Body Positive 101: A UC Berkeley Class Explores Self-Love

posted by 
Carmen Sobczak
July 11, 2016

Do you ever wish you could have bypassed your traditional college curriculum and explored the topics that really meant something to you? Found an academic setting to discuss how oppressive societal standards surrounding health and beauty prevented you from living life to the fullest?

UC Berkeley gave its students the freedom to do just that.

Last fall, through a program called DeCal that empowers undergraduates to create and facilitate their own courses, a group of students developed a class to deeply engage with the core competencies of our Be Body Positive model. Their curriculum, as outlined in the course description, “explore[d] feminist perspectives on bodies, external forces shaping people's relationships to their bodies, and paths to embracing healthy and intuitive methods of self-care.”

Research conducted at Stanford University in 2014 demonstrated that college students who participate in Be Body Positive classes and support groups experience significant improvements in measures associated with increased resilience against eating and body image problems.

Sarah Stinson, one of the UC Berkeley course leaders, recently reached out to us to share the impact the class had on her.

“Facilitating Body Positive DeCal at Berkeley with three different groups of students has been an extremely rewarding experience. Sharing our stories, analyzing messages and forces shaping body image, and exploring ways to heal and to live intuitively has left a great impact on me.

“I was struck by the overlaps in so many of our struggles and hopes, whether that was the desire to let go of an oppressive standard of beauty put forth by the media, or the wish to keep pursuing balanced relationships with food and movement.

“I was touched by the words of my classmates, my perspective shifting through hearing theirs, through witnessing their art and self-expression. Having the space to discuss and analyze the concepts of health and beauty, and to decide our own definitions for ourselves, was powerful.

A UC Berkeley student explores what it means to be Body Positive.

“One teaching of The Body Positive that has impacted me greatly the past couple years is the idea that what is sometimes described as ‘imperfection’ is actually beauty. All bodies are beautiful in their uniqueness. And I have come to understand through my time facilitating and self-reflecting that difficulties in people's lives are not failures. Instead, beauty and growth are often found right in the heart of struggle. Facing difficulties with listening to and honoring one’s body, for example, is not failure; it is a starting point from which to try again, a point through which to strive for compassion, forgiveness, a better approach next time.

What is sometimes described as ‘imperfection’ is actually beauty. All bodies are beautiful in their uniqueness.

“I am deeply grateful to The Body Positive for spreading messages of love and hope and the tools to heal, for teaching that being healthy can be found by listening inward, and respecting and acting upon the human body’s built-in wisdom about how to do just that. Taking a student leader’s, Sammy's, class my freshman year at Cal changed my life for the better, and I was really happy to have the opportunity to get involved and keep the class going as I continued in my time as a student.

“Moving on after graduation, I hope to pursue a career in the healthcare field, and I know that I’ll carry close to my heart the attitudes towards health and bodies that I’ve learned in my time working with The Body Positive. I look forward to seeing how the class continues on at Berkeley and other campuses in the future, and to see how The Body Positive’s work continues making a difference in the lives of many!”

We believe that freeing college students from body hatred is one of the most powerful methods for transforming society. It empowers them to go forth and become leaders, to focus on changing the world rather than changing their bodies. Learn how you can bring The Body Positive to your campus and create an environment where self-care is the norm.

Carmen Sobczak
Carmen is a child of The Body Positive. Five years old when her mother founded the organization, she was raised by a village of self-loving, intuitive-living, world-changing women. She is famously known for her insightful observation at age seven that "people who are fat are just the same as people who aren't. They're just, um, bigger." Carmen is The Body Positive's webmaster and writes blog posts when she feels inspired.
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