HOPE, Southern Smash co-host body positivity event on the Lawn

Collegiate nonprofit and HOPE hold panel and scale smashing events for students

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Southern Smash and Hoos Open to Preventing Eating Disorders co-hosted an event on South Lawn Tuesday, in which students could smash scales with baseball bats.

Daryn Govender | Cavalier Daily

Hoos Open to Preventing Eating Disorders and Southern Smash, a nonprofit eating disorder awareness organization, co-hosted a series of events on Grounds Tuesday to spread body positivity.

Southern Smash founder McCall Dempsey created the organization after struggling with an eating disorder herself for many years. The nonprofit travels to universities to encourage conversations about eating disorders, body positivity and empowerment. 

On the South Lawn, students had the opportunity to write their “perfect number” — a GPA, weight or clothing size — on a balloon and release it into the air. Students could also smash a scale with a baseball bat. 

“We are basically smashing what society deems as perfect, or smashing your perfect number, or the things that weigh you down,” said Meredith Murphy, a second-year College student and Southern Smash ambassador. 

Dozens of students gathered around the Southern Smash tables, and took turns wielding the baseball bats. Friends cheered each other on and took pictures and videos of each other smashing the scales.

“Scales, they represent a number, and people are just more than a number,” second-year College student Bryce Land said. “It’s unfair for people to judge their worth based on a number on a scale, so it feels really good to take out our anger and frustration on society’s rules on the scale.”

While most of the event organizers and participants were women, Land said men face body image challenges as well.

“I have noticed that in the gym you’ll see a ton of men on the weights,” Land said. “There’s probably some stigma there, more men on the weights and girls on the cardio machines. So men focus on the scale too.”

The eating disorder prevention organizations also held a SmashTALK panel discussion Tuesday evening in Newcomb Hall. Panelists included second-year College student Katie Robbins, Curry graduate student Alex Koszeghy, Dempsey and Dr. Casey Tallent, the National Collegiate Outreach Director for the Eating Recovery Center. 

The event organizers were looking for a diversity of perspectives about eating disorders, said Waverlee Harvey, a fourth-year Engineering student and HOPE co-president.

The two student speakers and Dempsey shared their personal experiences overcoming eating disorders, while Tallent shared general information about recovering from an eating disorder, she said.

“I think from the panel you’re going to get a wide variety of views on the eating disorder process and recovery process, and you’re going to get to hear some pretty inspirational stories,” Harvey said. “I think, overarchingly, the theme is just getting the word out there about eating disorders, body positivity and how important it is.”

Harvey said the primary goal of the event was reaching a larger audience with their message. 

“I hope to see a lot of people from different places,” she said. “There’s a lot of students who this pertains to but also other mental health groups around Grounds and in Charlottesville that I hope to see here as well. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of putting the word out there ... we had a bunch of people from Richmond come in today, which I think is really fantastic.”

Murphy expressed hope that the University will continue to tackle issues around body image and eating disorders.

“I know we have the Stall Seat Journal, and that has a body positivity issue and the Eating Disorder [and] Exercise Concerns Coalition,” Murphy said. “I think there are steps put in place to help, but I think that society as a whole has work to do. And we’re a small society. So there’s always work to be done.”

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