Southern Smash event promotes body positivity

Event co-hosted by Carolina House, U.Va. Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns

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Southern Smash — an event aimed to promote body positivity by smashing scales with baseball bats — took place on the South Lawn Tuesday. The University Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns and Carolina House, a treatment center based in Durham, North Carolina, hosted the event.

After 15 years of struggling with an eating disorder, Southern Smash Founder McCall Dempsey began a campaign across southern universities to promote body positivity.

“I think everyone no matter what age lives in a world where we feel so pressured to look a certain way, be a certain way, dress a certain way, and this lets us smash all of those standards,” Dempsey said.

Students had the opportunity to write their perfect number — weight, grades or calories — on a balloon and let it go before writing a “scale tombstone.” After placing her scale tombstone underneath one of the scales, third-year College student Tricia O’Donnell — president of Hoos Open to Preventing Eating Disorders — smashed one of the scales laid on the lawn to promote body positivity.

“I think it’s really important at U.Va. to spread the message that every body is beautiful and every body deserves celebrating,” O’Donnell said.

Third-year College student Kendall Siewert said the “thin ideal” of the University can be inspiring but also paralyzing.

“You can feel kind of isolated,” Siewert said. “It is important for young women to understand their worth is not in their weight.”

Jenn Burnell, director of clinical outreach for Carolina House, said students are often afraid to talk about eating disorders because of a belief that dieting and body standards are something everyone is supposed to have.

These standards are “unrealistic, and they can cause a lot of problems in the long run,” Burnell said.

Melanie Brede, chair of U.Va. Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns, said a competitive atmosphere can discourage students from sharing their struggles with others in fear of seeming vulnerable.

“The reality is lots of people are struggling and being able to talk about it and have it be a common part of conversation makes it an opportunity for us all to be stronger together instead of struggling silently alone,” Brede said.

Second-year Batten student Caroline Orr said she wanted to get involved in something which could help students at the University as it helped her friend at University of North Carolina.

“My best friend at UNC was involved when it came last year, and it was really important in her recovery process,” Orr said. “It meant a lot to her and me to be involved.”

The second part of the event — a panel comprised of McCall, O’Donnell, a therapist from Counseling and Psychological Services and others — was held in the Kaleidoscope Room of Newcomb Hall. Siewert said the panel talked about the importance of asking for help.

“It is never too late to ask for help,” Siewert said. “It’s never too late to find people and surround yourself with acceptance and work on that everyday.”

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