Love Your Body Day encourages positive body image

By MICHELLE MARKELZ

neighborhoods@columbiamissourian.com

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COLUMBIA – “It’s all about me” – or rather, you.

That was the slogan of the Love Your Body Day fair held Thursday afternoon on MU’s Lowry Mall.

Love Your Body Day is an annual event that was part of the week-long Love Your Body Project. Together these events promote positive body image and healthy lifestyle choices tailored to each participant’s unique needs.

“I think everyone should love their body every day, but sometimes we need a reminder,” said Suzy Day, an adviser for the MU Women’s Center.

Day and a team of volunteers stationed themselves across the mall, offering compliments and encouragement to passers-by. Struby Struble, a member of the support staff for the Center for Social Justice, passed out fliers and shouted “You look great” to everyone she encountered.

Activities encouraged the celebration of self at stations located around the mall:

  • Button making
  • Screen printed posters
  • Clothing and accessory resale
  • “What you love about your body” graffiti

MU senior Marko Stojiljkovic made a button for himself and two for his girlfriend that read, “Jeg elsker deg for altid til himmelen,” which translates from Norwegian to “I love you for ever until the sky.”

“I’m pretty satisfied with my body, but I think many people are afraid to be judged,” Stojiljkovic said. “I’ll just be there to support the others and say, ‘Feel free to feel comfortable with yourself and your body.’”

Pre-made buttons reading things like, “Riot, don’t diet.” and “Fat?So!” could also be decorated.

Several campus organizations turned out to show their support for the event, including:

  • the Wellness Resource Center
  • MU Counseling Center
  • TigerX
  • MSA/GPC Craft Studio

“I think it gets better every year,” MU senior Keri Smith said. “Even if we just reach out to a couple people a year, the event’s worth it. It’s not just about body size, it’s also about loving your curly hair and freckles and big feet.”

Thursday evening, keynote speaker Katie Spencer, a psychologist from the Center for Sexual Health at the University of Minnesota and an MU alumna, spoke about body image, loving oneself and loving others.

She said when she was 18, she read an article by Naomi Lamb that changed her life. She remembered crying when she heard for the first time that her body could be beautiful just the way it was, without any standard of comparison.

“I did not read this essay and then become a body-loving, non-dieting, fat phobia workshop-giving ideal of body positivity,” Spencer said.

It took several years to undo the culture of comparison that shaped her self-image. Calling this process “unpacking,” Spencer said it was essential to accepting one’s body perception.

Kelsey Hammond, coordinator of the MSA/GPC Craft Studio, shared Spencer’s sentiments, saying people shouldn’t look beyond themselves for an ideal body image.

“Being a large person, I’m confronted with looking at images of thin models all the time, but that’s not how people really are,” she said. “You shouldn’t struggle to be happy with yourself.”

Spencer also spoke of developing a “critical consciousness.” She said this involves recognizing the standards set by the messages from the media, friends and family and “dismantling” them. These standards can come in the form of weight, race, socioeconomic status and gender, Spencer said.

She concluded her address by posing an image of her ideal world.

“Imagine a world where we all listened to ourselves, trusted the wisdom of our bodies, loved ourselves and could communicate with others on even boundaries,” she said. “That would be liberation, right? And the most fabulous part of it all, is that we have the power to start that process right now.”

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Filed under Columbia College, Columbia-Boone County, East Campus, Stephens College, University of Missouri

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