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How do you feel when you look in the mirror?

Are you comfortable in your own skin?

Have you ever compared yourself to others?

The influence of your body image and how it effects yourself and those around you are significant.

These influences can be subtle such as choosing the type of shirt you wear or can even change the way you think about yourself. Body image is defined as what you believe about your appearance and yourself. It takes into account the thoughts and feelings you have about your body. Do you feel comfortable with you body? What do you see when you look in a mirror? How you perceive yourself can influence your self-confidence, relationships with others, stress levels, and much more. Students who have a negative body image are much more likely to develop symptoms of depression, low self-esteem, and even eating disorders.

Here in the Marquette University Medical Center, the Wellness Peer Educators are interested in installing a new program focused on maintaining a healthy body image. Our main goal is to see what Marquette University students know about maintaining a positive body image, how they feel about themselves and their bodies, and most importantly, what we can do to help our students feel more comfortable in their own skin.

Here are some of the results from the feedback we were given at our first presentation in Cobeen Hall:

75% of Marquette students who attended Body Image Dialogue admitted they have struggled with a positive body image in the past.

91% admitted they have compared themselves to others around them.

It’s frightening to see how common it is for women in college to have a negative body image. According to a study done by the American Journal of Psychiatry, “In a survey of female students on a college campus, 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight, and of the 83% that dieted for weight loss, 44% were of normal weight.”

Why?

69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape (International Journal of Eating Disorders). Many comments we received at the Cobeen Hall presentation stated that the media influence how students thought about themselves.

Girls at such a young age are receiving influences from magazines, television, advertising, telling them what their bodies should look like. When in reality, the body type being portrayed by women in magazines is only naturally possessed by about 5% of American females.

How can we develop a healthier body image?

In my opinion, there’s no quick fix for changing your perception of yourself. It’s extremely difficult! However, there are many things you can do over time to learn to overpower those negative thoughts and feelings about yourself and your body.

Some tips for building up and maintaining a healthy body image:

  • Wake up each morning and say something positive about yourself. Positive affirmations are a great way to remember all of the great things that make you, you. “I am strong. I am beautiful. Today is going to be a great day.”
  • When you look in the mirror, don’t look at a specific body part. We all have a tendency to zoom in on all of our flaws and insecurities. See yourself as a whole person, and look at yourself the way you want others to see you.
  • Find time to do something nice for yourself. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, take a break from your life. Anything that helps you de-stress and feel at peace with your body.
  • Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable. When I wear something I feel uncomfortable in, I feel super awkward and am constantly worrying about how I look. Work with your body! Wear what feels right to you!
  • Train yourself to ignore the negative voices in your head. Whenever you start to tear yourself down, shut down those thoughts! Go back to my first tip about positive affirmations. They help, I promise.
  • Make a list of all the good things you love about yourself! Use your strengths to feel good about yourself. Are you a great painter? Dancer? Do you friends always come to you for advice? Are you a good listener? Don’t forget about these attributes!

Remember: True beauty is not skin deep. Beauty is a state of mind.

Here are some of the ways Marquette women maintain a healthy body image:

“I remind myself how good I think I look and how nobody else’s opinion matters but mine.”

“I try not to compare myself to others, and I place my value on my attributes and skills, not appearances.”

Remember to love yourself, Marquette.

A special thanks to the women of Cobeen for giving us great feedback on body image!

Interested in The Body Image Dialogue for your club/organization/residence hall? Contact the Wellness Peers at http://mu.edu/dsa/bit/request-program.shtml

Written by: Jacky Wojcik and Taylor Lefaiver

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Thanks for reading, stay healthy Marquette!

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We are committed to advancing the overall health and wellbeing of the students at Marquette University through comprehensive wellness services and programming.

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