Celebrating and Loving Women's Bodies

This week Her Campus was lucky enough to interview Laurie Hamame and Hayley Esterline, the co-presidents of Body Sense, OSU's body positive club.

 

For those of you who know little about Body Sense, it advocates for positive body image through supportive group meetings, activities and events, while bringing awareness to the importance of positive body mentalities, physical health, mental health and self care. Body Sense aims to resist society's fabricated image of the perfect body portrayed in all sorts of media that help build negative body image and low self-esteem.

Laurie and Hayley had a lot of insight on why we should love our bodies, love ourselves and appreciate all the reasons why we are good enough. Body Sense acts as an important medium in building their beautifully positive mindsets. With this, they both had a lot to say on the subject.

Her Campus: When did you get involved in Body Sense and why?

Laurie Hamame: I stumbled upon Body Sense at the 2013 Winter Involvement Fair. I can't remember the exact reason why I gravitated towards this organization, but I'm quite certain I had reached a point of exhaustion with society's unattainable beauty standards. After the first meeting, I was hooked. I needed to be more involved. I went from secretary one year to co-president the next two years. I plan on running for president again for next year.

Hayley Esterline: I got involved with Body Senses in January of 2014. A friend of mine knew that I was interested in body image issues and representational issues in the media. She kept telling me that I would love this club, and she convinced me to give it a try. I’ve gone to almost every meeting ever since because I loved hanging out and working with a group of people who cared about fighting negative body image. The group has always been so positive and supportive of each other that everytime I leave a meeting I have a smile on my face.

HC: What do you love most about Body Sense?

LH: The community of body positive warriors. I have been so blessed to be surrounded by so many people at Ohio State who are fighting for each other, themselves and the world at large by advocating self-love at any size, which is a completely foreign concept in our world. These are people who are fighting one of the biggest forces in our society: diet culture. They are strong, they are beautiful inside and out, they are caring, and they never back down. We are going to change the world. We are changing the world.

HE: I actually really love that it is such a multi-faceted organization. We don't just talk about body positivity; we practice body activism. We raise money for the National Eating Disorders Association through the annual Columbus NEDA Walk. We collaborate with other organizations to educate our peers about body image issues and eating disorders. We have made care packages for a local eating disorder treatment center. Some of our members have been trained as peer facilitators for the body project, a dissonance-based eating disorder prevention program. On top of all that, we have a really wonderful group of people who are dedicated to spreading positive body image and celebrating all that bodies can do.

 

HC: How has it affected your time at OSU or even your life?

 

LH: I can’t imagine my life without Body Sense, which acts as a kind of support group where I can escape the stigma of mental health to an entire room full of people who aren’t being superficial. It’s really nice to have a place that says, ‘No,’ to all the voices telling you that you’re not good enough, that you’re not beautiful enough, that you’re not enough. Body Sense has helped me realize that I am enough. I don't know what path my life would have gone down if I didn't join Body Sense, or how I would learned the power of cultivating self-worth, but I'm eternally grateful for this organization for making the road to self-love an enjoyable one.

HE: It definitely helped me a lot my freshman year when I was still struggling with the transition to college and some of my own body image issues. Body Sense helped me to love my body for the first time in my life. Of course, I still have some bad body image days, but Body sense has helped me to remember that the way my body looks doesn't really matter that much. Are so many more important things about me than my face or my body, like how I try to use the ways I spend my time  have a positive impact on other people. I also think that becoming president of Body Sense has helped me to become a much stronger leader. I think it has helped me to develop valuable listening skills. I feel like I'm better at making decisions now.

HC: How do you guys work together as co-presidents of Body Sense?

LH: The reason presidency is a collaborative position in this group is because running Body Sense solo could almost be an impossible feat. I struggle with body image. Hayley struggles with body image. We all do. That unity and teamwork resonates not only in our roles as presidents, but in our friendship outside of Body Sense. We help each other learn to love ourselves, and together, we help the rest of the group do the same.

HE: Laurie and I work great together. We have always gotten along really well. We actually got dinner and went to a comedy show last night, and we had a blast! When we work together, we generally try to split the work evenly. We know that we can rely on each other when one of us can’t take on as much responsibility when life gets crazy. We support each other so much. I don't think she really knows how much having her in my life means to me.

 

 

Last September, Body Sense brought actress Brittany Snow to Ohio State to speak about her own struggles with body image. She promoted her campaign, Love Is Louder, which  helped emphasize the real struggle underlying society's persuasion to fit the perfect body image in girls' and womens' lives. Her voice in the cause lifted peoples' hearts to stop and listen to real struggles from real people, such as her own. Body Sense continues to try to bring people to speak about this silenced social problem in the lives of women today.

 

 

HC: We know Body Sense got Brittany Snow to come to OSU; if you could bring any other person to OSU who would it be and why?

LH: Demi Lovato. As an eating disorder survivor, she has become a vocal role model for those dealing with cultural pressures to be thin. She encourages everyone to love who they are and embrace the so-called "flaws" that actually make each of us unique. Her fan base is larger, and her voice is even larger. Bringing someone like her to campus could really shake up the way people stigmatize mental health.

HE: I would love to bring Tess Holliday to OSU. She is the first size 22 woman to sign a major modeling contract and the creator of #effyourbeautystandards. She is a wonderful body positive advocate and encourages people of ALL sizes to love their bodies. I think Ohio State’s campus tends to be very health and fitness focused. Although that doesn’t sound like a bad thing, it can translate to a lot of students struggling with their body image and using unhealthy behaviors in order to achieve an unattainable body ideal. I think that seeing a successful and happy fat model who truly loves her body could help students to learn how to love themselves and their bodies despite the uber-fitness culture at our university.

 

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Every spring, Body Sense participates in the NEDA Walk that works to help those suffering from eating disorders. Eating disorders affect more than 30 million people in the United States alone. It promotes positive body image and self love in the face of this deadly disorder. All the funds go toward funding interventions and treatments, so every positive note and dollar makes a difference in the lives of those who need it!

HC: What do you think makes the Neda Walk so effective?

LH: You do not have to have an eating disorder to benefit from the NEDA Walk. Every year, we are inspired by the power of the community that comes together to support those struggling. No matter who you are, the NEDA Walk can help you learn how to love yourself a little more.

Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses. The Walk is effective because with a number that high, it's almost impossible to go through life without meeting at least one person who has been diagnosed. Even if you haven't met someone struggling, the Walk is a vote for a better world, a world where everyone is comfortable with their body and themselves. I walk because I am currently in recovery, and the stigma surrounding ED's make me feel judged and afraid to talk. I walk, because I want to measure in strength and not in pounds. I walk, because scales are for fish. I walk because my weight has no correlation with my worth. I walk because calories are just a unit of energy. I walk because eating disorders are NOT a phase, a joke, a fad diet, or a choice.

HE: Imagine a group of people who have struggled with their body image and who want to help change the world. Now imagine that they are all in one place on a beautiful April morning, finding support in their community. That is the NEDA Walk. I think a lot of people don't realize that eating disorders are the most deadly mental illness out there. They think that it is a joke, or a “white girl problem,” or a choice that people make to lose weight that they can stop at any time. That's not what it is. At the NEDA Walk, everyone either understands the problem or, if they’re still unfamiliar with EDs, they begin to learn how serious they are. At the same time the walk sends a message of hope to those who are currently struggling, showing them that recovery is possible. It's always a really wonderful event, and I always walk away with my heart full of hope.

HC: What kinds of things is Body Sense planning to do for the upcoming Neda Walk?

LH: With an exponentially larger member base this year, we've decided to make the NEDA Walk bigger and better. Last year’s NEDA Walk had at least 100 participants and raised more than $14,000. This year, we hope to raise $20,000, which might be more reachable thanks to an increase in recognition after Brittany Snow’s campus visit. We also will be having three speakers at this year's walk, as opposed to just one. The speakers are such an important part of the event because it is a beacon of hope for those still struggling; it shows that recovery is possible.

HE: We are planning to have tons of interactive activities to help people fight the forces of negative body image. We will have “scale bashing,” where you will be able to write on a scale and tell it how you really feel. We will have “compliment bags” you can make. For those, you write down every time you receive a compliment and then when you're feeling down, you have tons of reasons to love yourself right in that little bag.  We will have a self-love photoshoot, several speakers, and lots of free goodies, some of which will be provided by Aerie, NEDA’s national sponsor. The walk will also have tons of eating disorder and mental health resources, like the Franklin County branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses, so that we can help to educate the public about how to get help or how to help a loved one who is struggling.

HC: What is a message you would like every girl to know?

(Brace yourself for a ton of uplifting, body positive, and powerful words of advice and wisdom!)

LH: There is no wrong way to have a body. You are a piece of art. You are a map. You have hills and valleys and you are a city waiting to be explored.
Developing a relationship with yourself isn’t a way of saying, “I have no friends,” but a key part to increasing your independence and security about who you are without external validation.
 
Self-love isn’t something you achieve; rather, it is something you do for yourself everyday for the rest of your life. Loving yourself doesn't mean you'll never have a bad day ever again, and having a bad day doesn't mean you're doing this "self-love thing" wrong. You don’t have to love your body every single day of the year. You’re going to have days when you forget that you, your body, and your mind are in this together. You're going to have days when you wonder if your body is sabotaging your whole life. You're even going to have days when you let the bully in your head win. Give the voice the fleeting moment of attention it so craves, and then remind it that even if that were true, you would still be so worth loving.
 
We can’t expect every day to be full of joy and light and ease in our bodies. We’re going to have setbacks. Give yourself a break. You’re not perfect. No one is. You don’t have to be at the top of your game every day. No one is happy all the time. No one loves themselves always. No one lives without pain. You have to learn to love yourself on the bad days too because you are equally lovable at all times.
Take care of yourself in the best way you can, whether that be taking a bubble bath, going for a walk, or having a hot drink and going to bed. Show yourself how much you love you. Take yourself out on a date. Take a nice hot bath with incense. Take the time to make yourself your favorite dinner. Have that painting day you’ve been putting off due to being too busy. Go to your favorite hiking place and enjoy nature. Buy yourself flowers (even go all out and have them delivered). Take yourself to a spa. Buy yourself a book you won’t be able to put down.
You have a choice. You can lose your power and let the bully win, or you can stand up and challenge the conventions of our society and embrace your true self. In the end, our bodies are literally just flesh and bones, functioning as a vessel for our souls. You can decide to focus on what you think is wrong with your body, or you can decide to tell your body how grateful you are for it and all it does for you.
 
I'm here to tell you to fully embrace your own body in all its glory. I'm here to tell you that your body deserves love and respect. It's easy to forget that everyone has thigh jiggle and scars and body hair and tummy rolls. I say you are still so worth loving.
 

HE: No matter what, you are enough. No matter what your body looks like, no matter what flaws you think you have, you are enough. You are made of great things, and that is enough. My therapist once said to me, “You could sit on a rock for hours and do nothing, and you would still be enough. Because you have worth.” I think every person should know that they have worth.

HC: What is your favorite quotation and why?

LH: "and i said to my body. softly. ‘i want to be your friend.’ it took a long breath. and replied, ‘i have been waiting my whole life for this.’" — nayyirah waheed

Even typing that quote was emotional for me. I have spent years and wasted countless moments at war with myself. I abused my body for days, weeks, and months for reasons some people may never understand. Being diagnosed with an eating disorder, and subsequently withdrawing from school to enter treatment, has been the most difficult, emotional experience I have ever undergone, but getting help was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. Loving myself has taken me so much further than hating myself did. Life on the other side is infinitely better. I am getting to know myself all  over again, each and every day.   
 

HE: I have a lot of favorites, but my favorite one related to body image and mental health is “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt said that. Most people are constantly comparing themselves to others and only focusing on the negative in themselves. That leads to low self-esteem. Self-comparison gets in the way of enjoying your life and all of the good that you have inside of you. Plus, just because someone else is awesome doesn't mean that you aren't!

 
 

 

Spreading positive body image and self love keeps the organization, Body Sense, constantly in motion; supporting, pushing, and inspiring one another to love the skin they're in. Laurie and Hayley both encourage anyone who wants to join this important movement to come to Body Sense meetings every other Wednesday evening at 6:30 at Younkin Success Center!

Remember: Loving yourself is the greatest revolution!