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A Lafayette College student organization called People Educating About Self-Esteem, or PEASE, is promoting healthy attitudes about body image — and healthy behavior.

PEASE is joining forces with Lafayette’s Counseling Center, Office of Student Residence, and Chaplain’s Office to present a series of events titled “Body Image Acceptance 2000” beginning Wednesday, Feb. 16.

The program is a more positive variation on the theme of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which is being observed nationally Feb. 12-19, explains Karen Forbes, director of counseling services.

“Lafayette is choosing to focus less on eating disorders and more on encouraging students to celebrate the variety of shapes and sizes to be found on our campus,” Forbes says. “Only a very small number of students could be classified as suffering from a clinical eating disorder, but more are preoccupied with their weight and shape to the point that it interferes with optimal academic and social functioning.

“The dual purposes of the Body Image Acceptance activities are to generate discussions of unspoken social norms which may influence students’ self-perceptions, and to provide them with opportunities to challenge prevailing notions of what constitutes ‘normal’ eating and a ‘normal’ body shape and size,” Forbes adds. “Too often, students who wish to dress or look differently feel anxiety about defying what they perceive to be the ‘Lafayette look.’ We hope that the activities we have planned will help students to feel more comfortable about expressing their preferences and to understand there is more diversity in style and ‘image’ at Lafayette than they realize.”

Lauren Kisver, a senior from New Milford, Conn., and a member of the program’s organizing committee, says, “The focus is to alleviate any misconceptions students may have about food and their bodies, while at the same time praise them for who they are on the inside.”

“It is important to make others realize that you can’t possibly appreciate the true value of a person without getting to know them beyond their physical appearance,” echoes Kerri Holick, a junior from Brookfield, Conn., who also served on the committee. “Too many people think that they can size up an entire person by seeing them from across the room. Through the events and programs we have planned, we hope to force people to look beyond external appearances, and appreciate people for who they are and what they’ve done, rather than what they look like.”

Other students on the committee are seniors Julie Drendall of King of Prussia, Pa.; Gianna Locascio of Atlantic Highlands, N.J.; Kim Person of Bridgewater, N.J.; and Mandy Rabouin of Piscataway, N.J.; sophomores Lauren Holloway of Hockessin, Del., and Liza Zitelli of Bergenfield, N.J.

Here is a complete listing of the events of Body Image Acceptance 2000:

Wednesday, Feb. 16, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Students concerned that they might be engaging in unhealthy patterns of eating can take advantage of a free, anonymous eating-disorder screening in Farinon and Marquis Dining Halls conducted by the Counseling Center.

Friday, Feb. 18, noon — A panel of students and staff members will focus on “The Lafayette Look: A Cuter Image?” at the Interfaith Chapel in Hogg Hall. The panel will discuss the physical characteristics that many people strive for, and how societal ideals can be reconciled with the reality of our own bodies and the diversity of the campus.

Wednesday, Feb. 23, noon — A panel of students and experts will discuss “Helping a Friend with an Eating Disorder,” presenting practical, helpful ways for concerned friends and family members to assess the possibility of others’ eating disorders and refer them to professional help when needed, in Marlo Room West, Farinon College Center.

Tuesday, Feb. 29, 9 p.m. — “Images of Success,” a mock fashion show to promote the inner beauty of Lafayette students and counteract overemphasis on physical appearance, will be held at Gilbert’s coffeehouse, on the lower level of Kirby House. It will showcase the outstanding activities and achievements of about 15 students who were selected from among many nominees.

Monday, March 6, noon – A slide show and discussion on how media images impact students’ personal feelings about physical appearance will be held in the Limburg Theater, Farinon College Center. On display will be student-made collages of photographs that present positive and negative messages about outward appearance.

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