BodyKind promotes positive body image

Allison Bolgiano

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Illustration: Alex Bailey

Under the leadership of three female students and a counselor, a recently formed campus group aims to promote positive body-image and self-love through openness, support and education.

Sophomores Katie Tertocha and Michaela Lambert, junior Heather Domonoske, and counselor Tracee Anderson formed Body-Kind this semester to begin countering negative body image with positivity and support. Body image issues silently pervade the Whitman community, according to Anderson. BodyKind hopes to end the silence surrounding body image by encouraging open dialogue.

“For the last 20 years I’ve worked at Whitman, issues around eating, body image and self-worth have always been a really important part of students’ lives and a really unsettling part of most students’ lives I’ve had contact with,” said Anderson.

The idea for a body image group came from Anderson, fellow counselor Sharon Kaufman-Osborn and Associate Dean of Students Barbara Maxwell, who all had spoken with many students about body image and eating disorders.

“We all got our heads together and decided, ‘let’s try to get something going’ and there was a lot of excitement and interest from the student body,” said Anderson.

Early this semester Tertocha, Lambert and Domonoske developed the framework for BodyKind. The group will include three committees working toward its goals of openness, support and education.

The three committees are passive programming, active programming and training. The passive programming will use t-shirts, posters and sticky notes to spread messages of self-love around campus. Active programming is expected to include documentaries, art exhibits or student panels and the education committee will conduct Green Dot type trainings to promote a continuing climate of positive body image.

With this internal club organization, BodyKind hopes to bring attention to the impact of culture and language on how students feel about their bodies.

“Our campus is so focused on being active and being healthy that we tend to integrate a lot of negative body talk that I think really brings down the positive body culture that we should be striving for,” said Lambert.

Domonoske chose to get involved after realizing the importance of getting support for body-image issues in high school.

As a resident assistant in Jewett Hall, she became even more aware of the impact of self-image and eating on students’ lives.

“Living in a freshman dorm, there is a lot of public eating, public bathrooms and public mirrors, so you hear a lot more comments than you would living with one sibling or two siblings,” said Domonoske.

Domonoske, for example, frequently heard commentary about food choices.

“I have a lot of friends that will make comments here that they eat healthier at Whitman than they do at home just because there’s the salad bar, and everyone else is eating salad. So there is this, ‘Oh I should eat salad, and I should eat healthy,'” said Domonoske.

The group hopes to become a resource that supports students while creating a cultural shift that makes dialogue about body image issues safe and open.

“We’re not going to stop people from dealing with the issues but hopefully just make them more comfortable in dealing with them,” said Tertocha.

Currently, BodyKind is trying to get more students involved in the group and in the broader project of creating a culture of healthy body-image.

“If someone feels like it’s important to care about themselves, then they should join the group,” said Tertocha.

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