The above photo features two Body Positive interns of the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center, Katelyn Hebel (left) and Tricia O’Donnell (right) at the Zumba class during Celebrate Every Body Week at U.Va. Check out their interview with the Cavalier Daily during the annual Celebrate Every Body Week at U.Va. in this link.

The story below originally aired on WTJU during the “Eclectic Woman” radio show on March 3, 2015, following Celebrate Every Body Week. The script has been re-printed with permission from the author.

Katelyn Hebel

Katelyn Hebel

Before you pack up and go on Spring Break, you have to make travel plans and preparations. These plans may begin months in advance, and I’m not referring to plane ticket reservations.

Spring Break should be fun, but for a lot of people, the idea of having to wear a bathing suit in front of other people causes a lot of anxiety and triggers some body image concerns. One thing I hear from friends during this pre-break season is that they have to achieve the “Cancun beach bod.” They set themselves up for disappointment by trying to follow restrictive diets and unrealistic exercise plans. Believe it or not, this kind of mentality actually leads to greater body dissatisfaction, and restrictive dieting can actually result in weight GAIN.

As an intern in the Body Positive program at the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center at U.Va., I am offering some tips for how you can love your body before and during Spring Break, rather than trying to change it.

Jeans Exchange Table and Workout Board at AFC

Photo by Julie Kusnerik
Members of Hoos Open to Preventing Eating Disorders (Left to right: third year students Katherine Keegan and Ashley Morefield) collected jeans at the AFC, as well as encouraged students to share what they love about working out.

1) Know the difference between the “ultra thin ideal”—what the media might tells us we’re supposed to look like—and the healthy ideal. The healthy ideal is the way your unique body looks when you are doing the necessary things to appropriately maximize your physical health, mental health and overall quality of life. With the healthy ideal, the goal is health, fitness, functionality and longevity. A healthy body has both muscles and adequate fat tissue, and it involves feeling good about how our body both feels and works.

2) Consider monitoring your self-talk. What do you focus on? Do you stop eating when you feel satisfied, or when you think you should stop eating? Do you feel bad about yourself when you miss a workout? Remember that you can help change how you feel about yourself if you can change the conversation you have with yourself. Consider one of my favorite quotes: “If you talked to your friends the way you talk to your body, you’d have no friends left.”

3) Make exercise a reward, not a punishment. Participate in exercise that makes you feel good. If you love dancing, try an aerobic dance class. If you love nature, grab a friend and go for a walk or a hike. Remember that we don’t just exercise to stay in shape; exercise can also be a great way to take a mental break and become a little bit more in tune with your body. Pay attention to how you are feeling before and after you exercise to avoid injury.

Workout Love Board

Photo courtesy of HOPE
These are a few comments that students gave about why they enjoy exercising.

4) Eat smart. Avoid skipping meals, especially breakfast. Contrary to popular belief, skipping meals will not help you lose weight—in fact, you will be much hungrier, and therefore much more likely to overeat, later on! Eat regular meals instead, and try to incorporate a variety of foods so that you are getting a balanced diet with all the nutrients your body needs to stay well. Honor your hunger cues; eat when you are hungry, and notice when you feel full. And don’t forget to say hydrated!

5) End fat talk. Even if you have never heard this term before, I’m willing to bet that you have heard someone engaging in fat talk. When we use fat talk, we discuss ourselves and other people as though our value could be measured by the size and shape of our bodies.

Maybe your mom made a comment about how you look like you have gained weight the last time you went home for break.

It could be that your friend turns to you as a stranger walks past you and says, “She should not be wearing those leggings.”

Have you ever heard another person complain about his or her body and then chimed in with a similar complaint about your body? Fat talk can be contagious!

So how do you eliminate fat talk? You can take an active part by just not making these kinds of comments. When someone else makes a fat talk statement, refuse to engage. If someone makes a comment about what someone else is wearing, for example, you might say, “I think they look great, and as long as they are comfortable, it doesn’t matter.” Eliminating these kinds of conversations will help you to focus on more important, more positive things and will help you feel better about yourself and your body, too!

Zumba Class

Zumba photos and quotes compiled by Katharyn Gadient

More about Zumba and Celebrate Every Body Week

Lauren Russell (3rd year, Public Health and Spanish double major)
Why did you attend Zumba? I had done Zumba with Sandra Menendez before. I’m not very good at it, but it’s fun, especially with her as an instructor!
Who inspires you to celebrate your body and why? Sandra inspires me with her ability to overcome her personal struggles.

Shannon Bush (4th year, Human Biology major)
Why did you attend Zumba?
I just finished doing the Reflections Workshop with the Women’s Self-Defense Class and wanted to stay involved!
Who inspires you to celebrate your body and why? Sandra inspires us because exercising with her is fun! She has great energy really; she’s such a ball of sunshine! She motivates me to come to classes, even if we want to skip them that day!

6) Don’t make rules for your body. There is no type of clothing or swimsuit that you “can” or “can’t” wear; wear whatever makes you feel comfortable and confident, regardless of your size or shape. My final advice for Spring Break can be summed up in a three-step process called “How to Get a Bikini Body.” Ready?

  • Step 1: Get a bikini.
  • Step 2: Put your bikini on your body.
  • Step 3: Have fun! Done!

On behalf of the Women’s Center, I hope you have a wonderful Spring Break!


Story by Katelyn Hebel