When weight loss tips cross into offensive areas

When Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania apologized for sending emails to invite students to join a weight loss program, it was little too late.

The program was trying to make their students avoid potential health risks and has been offered successfully in the past, and it included nutritional advice, individual counseling and personalized fitness plans.

CSUN students quickly disagreed with the college’s decision to implement and publicize this program.

“I don’t think it’s a university’s business to advise their students on weight. It is a clear case of body shaming and further,” said Molly Hannelly, a senior who attends the Women, Men, and Media class this semester.

“I doubt they sent messages to students with a BMI that was lower than whatever number they were using. If CSUN did the same, I would advise other national students not to come to this campus.”

Journalism student Valerie Grimm said, “I believe that a specific email to students of a certain BMI is very hurtful to the body image of young impressionable college student that are still finding themselves.”

She was also one of the student who attend the Proud2Bme program (a CSUN community engagement collaboration between students and the National Eating Disorders Association).

“BMI is made up of many factors, and a high BMI does not necessarily mean the person is overweight. A broader email about the importance of eating healthy would have been a much more helpful and less degrading thing for students to have received,” she continued.

Last fall, the National Eating Disorders Association launched a new national initiative called Proud2Bme on campus, and partnered with CSUN students to develop content for the website.

The goal of the program is to give students at colleges and universities across the country with tools to effectively use their voices for personal and social change, that promotes body confidence and healthy self-esteem.

“What’s wrong with what Bryn Mawr did is more about the targeted method of delivery than with the message itself,” explained Dr. Bobbie Eisenstock, journalism faculty and director of the Proud2BMe project.

“Sending an email invite to participate in a weight-loss fitness program only to students identified with BMI’s higher than the national standard, based on their medical records, is not only tactless but counterproductive because it undermines the original intention and instead results in a type of size discrimination and body shaming.”

Eisenstock further stated that that body fat does not take into consideration various other factors like genetics, muscle mass and ethnicity.

She said colleges and universities should be developing resources to address these issues.

“The recent Collegiate Survey Project found an increase incidence in disordered eating among male and female students on college campuses, and a lack of student services that schools need to address,” she said. “As a women’s college, Bryn Mawr should be more sensitive to contributing to ways the culture stigmatizes young women based on their body shape and size.”