The Body Positive Cornell event featured activities promoting healthy lifestyles that avoid centering around weight.

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The Body Positive Cornell event featured activities promoting healthy lifestyles that avoid centering around weight.

September 26, 2019

Body Positive Cornell Initiative Hopes to Push Back Against Societal Stereotypes About Weight and Health

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“I’m not accepting what I can’t change, I’m changing what I can’t accept,” activist and entrepreneur Sonya Renee Taylor said Sept. 20, at a Body Positive Cornell event, a University initiative striving to help Cornellians lead a healthy lifestyle that doesn’t focus on weight.

“Our society tells us that we should be able to lose weight and keep it off, and always promises this or that diet as the solution,” Jennie Bernstein, Body Positive outreach coordinator at Cornell Health, told The Sun. The resulting detrimental effects including stigmatization of heavier weights and harmful behavior like “weight cycling,” the practice of losing and gaining weight repeatedly.

Instead, Bernstein believes that taking the emphasis off weight and instead focusing on “improving health and lifestyle behaviors” is a better attitude towards our bodies and life in general, as weight doesn’t have a direct connection to health conditions.

“You actually don’t need to see the number on the scale drop to see an improvement in health outcomes,” she said.

Increasing pleasurable activities or exercises, recognizing that mental health is an important part of physical health and eating intuitively — or eating only when hungry — are some of the ways Bernstein suggests for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Bernstein and her team were inspired to run the BPC initiative by the lack of awareness around the Health At Every Size Approach. They coordinated the eight-week discussion group program using the curriculum developed by the Body Positive Institute and trained peer facilitators. The program is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. There are also specific groups for Panhellenic, women of color and Cornell staff members.

“As a peer co-facilitator, I hold a script and lead the program; but just like the members, I am continuing to grow and learn new ideas every time I meet with a different group,” Michelle Kubasek ’20 told The Sun. She said she started out as a member of the BPC program and finished it with a new understanding of self-love and self-acceptance.

In addition to the program, past participants have started a Body Positive Cornell club that seeks to provide opportunities for other interested students to get involved with Body Positive.

“We are collaborating with Cornell Pole Posse to host a workshop on pole dancing as well as a discussion regarding intuitive movement,” said Caroline Mameesh ’20, an executive board member for the club. Additionally, they plan to hold a fall panel where different people are invited to talk about concepts such as intuitive eating and intuitive movement.

The club general body meets every other Thursday at 5 p.m. in Rockefeller 122, beginning today.