The New Normal

When body shame and disordered eating become normal, how do we fight for our health?

As a psychologist who talks with dozens of college students every week, I’m disheartened to see firsthand just how common issues with body image and eating are. Of course, given the immense urgency American culture places on being thin, young, and beautiful, it’s no surprise that these issues cause an immense amount of distress. Among the many questions that I ask students during a first appointment, I always ask “Do you have any concerns about your body image or your eating today?” Frequently, and especially (but definitely not exclusively!) from women, the answer that comes back is, “Yes, but no more than normal.”

Normal.

We live in a place and time where obsessing about that illusive thigh gap or “perfect” number on the scale has become normal. But in this case, “normal” does not mean “healthy.” Body shame damages our self-image, hurts our relationships and sex lives, and can cause a great deal of mental and emotional suffering. It can keep us from going places and doing things we want to do – like taking a dance class we’ve always wanted to try, or asking out a crush. And of course, body shame is at the root of eating disorders that can cause terrible damage to our health and can even cost lives.   

We at CAPS reject the myth that a number on a scale, a body fat percentage, or rock hard abs are indicators of a person’s worth. In that spirit, we celebrate National Eating Disorders Awareness Week February 24-28th with a variety of events next week, including movie nights, workshops, discussions, and tabling.

Please keep an eye on the CAPS blog for more information about workshops and events in the days to come. We hope that you will join us!

Maya Borgueta, Psy.D. is a staff psychologist who focuses on multicultural issues, including race, ethnicity, and the LGBT community. Her office is located at Porter College.

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