This was the first #LoveYourBody event at Rose Hill, although a similar event had previously been hosted at Lincoln Center.
Jill Lederman, the Community Outreach Coordinator for Fordham CPS, explained that the event consisted of three parts. Students could participate in an “affirmation exercise” by writing down something that they love about their bodies and then placing it on a poster, learn about a mindful eating habits, and get more information on eating disorders and body image from a table run by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). The event was open to the entire student body.
The event called attention to the increasing prevalence of eating disorders and negative body image among young people. It is a problem that Lederman said is often exacerbated by a person’s social environment, including social media.
“I think that culturally there’s a lot of pressure based on media … on how people are supposed to look and feel—that puts a lot of pressure on us,” Lederman said.
Joanna Mercuri, a volunteer for NEDA who worked at the event, agreed. In her view, college can be a particularly difficult time for people who struggle with body image and self esteem issues.
“It’s a transitional time in their lives, it’s the first time they’re living alone, in a new social environment, so there’s a lot of stressors,” she said. “For people who are predisposed to these illnesses, this is the time of life when things like eating disorders can crop up.”
Fordham CPS organized the #LoveYourBody event to address these issues by educating students on the dangers of negative body image and the ways they can cultivate a positive view of themselves. To that end, the event offered information on media literacy, questionnaires to assess one’s social media habits and resources for people who have eating disorders. Mercuri noted, however, that simply drawing attention to these issues also was important.
“If it just can get them to question how they think about themselves,” Mercuri said, “then that’s enough of an accomplishment.”
The event was also designed as a way to acquaint students with CPS’s services, and encourage those who want counseling or other help to seek it out.
“We want to reduce the stigma of going to the counseling center,” Lederman said. “It’s OK to want help.”
Students, too recognize the prevalence of body image issues on campus. Genesis Collardo, FCRH ’18, was a volunteer at the #LoveYourBody event. In her experience, negative body image is something many students deal with, but few talk about.
“Body image is a really sensitive issue that people need help opening up with,” she said. “The communication is definitely lacking.”
Like Mercuri, Collardo said that the adjustment to college can pose a range of new body image pressures and problems for students.
“It’s a big transition, what we go through,” she said. “We basically leave our homes with our families, people we’ve known all our lives, and just go out into a new community.”
Jordan Catalana, GSB ’15, agreed, but pointed out that negative body image comes from much more than just leaving home after high school.
“It doesn’t start when you … turn eighteen and get to college,” she said. Rather, self esteem “stems from what we’ve been exposed to before we go away.”
For Catalana, however, going away to college has actually helped her overcome past body image issues and cultivate a more positive view of herself.
“My body image started when I was nine years old,” she said, adding that the intensive ballet classes she took, as well as her athletic career in high school, led her to scrutinize her weight and appearance. At Fordham, Catalana had the chance to move away from these pressures, and discovered ways to be healthy without damaging her self esteem.
For her, that means working out.
“I had to figure out a healthy lifestyle that leads itself toward a healthy body image,” she said. “I’ve found a really supportive community in the gym-goers.”
Nevertheless, like many students, Catalana knows that body image and self esteem issues do not disappear overnight, especially with outside pressures coming from a range of sources.
“I worked my way up,” she said, but “I to this day struggle with every meal.”