February: the month of love(handles)

U of W events encourage positive body image

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

January is the Monday of all months. The weather is cold and dreary, we’re all broke from the holidays, and it’s no longer acceptable to drink wine at one in the afternoon or eat everything in sight. Combined with the fact that “getting back into the gym” and “eating better,” are now the norm for New Year’s resolutions, this time of year can be a lot of pressure. 

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week was February 1 to 7. During this time the University of Winnipeg’s Health and Wellness Peer Educators hosted three events on campus that focused on eating disorders and loving your body in all its shapes and sizes. All in all, participants were encouraged to ignore that negative voice in their head and, instead, to love their love handles.

With February in full swing, it’s possible to feel as if you’ve plateaued. You’ve been hitting the gym every week or you’ve made some adjustments to your diet, but still haven’t seen the results you expected. The frustration is beginning to creep in and motivation is tiptoeing out of the picture.

For many, instant reward and payoff is the only way to maintain one’s motivation. Once it’s in your head that progress is not coming along as expected, it is easy to make the decision to cut corners. This usually means giving up on the gym, comparing your body to others around you, or restricting your diet (basically everything you know you shouldn’t do). Slowly, but surely, the view you have on your body has taken a nosedive.

So what now? With February 14 nearly upon us, there is a constant reminder to treat our loved ones with hearts, flowers, fancy dinners, and of course chocolates. However, a negative view of yourself can make it hard to project love onto others. The joys of the month can soon be forgotten.

The Peer Educators at the U of W set out to remind everyone that the image we have of our bodies is rarely how others see us. At one event called the Body Love Project, hosted in Riddell Hall, leaders asked passers-by to take some time to write down one thing they liked about themselves. These reflections were anonymous and were not being shared with anyone in particular, but were focused on taking the time to appreciate our bodies.

It’s important to be kind to ourselves and know that change does not happen overnight, whether that is how you see yourself in the mirror or your progress in the gym. Of course, it’s easier said than done. No matter how many times your friends tell you how great you look or how many reps on the bench press you can do, it’s easy to slump back into negativity.

So stick with those New Year’s resolutions! Whether you have a valentine whom you want to look your best for, or even if you don’t and you plan on treating yourself to the perks of the Valentine’s Day festivities, remember the attitude you have towards your body is what’s most important.

Ashlyn is in her third year at the University of Winnipeg, and has decided that she isn’t addicted to coffee, coffee is addicted to her.

Published in Volume 70, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 11, 2016)

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