As students approach the end of daunting mid-terms and anticipate arriving at that dream Spring Break destination, Celebrate Every Body Week could not have been better timed. Women’s Center intern Kristina Brown highlighted what she intended for others to take away from the week.

“I hope that students will understand that school is already a stressful environment, so there is no reason to feel stress about having a ‘good’ body over break, whether that means gaining or losing weight. You and your body are perfect the way you are.”

The Women’s Center, in collaboration with the U.Va. Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns, recognized the annual week-long celebration from Feb. 24-28. As per tradition, the Body Positive Eating Disorders Education Coordinator at the Women’s Center, Amy Chestnutt, along with interns for the program helped to plan, prepare and facilitate key contributions to the week – the Great Jeans Exchange and a free Zumba class.

All last week, U.Va. students, faculty and staff, as well as Charlottesville community members could donate jeans and other clothing at Newcomb Hall and the AFC in exchange for a T-shirt sporting the Body Positive program logo. This year alone, approximately 550 pieces of clothing went to the Shelter for Help and Emergency, according to Brown. The exchange emphasized that one should give away clothing used as, what Chestnutt has called, a “measuring stick,” and also promoted awareness of the program.

Brown is a second-year student at U.Va. and a Body Positive intern at the Women’s Center who helped organized this week’s events. This is her first year as an intern at the Center. Last year’s Great Jeans Exchange drew her attention toward interning.

“[…] This year was definitely different from my involvement last year,” Brown said. “Last year, I had walked by the tables thinking that it was an interesting idea, but not getting involved at all. I was, however, interested in the event, which is part of the reason why I chose to be a Women’s Center intern under the Eating Disorders Education Initiative.”

Brown, along with fellow Body Positive intern Katelyn Hebel, created marketing material such as announcements, flyers and posters for Celebrate Every Body Week. Brown said she was happy to see her work come to fruition, as varied University and local newsletters listed the week’s description.

Similarly, Zumba class instructor Sandra Menendez, who is a third-year student at U.Va., was pleased with the turnout last Wednesday night at the AFC. She estimated that about 55 people attended the exercise class. Menendez is also an intern at the Women’s Center for the Sexual and Domestic Violence Services program.

“I had a lot of people come up to me at the end of class to thank me,” Menendez said. “I shared why this class was really important to me as well!”

Inspirational messages on the mirrors of the multipurpose room such as “I am in control of my health” and “The only person’s opinion that matters is mine” reminded each participant of important themes for the event and the overall week. By reading these messages while dancing to upbeat music, the hour-long workout was not only physically gratifying but encouraging. The time really focused on “that idea of exercising for fun, and not necessarily for weight loss,” which Chestnutt previously noted as the reason behind including this type of event within the week.

Overall, Menendez found the experience for herself and others who attended Zumba to be “really fun.” What made the class especially unique is that she made an effort to include a lot of body positive language through her instruction. She ended the night with “a cool down spoken word poem about loving oneself.”

If you enjoyed participating in Celebrate Every Body Week, be sure to check out other Body Positive events such as the upcoming National Eating Disorders Association Walk on March 22.

By Agnes Filipowski