Dickinson College program tackles fat stigma in a weeklong Love Your Body event
Published: Saturday, March 24, 2012
They seemed to spill from the pages of summer fashion ads
this week. Impossibly toned bodies. Women in denim, short-shorts and
clingy blouses, men in cargo shorts and tight tees.
premature warmth didn’t send them scurrying to fitness centers and
tanning salons. Their bodies already seem perfect.
Sharifi was among Dickinson College students taking part in a group
discussion with professor Amy Farrell, auÂthor of "Fat Shame," on
Saturday. Sharifi talked about batÂtling an eating disorder.
However, for others, the switch from long pants to bare legs can feel like torture.
People start dropping the f-word. As in, “I’m so fat.”
Laeli Sharifi won’t be pulled in.
The Dickinson College
senior said she knows it’s distorted thinking. We all aren’t meant to
weigh 120 pounds and wear single-digit clothing sizes. But the pressure
to be thin and toned is everywhere.
It was powerful enough to
send Sharifi, who has an eating disorder, to a hospital psychiatric
ward. She left school in the midst of her freshman year in a vocal
performance program at a midwestern university.
recuperation, the Washington, D.C.-area resident transferred to
Dickinson. A friend from high school, Ashley Williams, was there. So
were some of the nation’s experts on body perception.
as Women’s Studies professor Amy Farrell, author of “Fat Shame: Stigma
and the Fat Body in American Culture” and a recent guest on CNN and the
“The Colbert Report.” And psychology professor Suman Ambwani, an eating
disorders and obesity researcher.
This week, the professors’ work prompted three college departments and two student organizations at Dickinson to tackle fat stigma in a weeklong Love Your Body event.
Ambwani organized a dinner and brought in Dickinson alumna Alyssa Compeau, who conducts outreach for Eating Disorder Network of Maryland.
was a discussion on men, masculinity and body image as well as a
mindful-eating workshop with a dietitian Dickinson added to its staff in
Students signed a pledge to end Fat Talk, or conversations in which they belittle themselves over their size or body shape.
Friday, Sharifi and Williams joined other women for lunch. Women’s
Center Director Susannah Bartlow talked on being healthy at every size.
And they actually ate. Sandwiches and potato chips and pickles.
Bartlow said ads bombard people, especially women, with conflicting messages about eating.
popular ad for yogurt, for instance, touts its yummy flavors but
low-calorie values. Realistically, key lime yogurt tastes nothing like
key lime pie, Bartlow said.
The takeaway for many is that they need the yogurt company to help them control a sweet tooth.
“What possible catastrophe can occur if I have that piece of key lime pie,” Bartlow asked students.
intertwining it with sin. You’re doing something you’re normally not
supposed to do. You’re giving yourself a treat,” Dickinson senior Jesse
Williams said she was lucky. Her family is
comprised of big and tall people comfortable with their size. She was
never pressured to diet or feel ashamed about her appearance.
Sharifi said three members of her family have undergone surgery to change the shape of their stomachs to lose weight.
It was hard for them to not applaud her weight loss, even when they knew it was unhealthy.
When she got to Dickinson, Sharifi compared herself unfavorably to slender women.
outlook improved through talking openly about her eating disorder.
Other women have opened up to her about their own suffering.
said it has helped her think more about talents she has that could help
others in a career and less about how her legs will look in shorts this
“It’s taken three years, and finally, two months before I graduate, I’m like, I don’t care,” she said.
story can be found at: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/03/dickinson_college_program_tack.html