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Panel discusses issues associated with body image

| Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Saint Mary’s Student Government Association held a panel Tuesday in which body image issues, self-love and health were discussed as part of Love Your Body Week.

Junior Anna Mullek, social concerns committee chair, said it is important for students to see the prevalence of peers struggling with body image.

“Hopefully a few brave women sharing their diverse journeys will encourage other students to go and either seek help or consider sharing their own story in the future to inspire and serve others,” she said.

Mullek and junior Haley Coghlan organized the panel, which featured speakers who touched on topics such as anorexia, embarrassing body issues and overall body health. The first speaker, junior Emma Lewis, spoke about her experience with anorexia in high school. She said her journey of recovery has taught her she is not alone, and it‘s fine she doesn‘t always like everything about herself.

“Even if you don’t have an eating disorder, even if you don’t have a diagnosis, and even if you do, you’re not alone. Everyone has body positivity issues; it just makes you human,” Lewis said. “What really matters is learning how to look at yourself and just say ‘you know, I may not like this today, but I do like this.’”

Sophomore Sophia Wittenberg also spoke about her experience with anorexia. She said today it can be easy to get wrapped up in yourself, and looking to others can help you see the wonderful qualities about yourself.

“I would stress the importance of leaning on friends and family and faith because that is something I wish I would have done,” she said.

Sophomore Anne Nowalk shared her story of learning how to cope with irritable bowel syndrome. She said that although issues like these are uncomfortable to discuss, it is important to pay attention to the needs of your body and not be embarrassed by them.

“I needed to change my diet; I needed to change what I did for my body,” she said. “It took patience to do what helped me, but the more you don’t reach out, the worse it’s going to get. It can feel lonely, but you don’t have to feel alone. You should love your body no matter what.”

Elizabeth McGonagle, who is a 25-year veteran of the health and wellness industry and owns a fitness center in Alabama, spoke at the panel via recording. McGonagle said the five pillars of health are the food we eat, sleep, exercise, quiet and healing. She said quiet is rare, but it is very important for our mental health and body image

“Your body needs time be silent. You’ll be able to hear your body better in silence. Walk away from the phone, sit in silence for five minutes, and you will begin to crave that moment of science,” she said.

McGonagle said healing is the most important pillar of health and body image because it means letting go of anger and hostility as well as seeing the good in others and most importantly in yourself.

“Acknowledge what you need,” McGonagle said. “I cannot believe how mean people are to themselves. Take a more honest look at who you are, acknowledge the good, the bad, the ugly and magnificent because we have it all.”

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