You’re sexy and you know it. I know it may be tough to look in the mirror without pointing out the craters you think you have on your face, the muffin top you think you see around your tummy or the boney legs you think you have, but truth be told, beauty comes from the inside out. It’s those car dancing, karaoke, belt-out-Christina-Agiulera’s-beautiful-at-the-top-of-your-lungs type of mentality that on-campus group Reflections is trying to get its peers to see. Reflect on this: 91% of college women have attempted to control their weight by dieting. See what this week’s campus celebrity, Reflections President and Senior Marci Engel, is doing to cut the fat talk out of WashU.
HC: What is Reflections?
ME: Reflections is a group on campus that promotes positive body imaging and creates eating disorder awareness. Our entire initiative is to teach people to love their bodies; we want to change the conversation surrounding body image and stop body fat talk.
HC: How long has it been around for?
ME: The group’s been around since the 80s, but the group’s activity depends on the members. Each member gets 30 hours of training.
HC: Really, I didn’t know that. What do they get trained on?
ME: Our Training Chairs work with our advisor at Student Health, campus nutritionists, and the WashU’s Weight Management and Eating Disorders Research Lab to train our members how to help a friend who is suffering and recognize signs of people who need help.
HC: How can someone get involved?
ME: Our application process is in the fall. It’s an online application plus an interview process. We typically have 20 active members. We try to get mostly freshman and sophomores because you train all first semester and then you’re active only your second semester.
HC: Why did you get involved?
ME: I got involved because I think eating disorders was something I saw freshman year as a very big hidden presence on campus, and I was disturbed with the conversations I heard surrounding weight and dieting. It was to start and change the conversation surrounding body image. People who suffer from body image issues and eating disorders come to the school every year and I wanted to give them an opportunity to find help—and a lot of students have gone to talk to our speakers after the presentations and it’s helpful.
HC: What is one of the biggest misconceptions about eating disorders?
ME: Eating disorders are not defined as anorexia and bulimia, eating disorders is any type of disordered eating. Our last speaker talked about relationships and how that can affect a person’s eating habits. Eating disorders is not one small issue; it’s everything and everyone can relate to it.
HC: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned in your research?
ME: As a member of Reflections, I’ve come across many surprising facts. The fact that women are not the only people affected by eating disorders is huge because so many men struggle with this issue as well and as an organization Reflections is struggling on how to connect to them because no men will join Reflections. Also it has been astounding to me how WashU had to lock some the single bathrooms on the Forty because students would use the facilities to binge and purge. Another is how eating disorders affect different cultures and what the media has done. We had a speaker talk about how in Fiji, after media was introduced into the culture, the numbers of eating disorders sky-rocketed.
HC: How do you come up with the events?
ME: As a group we come up with a focus and think what types of messages we would like to get across. We try hard to change up the speakers and messages each year. Last year’s focus was perfect girls, starving daughters – very girl based. This year we wanted a performance-based speaker that could appeal to everyone so we chose the slam poetry. We also wanted to do a segment on the media because it’s such a big presence in all our lives. Jess was the perfect candidate because we knew she would be controversial (she boycotts American Apparel based on their scantily clad ads), which gets people thinking about these important issues. Also we wanted to bring in people who had different body types to show eating disorders are not just a “thin disease.”
HC: Any new events/ resources to look out for this year?
ME: Right now our focus is to talk to Bon Appetit about removing the calories from the labels of the packaged foods. Seeing the calorie count on the packages stress a lot of students. We think the calorie information should be a choice and you shouldn’t have to look at them if you don’t want to, instead you should have a choice to go online and to look for it. Also ,later this semester we are going to have a Love Your Body Day, just a reminder during exam week to love your body over the summer and treat it well. Lastly, the women’s Panhellenic Association is bringing Stacy Nadeau, a model for Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, some time this Spring.
HC: That sounds great! Speaking of warmer weather, what’s your advice for people stressing about spring break?
ME: I think the thing with body image is that when you’re confident is when you’re the most beautiful; when you’re happy with yourself, that’s all that matters. Everyone is beautiful no matter what they look like. Jess was a perfect example of a positive body image, she is confident in what she looks like and the way she carries herself. Be happy with what you look like J
HC: Well said! Lastly, I absolutely love the Love Your Body campaign you all do every fall and have to ask, why do you love your body?
ME: I think it changes. This year I love my body, because it can push me where I want to go. Inspired by one of my friends, I decided to run my first half marathon last semester. It’s amazing if you push your body, it can accomplish any feat.