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Lecture encourages better body satisfaction

Caitlin Housley | Thursday, February 24, 2011

Saint Mary’s communication professor Terri Russ encouraged women to believe “[their] bodies are amazing” at a lecture Wednesday night.

Russ’ speech, “Beautiful Body Battles or Why Are We All Chasing Unicorns?” explained why body dissatisfaction occurs and urged students to fight against it.

She said women’s negative view of their bodies is called “body dissatisfaction,” an issue that extends beyond the concept of body image.

“Body image makes it sound like it’s an appearance issue,” Russ said. “When, in actuality, it’s so much more.”

Her lecture focused on three aspects of female body image: what is natural, what is real and how women know what is natural or real.

Russ said the woman’s ideal of the perfect body size is significantly smaller than what is natural — the women’s ideal size is a six, while the man’s ideal woman’s size is a 10 and the natural body size is 14.

Women play body battle games with themselves, Russ said, such as “the mirror game,” “the food game” and “the clothing game.”

“The mirror game” focuses on women’s tendency to pinpoint their problem areas when they look in the mirror, she said.

“Very rarely, if ever, do we step back and look at our whole image … what is most likely in proportion to the rest of our body looks out of proportion [when taken out of context],” Russ said.

Food games refer not only to eating disorders, Russ said, but also to disordered eating habits.

Lastly, Russ said women play “clothing games” when they allow clothes to dominate their lives. Women often refer to clothing size by stating, “I’m an eight,” she said, when in reality, they should say, “I wear an eight.”

“Clothing is a pivotal part of who we are and how we present ourselves to society … [but] here’s the dirty little secret of clothing sizes … they have no meaning,”

Russ said. “You [become] that clothing number, but if that number has no tangible meaning, it says a lot about a person.”

Women contribute to each other’s body dissatisfaction, Russ said, through habits such as what she called “the skinny greeting.” This greeting includes women telling each other they look great and asking each other whether they lost weight. Though seemingly harmless and positive, Russ said, this question can be detrimental to a woman’s notion of body dissatisfaction.

Russ also encouraged audience members to take steps toward overcoming body dissatisfaction.

“I believe that anything can be changed,” she said.

Russ said students could eliminate “the skinny greeting,” focus on health and change the way they talk about themselves to work through body dissatisfaction.

“You have to be your whole self … and embrace that,” Russ said. “Say, and believe, ‘I am beautiful. I am more than my body.'”