At first glance, the Colorado College student body may appear to be universally physically fit, considering the school’s proximity to the outdoors, healthy dining hall options, and the versatility of the Block Plan. None of these aspects of our campus culture are negative on their own, but may exude a standard of perfectionism, especially when it comes to body image. Dr. Alexis Wilbert, licensed clinical Psychologist and member of the Counseling Center staff at CC, specializes in body image and mental health issues associated with that. “When we look at just body image I think the culture plays a huge role in that,” said Wilbert on the construction of body image. “It can feel like there’s one acceptable body type. Everyone has the image of the ideal CC student and body type plays into that.”
Many students argue there is no question of a body image issue at CC and, at a college campus of this caliber, this isn’t unique. Wilbert agreed. “On any college campus there is a heightened level of body image issues. I think because we are a high achieving school, we have perfectionist students, who want to have a perfect body.”
CC’s status as a high performance school in conjunction with the demanding schedule can make it difficult to prioritize mental health, particularly body image.
“I think it’s really hard to come to a campus with an ablest mentality. Everything about the Block Plan is about going fully into it, which I think is reflected in body image and mental health. We don’t take a second to pause,” co-chair of GROW, an organization dedicated to promoting and breaking the stigma associated with mental health and body positivity.
Studies show traditionally body image issues affect more people that identify as female than male. However, masculinity also comes with its own physical expectations and body image issues are not reserved for solely female students.
This past fall, senior Jade Pearl Frost published an article on The Feminist Wire entitled, “When You’re Not Physically Masculine: Colorado College’s Body Privilege.” Concerning masculine body issues at CC she wrote, “Several aspects of the CC community such as numerous healthy eating habits, gym programs, and outdoor activities foster a culture of body shaming even for male students. While I am not suggesting that these aspects are detrimental in and of themselves, I argue that the College values these things in ways that are overwhelming and exclusionary.”
Frost received pushback in addition to national attention for her article. She maintains that CC has an ideal, unattainable body standard but that it is not an idea that originated from CC. She said, “It’s not CC itself to blame. It’s a culture that has been around for years that has sponsored an environment that causes an inadvertent chain that people don’t realize.”
Frost article shed some light onto the issue of body image at CC, yet nothing will improve without further discussion. Dr. Wilbert said conversation is vital. “The less we accept it’s okay to talk negativity about our body the more we can start promoting a culture that accepts and celebrates our bodies.”
GROW is covering National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, beginning Monday. “My goal of the week is to focus on body positivity and body image on college campus with the theme of homegrown and sustainability,” said Worth. GROW will be partnering with many groups on campus to create body positive events—including mindfulness hikes with the ORC, storytelling with SpeakEasy, fitness center orientation, film screenings, and a dance party.
“It’s all about conversation,” said Worth on ways to create a better body image. The second I opened up about my journey other people opened up about theirs.” Conversations on the struggle with body images issues will break down the stigma and start the creation of a healthy CC body image and a body positive campus.