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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Body Acceptance Week smashes scales and stigma

Jack Ververis/The Daily Northwestern
Students had the chance to write down affirmations, or, if they wanted a more direct approach, smash a scale with a bat. Waivers required.

Members of the Eating Recovery Center, Northwestern’s Health Promotion and Wellness and NU Counseling and Psychological Services greeted students outside the steps of Allison Hall, presenting resources around body acceptance on Thursday.

The event concluded Body Acceptance Week, held by HPaW and CAPS to promote positive self-image and mental health resources on campus. It also gave students a chance to vent their feelings in a more direct way: by smashing a scale with a baseball bat.

“Maybe this is something I’ve been wanting to do forever,” Communication sophomore Georgia Mann said over the sounds of metal clangs. “It’s obviously an abstract idea, but breaking stuff is always really fun, and it’s nice to know I wasn’t the first one doing this … we were collectively breaking it together.”

Previously, HPaw and CAPS held Body Acceptance Week and National Eating Disorders Awareness Week concurrently at the end of February. 

This year, the two weeks are being held separately in accordance with national guidelines, according to Sam Conway, assistant director of mental health promotion for HPaW.

The organizers also implemented changes in strategy. Conway said student engagement in programming continues to be an issue. While Conway says there are a variety of reasons behind low engagement numbers — including a sustained decrease post-COVID-19 — one aspect she noted is NU’s “busy-ness culture.”

“Coming to a Body Acceptance Week event might not build up your resume — it’s just for your own personal well being,” Conway said. “I tend to see those things slide if people don’t have enough time in their schedule.”

Fallon Weatherspoon, eating concerns coordinator and a therapist at CAPS, said organizers of this year’s events tried to better accommodate students’ busy schedules.   

That meant less scheduled programming and more drop-in events. On Tuesday, HPaW and Center for Awareness, Response and Education staff were set up at Norris University Center, offering mental health screenings and brief consultations without the need for registration.

“I think it’s been a challenge of ours to be able to connect with students,” Weatherspoon said. “A different approach this year is trying to meet students where they’re at.”

According to staff at the event, they processed over 27 mental health screenings, an uptick from eight during a similar event last spring. 

Multiple students at the scale-smashing event also said they were walking through the area and noticed the event.

“I was gonna go get lunch and then I see this ‘oooh, free stuff’ … This is such a pick me up,” Communication freshman Leila Dhawan said.  “In a school that’s competitive, sometimes you just need to feel like you belong.”

But no matter the event or number of students, according to Conway, any amount of engagement around the issue is beneficial.

“Any small amount of people who’re getting connected to resources or being better trained in how to be a bystander or a friend slowly shifts the culture on a campus,” Conway said. “Even if it’s tiny, you have to start somewhere.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JackVerveris

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