On November 13, 2013 the University community gathered together for the annual Perfect Illusions Candlelight Vigil sponsored by the Women’s Center Eating Disorders Education Initiative and the U.Va. Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns. The open-mic style event allowed audience members the opportunity to listen and share their own stories and experiences about body image, eating concerns, and exercise in a safe, supportive, and healing environment.

The body positive community at U.Va. is one where everyone enjoys a healthy relationship with food, exercise, and body image. This has been proven to be difficult for many young adults especially on a college campus due to the competitive nature of academics, athletics, and social popularity. The pressures that we unconsciously place on each other and ourselves leads to increased anxiety, depression, shame and guilt. According to The National College Health Assessment, it  revealed that 51% of students exercise to lose weight while 35% diet to lose weight.

The Candlelight Vigil was created in part to help echo the idea that there are others who share similar stories of struggle but also that recovery is on the horizon. Being in the presence of so many courageous and encouraging individuals instilled hope that the values of the Body Positive community will continue to resonate on Grounds. Many of the stories shared that night about recovery continue to do that. With eating disorders, there is no quick fix, but with proper and adequate treatment, hard work and perseverance, one can experience full recovery.

This was truly a powerful, engaging, and inspiring night.

We are grateful for all who came with an encouraging story to share and those who lent their support through their presence.

By Breeonna Reed