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New UA program aims to combat negative body image, increase self-worth

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Grace Pierson and Grace Pierson | The Daily Wildcat Grace Pierson/ The Daily Wildcat Participating in the Body Smart Event, Chris Kurent, a history senior, and Olivia Bennett, an education junior, get their picture taken by Body Smart intern, Kendall Shanks, a nutrional science senior. The event was to promote the Body Smart Initiative that aims to promote healthy body images.

The UA began an initiative this semester called Body Smart to bring awareness to body image and increase self worth across campus.

Body Smart is the latest in the series of programs that are related to body issues and awareness. Initially, there was the Reflections: Body Image Program, which catered to women in sororities. The Love Your Body Program, which caters to all women on the UA campus, followed and has now expanded into the Body Smart initiative, which aims to reach all people regardless of their gender, said Kendal Shanks, the student coordinator for Body Smart.

“When people think of body image, they go straight to women or eating disorders,” Shanks said. “It’s … [an] entire body and mind, soul type of thing.”

Body Smart is run by a group of student interns and an advisory board featuring representatives from various on-campus groups who contribute input to the initiative, Shanks added.

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A future goal of the initiative is to include males as well, according to Laura Orlich, a Counseling and Psych Services counselor and mental health clinician at Campus Health Service.

Body Smart aims to combat the thoughts of having to look good enough to be good enough, according to Gale Welter Coleman, a coordinator of Nutrition services with Campus Health and a nutritionist and registered dietitian.

This includes improving the well-being and self-worth of all UA students to increase their body image and confidence, Shanks said.

Lauren Ramsey, the programs coordinator and an intern for Body Smart, said body image is something that is swept under the rug because students can be vulnerable and insecure.

“I think it’s important because … it’s still you at the end of the day,” Ramsey said, “and I think everybody needs to be reminded of that.”

Shanks said she was inspired by her participation in the Reflections program and wanted to help other women with their confidence.

“To get past that point where you love your body and you’re content with who you are … that’s what I want for everyone,” Shanks said.

The initiative is trying to gain traction throughout the semester and supporters hope to retain and expand its presence in the future. Instead of only appearing during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week to give lectures and eating disorder screenings on campus, promoters for Body Smart are trying to make it a multiple semester-wide initiative, according to Orlich.

Ramsey said one of the new programs being planned is called the Body Smart talks, which are peer-led talks for residence halls and other campus groups.

Another event, Hope Notes, will take place on Oct. 29 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the UA Mall, where students can write positive messages on sticky notes and place them around campus for other students to find. Students are encouraged to take pictures and share them through social media, Coleman said.

The program also aims to help stop eating disorders and disordered eating in the future, Ramsey said.

“U of A Wildcats are enough, despite everything, they are enough, and their self-worth is the most important thing,” Ramsey said. “It’s not about external beauty. Life is about living, and it’s about having a great life.”

- Follow Maggie Driver @Maggie_Driver


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Updated December 3, 2021