Courtney Weaver is joined by Olivia Pape from Collegiate Recovery for a second time to talk about something close to their hearts – body image! We break down the difference between the body positivity and the body neutrality movements and how body image is closely related to eating disorders. For recovery resources, please check out: https://recovery.wvu.edu/

Transcription: 

Courtney Weaver: [00:00:00] Welcome. Welcome. Welcome to Wellbeing Wednesdays. I'm your host. Courtney Weaver. I'm the director over at WellWVU here at West Virginia University. I am joined once again by my good friend, Olivia Pape, uh, who is in Collegiate Recovery. She's the director over there. So good more. Well. Hello, Olivia. I was gonna say, good morning.

So it is the morning right now, but when this airs, it's probably not going to be morning, but how are you doing?

Olivia Pape: [00:00:30] Okay. How are you Courtney next for having me back?

Courtney Weaver: [00:00:33] Thank you for coming back. I appreciate it. Um, and so let's just do a quick reminder of what your role is here at the university.

Olivia Pape: [00:00:42] Yeah, so I am the director of collegiate recovery, um, and our program supports.

Students who are in seeking or supporting recovery. Um, and we promote a healthy and meaningful life here on campus. Um, important to note is that we serve students in recovery from substance use disorders, eating disorders, other mental health, or behavioral disorder orders, but also students who. Might be impacted by addiction, whether from a friend or a family member or students who just, you know, are interested in wellbeing or, um, recovery allies.

And it is also important to note for this podcast. I am a person in longterm recovery from an eating disorder, and I also identify as a recovery.

Courtney Weaver: [00:01:33] Okay. Well, thank you for disclosing that to us. Uh, and so you've been on the show before and when the last time you were on you and I had a quite spirited discussion, by myself. And, uh, I think we got some good feedback from that, but one of the topics that kept coming up with diet culture, cause it kind of goes hand in hand is the, is body image. Uh, and so that's what we're going to talk about a little bit today. Uh, and so Olivia, what, what do you define as body image?

Olivia Pape: [00:02:05] Yeah. So body image a week. Well, this from the National Eating Disorders Association, NITA, which if you ever want to check out their website, there's a lot of great resources and information on, but body image is really how you see yourself. When you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind.

What you might see in a photograph, um, it really includes what you believe about your own appearance, whether that be memories, assumptions, generalizations, and also how you, um, since and control your body, you know, in the world as you move, how you physically experience or feeling your body, um, body image is impacted by external messages, whether from friends.

Family or media that we then internalize. And it's really important when we're talking about body image. There are often and ties with eating disorders and also with diet culture. Um, cause really in our society, we're kind of expected to hate our bodies. That's just ingrained in the media in Western culture.

Courtney Weaver: [00:03:22] Yeah, it's, it's a tough line to walk just because you're supposed to hate your body and how it looks. You always constantly need to improve it, but then it doesn't leave room for you to appreciate what your body can do for you.

Olivia Pape: [00:03:39] Right. Right. And whenever I was thinking about this podcast, Uh, I was thinking about the scene from the movie mean girls, which I don't know if he's still around relevant to students.

It's, you know, it's funny, like we use so many mean girls gifts on our social media for wild WVU. So we still think it's relevant.

Great come out. But, so there's a scene in it where. You know, the girls are standing around saying commenting on their bodies and really negative ways. My hips are so huge. I have a man's shoulders and they look to Katie Heron when Zillow, I am to make a comment about her body and what she doesn't like.

And I think that is so representative. Of so many interactions that I have had in my life, especially the younger girl,

Courtney Weaver: [00:04:34] for sure. Like, Oh my boobs aren't big enough or right. Or my stomach is too fat or my legs long enough for anything, all those comments. Those are all things that I think we've, most of us have heard growing up at some point or another.

Um, so then there's, there's this wave of, I dunno, it's a wave, I guess it wouldn't be more of a movement. So you hear a lot about like body positivity. Um, but then you've also heard things like body acceptance, and then I've heard things like body neutrality. I've also heard the phrase body tolerance as well.

And it maybe sort of like on a spectrum, but like, can you talk a little bit about what the difference between those ideas are and if,

Olivia Pape: [00:05:16] yeah, absolutely. Because. Right. I see. I think they're used mistakenly interchangeably, right? They are very different things. So body positivity, um, from my perception was really kind of the first wave in the movie, if you will.

And it's focused on loving your work body as it is. And as it changes, whether that be from age or injury or pregnancy, whatever that might be, um, and. It was born out of it. Good intentions. I really think, but body positivity became so commercialized and body positivity became this buzzword, you know, um, we saw a lot of campaigns about it.

That again, I think had very good intentions, but it was saying you need body at all times. And then I think it became this judgment, sick of. Well, there's this pressure to love my body. And it's very human to have days where you just don't, whatever it may be like when I'm sick. I do not feel good in my body.

Like physically. I don't feel good. I don't love my body if I have the flu. Um, and I was reading about some research that shows. Repeating positive affirmations, such as I love my body. My body is great. You know, when you don't believe them can actually backfire and make people reject those thoughts and then feel more stressed and say, I'm doing this wrong.

Um, so what kind of came next is his body, which is really rooted in acknowledging. What your body does as, as how it looks. So my body allows me to hold hands with my boyfriend or my body gets me from point a to point B. However, that may be puts more emphasis on respect. Of what your body's doing and takes that pressure off of.

I've got to love who I am in terms of the size of my thighs. Um, another thing about body positivity that is always irked me, and it seemed like there was. A very set body type that was promoting body positivity. Yeah. Like, yes, it was like, well, I live in a larger body, but I have these idealic curves and that was the representation.

That we were seeing in the media, every time someone was talking about body positivity.

Courtney Weaver: [00:07:51] Right. And it was also usually someone who is able bodied, who was white, who was female, um, and who was generally like cisgender heterosexual. And it was this very narrow image of what. That is the same. I'm seeing a lot of parallels between like the bossy body positivity movement and the sex positivity movement.

Olivia Pape: [00:08:12] Um, and like the role that white supremacy can play in those pieces, which is a whole other thing, because exactly because the idea I believe was born out of. Having more representation of marginalized bodies, but it didn't quite get there. And so Bonnie neutrality, as I experience it, it's really taking some of that emphasis off and clearing up some space, other things that are not just I'm focused on the size of my thighs or.

You know, dang, I really have to love, I, I look at all all the time. Um, I do for the last few years, I've done a body neutrality panel and event at the university. We did not do it this spring. You COVID. But the first year I did it, titled it as a body positivity of it. And I very quickly, as I was doing research on it.

Was like this isn't actually what we're talking about, what we are talking about is all of this other stuff, the acknowledgement, the respect, the abilities of our body, and that can be in any body that you were in. It was awesome. So very ironic that I was the person that was developing a body neutrality panel because I am someone who, you know, like I said, is in recovery from an eating disorder.

And part of that really ties into body image issues. I have had since a very young age, I was reflecting this morning that I, the first time I made an attempt to really change the shape of my body, the first time that I thought there's something wrong enough with my body, I need to fix. I was in third grade.

And I'm going to date myself here, but I read an a Y M magazine.

Courtney Weaver: [00:10:06] I heard that title on magazine a long time. Okay.

Olivia Pape: [00:10:09] I will. Okay. I read this thing about, you know, how to lose 10 pounds and I put on my little plastic watch and I started this exercise regimen. And there was a lot of that rooted and I was afraid of getting fat shamed by other kids because that happened a lot at my school.

And that happened to me. And so like looking at how from a very young age, we learn these messages in ways that we may not even realize. So the irony of me doing a body,

Courtney Weaver: [00:10:40] I mean, it's great humor. It's never lost.

Uh, and I think something else to do point out is the messages that we receive from the media in it.

And this affects everyone, right? It's not just, oftentimes we think, you know, body image issues just affects women, but no, I mean, anyone can have these ill effects. So for example, like for men, it could be that they're. Ideal body image or ideal body type. Is that like super muscular type of physique that you would see like on movie stars or in like superhero films?

So thinking of the movie 300, which is kinda, it's all old.

Right. But, um, we are old, but it's small, you know, these men who had, you know, their costumes were basically like leather underwear and, and that was it. I remember reading something that Gerard Butler played the main character. And I remember reading an article where he said, he's like, you know, it looks great on screen, but you feel like crap because they couldn't drink water for three days before they filmed so that they could get all the money.

So definition and I, Henry Cavill say something similar, the Witcher, which was a recent show on Netflix. So. So we're current, you would say, you know, when I had a shirtless scene, you know, three days before I would cut my water intake in half, and then the next day half that, and then the day we filmed, I wouldn't drink any water at all, and that's not good for your body.

I'm projecting this image of like, this is what a man's body should look like, and it's, it's not realistic at all.

Olivia Pape: [00:12:22] Absolutely. And I think you're right of. Seen in different ways. Um, and one of them being that there's a lot of, you know, maybe the athletic type of body or, I mean, certain sports, we have an idea of what people should look like.

Football players should be big guys, but still have muscles and basketball players should all be as tall as Michael Jordan. And I mean, wrestling. You got to weigh in, right? The things you have to do to cut that there are those concerns and we don't talk about them as much. And I think there is still great.

I mean, there's great stigma around body image issues for anyone, but especially, yeah. Yeah, because it has been portrayed as such a. White female issue in the media and what we see a representative.

Courtney Weaver: [00:13:17] Yeah. So thinking about that, like, what are some ideas that you have that we can bolster our own body image?

Olivia Pape: [00:13:26] So one of the things I tell people, because I don't necessarily have any answers. Uh, but it's when someone, so if I have a friend who's, who's talking badly about their body, and I think, you know, referring back to that main girl scene, it's a thing we've likely experienced. Someone just really ragging on themselves saying to them, please don't talk about my friend that way.

And I say that to myself too. What I ever say? That things that I say to myself about my body to someone else, absolutely not. I would have zero friends. I likely wouldn't have a job. You know, like I would never do that. And so reminding myself of that really helps me to get some perspective. It's not perfect, but I think.

Reminding yourself practicing aloud. These are not things that I would feel okay. Saying to someone else. So why am I okay. Saying them to myself?

Courtney Weaver: [00:14:29] Yeah. And I think I've witnessed not so much here in West Virginia, you know, living down in Florida for almost a decade that was by body image. There is like proof, like appearances are really important.

Um, and I would hear. You know, folks commenting on other people's bodies and that's not appropriate either. Like, Oh, well, she shouldn't be wearing those shorts. And it's like, well, she feels comfortable in those shorts. She should be wearing those shorts. Like you should wear them. Uh, and it's not our place to make comments on other people's bodies, but it's tough.

And it's very pervasive.

Olivia Pape: [00:15:04] Yes. I moved here from Los Angeles. So hell yeah. People, you very concerned about image. I think where things get into this gray area, black and white, you know, is it okay to care about how you feel in your body? And do you feel good when you do certain things? Sure. So when the focus becomes about, I have to be this size or.

The size of my highs is preventing me from doing things for a very long time. I held true to this belief that my life was going to start when I hit a certain weight. And the reality was when I hit that weight, I just lower the number and it was never going to be enough. Right. So having to get past that sort of hurdle and say, I'm spending all my time, chasing this body type that I think is going to fix me, that I'm missing my entire life.

Courtney Weaver: [00:16:03] Yeah. And I think if, if you're someone out there who's struggling with those issues, just know that there are resources to help, especially if you're here on campus, we do have the Cru center for counseling and psychological services. So make sure you, can you talk to some folks there, if you find that you're really struggling and of course, collegiate recovery, if you're in recovery or would like to you'll start that journey.

You are also a great resource. So, but you know, for everyone out there, so, you know, to wrap this up, we have our, our snack or wellbeing snapshot. Um, and so let's talk about body image in the time of a pandemic. Cause we talked, we touched on this last time where there are a lot of folks who are saying COVID-19, it's the 19 pounds that you're going to.

Um, and that's. It's tough because this is, that's never happened in our lifetime. I mean, it has happened in the past, but not with us. Um, yeah, we're in, we're staying inside more words, generally not. We might not be moving our bodies quite as much and our bodies will change. And what do we do to, how do we, you know, make that okay with everyone?

Cause it's, it's not okay with so many people.

Olivia Pape: [00:17:17] Yeah. And I think one of the other things that really comes up for me and a lot of people that I know is you're sitting in front of your computer, staring at yourself for the hours of the day. Let's be honest, Courtney, I'm not looking at you, I'm looking at,

but so it is, it's a very triggering time for so many reasons. And the fat shaming that comes up. I've got a socially distanced myself from the kitchen. I mean, it's just so tired. Like I'm just over it, but I think that during this time it's really giving yourself some compassion. Grace. At the beginning of all of this, I felt like I'm not being productive enough.

I should be running more. I should be, you know, doing this. I should start crafting. And the reality is like, this is a tough time. We are months into it. It's not any easier. No, trying to give yourself a break, which may be really hard. It may be unfollowing people on social media, that field triggering to you, or make comments.

It may be setting boundaries with friends and saying, Oh, Hey, that sort of talk really doesn't work for me right now. It may be reaching out and getting some outside support, whether that be from a child set group. Or, uh, counseling, you know, there's lots of yeah. Resources out there and remembering that you're not the only the person going through it.

There's lots of people that are, but that doesn't make your experience. Any less.

Courtney Weaver: [00:18:50] Yeah. That's the truth. Well, thank you so much, Olivia, for joining us once again, I'll have you on like eight more times. So wait, I can't wait to reference outdated.

Well, I mean, there aren't any new movies coming out. Really?

Olivia Pape: [00:19:09] Absolutely. Although I'm watching Hamilton tonight. So I'm very excited. Oh, that's a good choice. Yes, kids I'm relevant.

Courtney Weaver: [00:19:18] I know all the words. Okay. Well, thank you once again, for all our listeners out there. Appreciate you tuning in and we'll catch you next time on a Wellbeing Wednesday.