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Personal growth workshop discusses body image

Valley College students discuss how to love their bodies in body dissatisfaction event hosted by Student Health.

By Kenya Harris, Staff Writer

(L-R) Sofia Orellana and Ammy Duarte in a mental health event, listened to a lecture about unhealthy thinking styles at Valley College. The event was hosted by Student Health Education. (Elli Bayati | Valley Star)

Valley College’s Student Health Education department hosted a self-development workshop and dialogue on April 19th for staff and students.

The event was organized by Student Health Education Coordinator Evelyn Pichardo and included a group therapist lead discussion. Licensed Marriage Family Therapist Denise Velazquez and Associate Marriage and Family Therapist Lauren Rogers from Pure Hearts Therapy facilitated the workshop, to provide students and staff with a place to confront negative thought styles surrounding body image.

The workshop started to address body dissatisfaction attitudes with a rorschach exercise. Each audience member was directed to write down the first word that occurred to them while looking at a series of images. Monarchs were then instructed to draw a picture of their body and write down one word to describe it. The purpose of the exercise was to help the audience notice if they had an automatic negative or positive thought about their body.

“The goal was for people to start seeing how valuable they are on the inside, instead of the outside,” said Evelyn Pichardo.

There was also a powerpoint presentation on the social construct of body image and the external factors that shape one’s concept of body image. Playing a Buzzfeed video about the ideal women’s body type throughout history, prompted a discussion about how often the ideal type has changed.

Therapists Rogers and Velazquez made sure to emphasize that body images are internal and separate from what a person sees when they look at someone. In a group discussion, presenters also addressed the forces that change or affect body image such as culture, media, the diet industry, race, trauma, peers, relationships and even activities like sports or hobbies.

According to a 2021 U.S. study, 51 percent of Americans feel pressured to have a certain body type. Presenters Velazquez and Rogers stated that an Australian study found that 74 percent of women aged 8-22 wanted to weigh less, and that only 25 percent were happy with their weight. But the pressures of beauty standards affect men, women, and nonbinary folks alike. According to the Trevor Project 2022 Survey, 87 percent of LGBTQIA+ youth experience some form of negative thoughts about their bodies. For nonbinary youth specifically, the rate jumps to 90 percent.These negative thoughts about one’s body can lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and even suicidal ideation.

The therapists finished the workshop with a Disney Animated short called “Reflect”.(2022). The short illustrated a young, chubby ballet dancer fighting against body dysphoria by focusing on the joy dancing brings. The focus on joy and the love of dance was given as the antidote to the external pressures the dancer was feeling about their body image.

Psychology major Ayanna Muhammad remarked about the event, “It was nice to hear everyone else’s story. It changes the way we feel about ourselves.”


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