Recognizing a need for positive body image at her high school, Rebecca Kaiserman started her club, HIPS. Now, with the help of co-president, Mariah Guevin, Rebecca has brought HIPS to Skidmore! With her persistent hard work and passion for spreading a positive message, Rebecca is truly an inspirational woman.
Her Campus: Can you tell us a little bit about HIPS? What inspired you to start the organization and what are its primary goals?
Rebecca Kaiserman: I came up with the idea of starting a body image club in my sophomore year of high school. I created a name, goals, and a few potential activities and events. I started running the club my junior year of high school and again my senior year. I had previously struggled with body image, self-esteem and stress management issues and I thought that if I had had a place to give me advice or even a place where I could feel not so alone, that would have helped me. So instead of just sitting there and lamenting about a lack of positive outlet, why not create one?
HC: It must feel great to finally be an official club! What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome to get HIPS chartered?
RK: The process of chartering a new club seemed endless. There are so many obstacles that you wouldn’t expect. In order for the CAC (Clubs and Activities Committee) to even think about letting you present to senate, you must write a charter for the club. We (my co-president and I) picked the wrong format on the SGA website to model it after and therefore got rejected the first time by the CAC. It took us a while to reformat, represent and finally get passed to present at senate.
HC: What kind of club meetings and activities did you do with HIPS at your high school?
RK: Both years I ran HIPS at my high school, the club hosted Fat Talk Free Week. This week is filled with activites that help shed light on the epidemic of “fat talk” and its negative effects. “Fat talk” is any negative comment about your own body or someone else’s that discourages healthy habits or a positive outlook (ie: “I shouldn’t eat this, my thighs are too big” or “Have you seen her stomach lately?”). I also organized a Body Image Seminar to be sponsored by HIPS for students, staff, faculty and members of the outside community. We brought in an eating disorder therapist (who is also a high school social worker) to talk about the media’s effects on body image. We also brought in a dietician to talk about dieting myths (ie: It’s bad to eat after 8 p.m.) and why they are not all true. We also brougnt in an eating disorder survivor who shared her story. I think it was really great to get information out to a larger community.
HC: Do you plan to do similar things with HIPS at Skidmore? Any new ideas?
RK: I would love to host a lecture of some sort that is similar to the seminar I organized in high school, though I’m open to new ideas. My co-president has brought really interesting and different ideas to the table that I hadn’t previously thought of, such as yoga. We still do activities and use discussion topics that I had done with the high school club, though we just typically adjust it to a larger community.
HC: How is it different working with college students than high schoolers?
RK: College students are typically much more forthcoming with ideas and opinions, which is awesome. In high school, when I wanted to host a discussion-based meeting, it felt a bit like pulling teeth. I couldn’t tell if nobody was truly confident in his or her opinions or if they simply were only there to put another club on their college resume. I think it’s a really great club to get implemented into high schools, though I think there has to be some way that I hadn’t thought of to get students more into conversing with each other, rather than participating in activities. I love working with college students, especially on this campus, because everyone seems to be truly passionate about the subjects we discuss and people have a much greater compassion for and interest in one another.
HC: How is the climate of Skidmore in terms of body image? In what ways can it improve?
RK: The Skidmore campus definitely seems to have an overall struggle in terms of body image. My co-president and I received some scary statistics from health promotions, indicating not only a prevalence of negative body image but also of disordered eating. On the other hand, when students become aware of this phenomenon, I truly get the sense that students want to change that atmosphere. Students are starting to become more aware of the effects of a negative body image and I think students can improve the overall climate by simply not letting friends “fat talk.” By putting less emphasis on physical characteristics, peers start to realize there are so many better and healthier topics to discuss and care about.
HC: Do you have any advice for those struggling with body image, such as resources on campus?
RK: Well, of course, I think HIPS is a great outlet to just feel not so alone. I would hope that when people come to a HIPS meeting, they leave feeling that they are not the only one feeling the way they do, even if they have a positive outlook. But by no means are we the only support group for those struggling with disordered eating or any other mental illness. The counseling center is a great resource; In addition to the eight free sessions a year, they also host support groups for people struggling with various mental illness or subjects, including those with eating disorders. Health Services is also a great resource, as well as the Peer Health Educators.
We at Her Campus commend Rebecca and Mariah for bringing this issue to the forefront of Skidmore consciousness and can’t wait to see this club grow! To learn more about HIPS, check out their Facebook page and website.