By DEANNA BIONDI
It’s no secret that college-age youths – ranging from late-teens to early twenties – very often struggle with body image and acceptance. Assistant director of Campus Recreation Brittanie Naff has been the lead planner for Campus Recreation’s current Body Positivity Week. She feels that “body positivity and positive self-talk are things that so many people struggle with, but it is not always addressed enough, especially on college campuses.” This thought led her to the idea for an event that emphasizes body positivity. She also stated that Campus Recreation “felt it was appropriate to initiate a positive conversation around body image to help Eagles practice acceptance and appreciation for the bodies they have.”
Body Positivity Week began Monday, March 18, with positive messages being posted around campus, and will continue until Sunday, March 24. “Body positivity is all about accepting your body where it is and treating it well,” Naff said, “including giving it exercise. Taking the focus away from what we look like and putting it onto what our bodies can do is a step in the right direction for body acceptance.”
Group fitness classes allow people to take care of and strengthen their bodies in a positive and welcoming environment, and these began on Tuesday with a free yoga class. There will also be a Zumba class and a strength training class on Thursday, March 21 in Goolrick Hall, as well as Ladies Lift Night on Sunday, March 24 in the gym. All fitness activities are free of charge.
In addition to these activities, there will be positive messages posted around campus throughout the week, and a positive affirmations booth located on the University Center patio on Friday, March 22, from 2 to 3 p.m. Also, informative messages about self-positivity will be posted on Campus Recreation’s Instagram page (@UMWCampusRec).
While this is the first project focused on body positivity that Campus Recreation has put together, Ladies Lift Night has been an annual tradition at UMW for years. At Ladies Lift Night, the goal is to “emphasize the benefits of strength training, not from the aesthetic aspect, but from the positive effects on your daily functions, bones, muscles, and more,” said Naff.
Ladies Lift Night is an opportunity for women to become accustomed to the strength training equipment in the gym in an inviting and comfortable environment. “When you finally feel like you know what you’re doing, strength training can be so empowering, much like accepting your body can be,” Naff added, to explain why the decision was made to incorporate this long-standing tradition into the new Body Positivity Week. Body-positive tank tops reading “Every Body is Beautiful” will also be available for purchase during Ladies Lift Night.
Students seem to be having an overall positive reaction to the event. Hannah Duncan, a senior majoring in communications and digital studies, shared her opinion: “Being body positive isn’t only about fitness and exercise, so I think they could go a lot further with this, but I like that they’re making an effort to spread a positive message about body image.”
Another senior, Chenoa Forrester, who is majoring in business, shared a similar view: “Although every week should encourage body positivity, it is nice to see an influential organization like campus rec embracing the diverse bodies that make up our student body.” As this is Campus Rec’s first time hosting an event focused on body positivity, students are anxious to see if it will continue in future years and how far the event will develop.
Body Positivity Week is a first for Campus Recreation. Pending the turnout of this week’s activities, Naff and other staff members involved in planning hope to take it farther in the future.
“We’re excited to collaborate with other offices on campus like Orientation, the James Farmer Multicultural Center, and Student Activities and Engagement,” said Naff. “We hope to make this an annual event that grows in size and importance each year.”