Emory Report
February 2, 2009
Volume 61, Number 18



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February 2
, 2009
A healthy self-image is fat talk free

Abi Freeman is an Emory College student, president of the Intersorority Council and a member of Delta Delta Delta Sorority.

In today’s image-conscious society, body image has become a key issue in the lives of young women. As a representative group of women at an institute of higher education, the Intersorority Council feels it is important to address the underlying issues that contribute to this problem.

When Lisa Smith, a graduate student, and Dr. Linda Craighead approached the Intersorority Council with a unique opportunity to bring the Sorority Body Image Program to Emory, we decided that this was a great way to address a pertinent issue that is often too taboo or uncomfortable to talk about openly.

The Sorority Body Image Program started at Trinity College and is now at 12 universities across the nation. In addition, national sororities like Delta Delta Delta, have adopted it as a way to talk about relevant issues that face sorority women. While the Sorority Body Image Program touches on the consequences of negative body image, it does not focus on eating disorders. Rather, it focuses on changing group attitudes to promote a culture devoted to a healthy self-image.

We decided to run the program on an experimental basis for any interested sorority women. With 25 women divided into two groups, Lisa and her co-facilitators ran two sessions.

In these sessions, we explored the myths of the “thin ideal” and learned how to combat unrealistic societal expectations. We talked about the role of the media in perpetuating unhealthy ideals and learned the importance of thinking about the positive aspects of ourselves rather than simply dwelling on our flaws.

For example, one of the homework modules asked participants to go home and examine themselves in a mirror. Participants were asked to come back to the next meeting with a compliment for themselves or to name a part of their body that they liked most. We also role-played in order to learn effective ways to address at-risk friends. These exercises taught us how we can change our own self-image and combat the “thin ideal.”

After the program, participants were given the option to become peer leaders. This fall, the Sorority Body Image Program trained a number of past participants to become facilitators. The aim of peer training is to make the program self-sustaining so that the sorority community takes an active role in creating the cultural shift in attitudes over time.

The program is about to be offered again, on Feb. 2 and 9 or Feb. 3 and 10, this time by students Randi Fishman and Kelsey Forsberg.

This program is truly unique for the Intersorority Council and for the greater Emory community. We have the unique opportunity to reach more than 1,200 women on a regular basis, and we hope that hosting such a program will help change women’s lives in the future. The Sorority Body Image Program has been a great success and we hope that it will continue to promote healthy living in the future.