Students walk for better body image

Men and women of all shapes and sizes warm-up before the Green Ribbon walk on Saturday afternoon.
Men and women of all shapes and sizes warm-up before the Green Ribbon walk on Saturday afternoon.

Pinning green ribbons of different shades, widths and shapes to their chests, students gathered Saturday at the JDUC to spread the message that beauty, strength and talent come in all shapes and sizes.

The event, part of the Green Ribbon campaign, consisted of a non-competitive five- or 10-kilometre walk, run or blade to promote having a positive body image.

“It promotes awareness for body image issues,” said Meg Gemmill, who helped organize the event.

The Green Ribbon campaign, which is sponsored by the Health Outreach Program at Health, Counselling and Disability Services, is in its fifth year.

“The green ribbons represent diversity,” added Diane Nolting, health educator for Health, Counselling and Disability Services.

Nina Mafrici, who was involved in organizing the walk, said having poor body image can take its toll on students after they arrive at university.

“Even slight problems from high school are exacerbated,” she said.

Mafrici added that problems with body image come from the different stresses students feel during the course of university life.

Volunteer Peer Health Educator Lauren Zimmerman, ArtSci ’06, said she has friends who suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Events like the Green Ribbon walk are a way to help them, she said.

“It’s amazing when you can show your support and make a stand and help others who are going through those problems,” she said.

The Green Ribbon campaign addresses body image pressures faced by both genders. Billboards were displayed in the JDUC illustrating a tendency of some men to feel the need to bulk up.

Volunteer Peer Health Educator Sarah Costa, ArtSci ’06, said she received positive feedback from male participants about the posters addressing their concerns. She said while girls are under pressure to be thinner, males tend to feel pressured to add more muscle to their body.

“Girls suffer from anorexia ... guys tend to suffer from ‘bigorexia,’” she said.

Marco Lo, ArtSci ’06, said he notices that issue among men.

“You do see that in gym,” he said.

Sarah Hull, ArtSci ’09, said more people need to be informed about problems people face concerning their bodies.

“I think awareness is important,” she said.

Several students also said they attended the event due to general desire to promote the Green Ribbon cause.

David Griese, ConEd ’09, who lives on the Health and Wellness floor in Gordon-Brockington Hall, said everyone from his floor attended the event.

“We’re here to support healthy living,” he said.

Erin Robinson, ArtSci ’08, said body image is not a popular topic of discussion.

“People don’t talk about stuff like this,” she said.

Costa said the campaign used different advertising strategies this year to appeal to more participants. She said some of the changes included altering campaign posters to feature models from the Mental Health Awareness Committee.

Other additions were sidewalk chalk announcements, e-mail list-serv announcements and posters in residences and common rooms.

Nolting said she was thrilled by the event’s attendance.

“It’s a really nice turnout,” she said. “The last couple of years, it hasn’t been all that nice.

“[Participants made up] a nice cross-section of different faculties and years.”

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