chamber at 7 p.m.
Initiatives such as the Body Project and Body Positivity Week provide students with “tools and ways of combating the pressures women face in upholding a certain body image,” said Wilson.
These tools, Wilson said, include skills to promote positive body image, such as how to talk back to everyday “fat talk” and how to take a critical eye to the appearance ideals seen in media.