October 16, 2008

Discussion Raises Awareness on ‘Love Your Body Day’

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“No one is free who is slave to the body” flashed across a screen in large yellow letters as Claire Louge ’08, a member of Cornell Minds Matter, told of her experience with anorexia at the Body Image Discussion yesterday. The event was co-sponsored by Cornell Minds Matter and the Women’s Resource Center in conjunction with “Love Your Body Day.”
The Body Image Discussion was created out of a need to raise awareness about a prevalent issue on campus, said Elisa Miller, a member of Cornell Minds Matter.
“I think that people have to raise awareness. It would be great if people come, take in the info and develop better relationships with their bodies,” Miller said prior to the discussion.
Yesterday marked “Love Your Body Day,” a national day of action that promotes positive body image and raises awareness of the media’s impact on body image attitude. The Women’s Resource Center celebrated by serving breakfast on Ho Plaza.
“Body image is something is that very important to understand proactively,” said Graham Rengert ’09, a member of the Women’s Resource Center Advisory Board.
“There are guys who face body image struggles, but the main focus of the WRC is that this is something imposed upon women that we often forget,” Rengert added.
Carolyn Hodges, director of the Sol Stone Center for Eating Disorders and director of the Elmira Nutrition Clinic, began the discussion with a presentation of different information about eating disorders. Hodges is also a nutrition consultant at Gannett Health Center.
Hodges flashed various photos of models and thin celebrities to demonstrate the unhealthy images and attitudes towards body images projected in public today.
Hodges stated that half of the females between the ages 18 and 25 would prefer to be run over by a truck than to be fat, and that 42 percent of first through third grade girls want to lose weight. She also noted that normal body weight, based on New York Metropolitan Tables, are measurements based on affluent whites of northern European descent in the Eastern U.S. with no consideration given to race, ethnicity, body frame or composition.
“When you look at how much body loathing there is, it just makes you sad to see how many people just can’t see what’s there,” Hodges said.
Hodges also presented a number of different cases that focused on the toll different eating disorders may have and how people develop eating disorders.
In one case, a 20 year-old female student who was 5’4” and weighed 117 pounds and had suffered from an eating disorder for one year when she was 17. The result of the year-long eating disorder left the student with osteoporosis and a much more sensitive body to changes in eating, a common effect on bodies that have gone through eating disorders.
According to Hodges, there are some genetic predispositions that effect levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain. When a person reduces their intake of carbohydrates, serotonin levels start to drop. Low serotonin levels in the brain cause obsessive thoughts and depression, creating the cycle of an eating disorder.
“Nobody decides to have an eating disorder,” Hodges said.
Adding a more personal note to the discussion, Louge, who was on medical leave from Cornell last semester in order to receive treatment at Sol Stone, shared her own experience overcoming an eating disorder. Louge’s experience began with the desire to look young and evolved into a coping mechanism.
“A lot of people ask how much weight did you lose,” Louge said. “It’s not about numbers. It’s more about why we do it.”
Louge decided to share her story at the discussion in order to let people with similar problems know that they can come forward and utilize Cornell’s many resources, such as the Cornell Healthy Eating Program in Gannett.
“It’s a process and I’m not done with. I’m still working on the body image issues and I have really good days and I also have bad days. It’s not fair that we put so many resources on combating our bodies. Here I am and I’m going to keep on working on it,” Louge said.
Patricia Tucker, a “house mom” at Sol Stone, spoke after Louge, encouraged the audience to create a better body image first thing every day, “wake up each morning and just say ‘Okay … I look good.’”