The Collaborative Curriculum
Welcome to The Collaborative Curriculum, where Body Banter groups across different campuses share the details of their discussions!
Want to bring these discussions to YOUR campus? Get in touch with the Body Banter team by filling out the form on the Banter-Bassador info page:
Structure of Body Banter club discussions:
Discussions follow the TRI tree structure, where we target a topic, relate it back to our lives and implement our newly gained insights into actionable steps and goals based on main takeaways from the discussion.
𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗱𝗼𝗲𝘀 𝗶𝘁 𝗺𝗲𝗮𝗻 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 "𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗹𝘁𝗵𝘆?
𝗜𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗹𝘁𝗵 𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗶𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿?
When we focus on improving our mental and emotional health, physical health also seems to follow. For instance, one member mentioned how making the goal to spend more quality time with loved ones, motivated her to sleep earlier so as to be energetic enough to be present in those social gatherings.
Taking a punitive approach to fulfilling health goals is counter-productive. One member mentioned that criticizing herself for “not eating healthily” during social gatherings or holidays actually took a toll on her mental wellbeing.
The pursuit of health goals should be guided by a consideration of ALL aspects of health.
Being in the healthiest physical state does not need to be of the utmost priority at all times. We do not need to reprimand ourselves for prioritizing other aspects of health (e.g. social and emotional realms).
We should aim to eat to live, rather than live to eat: letting the act of eating satisfy us, so that we could pursue our lives with energy and zest, as opposed to spending our days worrying about how we should eat in order to control our weight or shape.
Media representations should highlight “average bodies”, not just the bodies at the extreme ends of the bell curve. Because we are constantly exposed to extremes but rarely the middle (which is where a lot of us are), we are often left feeling ambiguous or lost with regards to how we should treat or perceive our bodies.
The BB crew at Duke tackled the hairy topic of female body hair today! 🤪🤪 (Check out our presentation slides here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1V-bw2W6Hz9TwBvpw-pl3mPlMsfZS9myWKd1Rck0gETo/edit?usp=sharing) Guided by our wonderful discussion leader Marie-Line, we explored our target question of the day:
Why has hairlessness become a defining component of normative femininity?
The choice to shave is a luxury (with regards to time AND money): On average, a woman will shave 7,718.4 times and will spend up to, or more than, $10,000 in her lifetime.
Whether or not body or facial hair is valued is dependent of a diverse array of factors - culture, family, socioeconomic status, personal values etc.
Factors such as media criticism of women who don’t shave, and refusal of male peers to engage in conversations about female body hair/other natural components of the female body perpetuate stigma surrounding these topics.
Body hair should NOT be a criteria for judgment (personally or from others). There are times in our lives when it just might not be practical to shave, and we should not feel shame because of that.
Shaving as a form of self-care - is it really? We are often told that “beauty is pain” and also that maintaining a certain external appearance is a form of self-care. But if beauty standards are defined by others (i.e. We are not actually shaving for the sole reason of “feeling good, for ourselves”), why do we feel the need to endure this pain? In other words, who are we doing this for?
Appreciate your hair while it’s there. We can lose our hair due to illness, age, or for a variety of other reasons. The fact is, we don’t appreciate it until it’s gone.
Recognize societal pressure, but be self-compassionate and patient. The pressure to shave is culturally ingrained, and after today’s discussion, it is very likely that most of us will continue to go home and shave, even if we know that part of the reason that we are doing it is because we need to conform to sexist societal standards. Although we may not be able to defy these standards overnight, we should appreciate that we learned to question these standards during today’s discussion, and that, in itself, is a step in the right direction.
What are YOUR opinions about body hair? Have you learned to value your hair, or do you still feel pressured to control it? How can we combat the stigma/negative responses towards body hair, and the discussion of it? We would love to hear your thoughts! 👂💭
Body Banter @ Duke // February 9, 2019
What are spiritual, emotional and physical hungers? How are they connected and differentiated?
In some ways, the emotional and physical components of food are inherently linked
Eating foods that we truly enjoy, and feeling good physically and emotionally afterwards.
Being “hangry” - Not honoring our body’s natural hunger signals can negatively impact our emotions.
However, using food to fill the space of emotional hunger as a method of avoidance is potentially problematic.
How can learning to differentiate between our hungers help us heal our relationships with food, as well as help us find what we are emotionally hungry for?
Having a checklist for physical hunger symptoms: Lightheadedness, blurry vision, lack of focus, stomach growling, how long it has been since you last ate.
Eating until satisfaction, rather than “just full” (e.g. Making sure to satisfy cravings as well as physical hunger)
What are the steps that we can take to identify our hungers, as they arise?
Giving ourselves unconditional permission to eat until satisfied, and stop when we want.
Learning not to label food as good or bad - to stop seeing restriction as a punishment for something and eating certain foods as a “reward —> Remembering that while food can make us feel physically good or bad, they do not EVER affect our self-worth/morality in good or bad ways.
Being careful with the way that we talk about food with others - every person’s system of understanding and satisfying their hungers is different.
However, also looking out for friends who are not satisfying their basic physiological needs (i.e. Actively engaging in restriction/disordered eating behaviors).
Body Banter @ Duke // February 2, 2019
Check out our meeting powerpoint presentation here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1FbzMQgxzel2r1t5i6AReVmCCbM_4LNdjx51vLnGFgfg/edit?usp=sharing
During today’s discussion, the BB club at Duke shared thoughts on a recent news article describing how a teacher in a China warned his 13-14 year old students that they would be “punished” with exercise if they gained more than 4 pounds over the lunar new year holidays (https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2184134/chinese-school-warns-pupils-not-put-too-much-weight-during-lunar)
First of all, a person can literally gain 4 pounds after eating a large meal, and lose it again after pooping!
Moreover, weight fluctuations are normal during the pubertal period of 13-14 years. Kids should be taught how to embrace these drastic physical changes, not fear them!
Telling kids that they will be punished if they eat more food during a celebratory occasion teaches them to associate anxiety with what should be warm familial gatherings.
Using exercise as a punishment will only discourage kids from exercising on their own initiative in the future.
We spoke about how authority figures in our own lives, such as teachers and parents, shaped our body image perceptions as we were growing up.
Problematic practices and attitudes, such as associating weight with success and using eating behaviors as a means of control, are learned from these key figures in our lives.
Remembering that everyone’s “highest functioning” weight/body shape is different: The only person who can determine your holistic health (increased physical energy, increased sense of happiness, strengthened bonds with friends and family) is yourself!
Relationships with food and exercise are strongly shaped during adolescence: As such, adolescents should not be taught to make value judgments about foods (i.e. Good/bad foods), which can result in a use of food as a coping mechanism or eating as a method of control in the future. Moreover, education about optimal eating and exercising patterns should be conducted in the context in encouraging holistic health, rather than staying within a certain weight range.
Goal and intention setting
Body Banter @ NCSSM // January 22, 2019
During their second discussion, the Body Banter club at NCSSM reflected on what optimal mental health and body image means to them, and set intentions and goals for how they're going to get there in the upcoming semester.
Check out their meeting notes here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1w5bFW_LO8K_p2YsUAF-f81xXBJwxqfFVu5vMkJR_mKY/edit
Body Banter @ Duke University // January 19, 2019
**Check out our powerpoint presentation here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/17xRdPYxGPB9XfTAIAfOHNPIF3Tlo2w0ERTzKVakJzrI/edit?usp=sharing
What does it mean to be “comfy” in our bodies?
What is the end goal of your body image journey? What does body acceptance, body positivity and body neutrality mean to you?
Not devoting so much time and emotion into my body
How you feel about your body should NOT correlate with how you feel about your life in general.
Even when you reach “body positivity”, you are still focusing on your positivity surrounding your body to feel good/still working within the cultural framework of focusing on body as an indicator of self-worth.
At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that challenging the cultural framework and reaching a state of body comfiness (whether this is acceptance, positivity or neutrality) is a journey that takes effort and work.
Actively question the cultural framework suggesting that there is something wrong with the bodies we live in - trying to accept “flaws” or trying to change beauty standards is still working within this problematic framework!
Listening to others’ perspectives about what their bodies mean to them. How do body image perceptions affect those of us with chronic physical conditions or disabilities? Being curious and open to these conversations is key to deconstructing stereotypes and norms.
NOVEMBER 3, 2018
“Does using “beautiful” as a compliment emphasize external features as more definitive of self-worthiness?”
How have we encountered this question in our lives?
Redefining “beautiful”: Using the word “beautiful” in different ways can actually redefine its definition, rather than perpetuate appearance based connotations. For example, if we use the word beautiful to describe someone’s personality, it can reshape our use of the word!
Connecting physical traits to personality/individual talents: Even though excessive attention paid to external traits can be problematic, it is undeniable that our physical appearances still contribute significantly to our self-concept and self perceptions. We don’t need to completely avoid using appearance-based compliments, but we can work on making these compliments more holistic and balanced, by linking appearance-based observations with personality traits or individual abilities.
For example, “Your makeup looks great - you are so talented!” or “I love your jeans - you have such good taste!”
After today’s discussion, what are our intentions/goals for the coming week?
For today’s implement portion, we used “cues for conscious change” - writing down our intentions on flashcards so that we could visualize our thoughts.
Showing appreciation for our loved ones, in both their physical and emotional presence. Thank them for existing, as well as for actively being there for you.
Listen deeply to those around us - see them for their personality/soul, rather than as a conglomeration of physical features!
Be kind and forgiving to ourselves, in all aspects of your lives, be it physical, mental, or emotional.
Actively use the word “beautiful” in different contexts - show others that they can be worthy and appreciated in more than just the physical sense.
Sim’s story sharing session:
Using past struggles to fuel advocacy
We had our first speaker presentation this evening!
During today’s discussion, our very own Simran spoke about her personal struggles with an eating disorder, and how her experiences fueled her current passions for mental health and eating disorder advocacy. After her inspiring story sharing, she opened up the discussion to the club with two key questions - deets are summarized below!
Is struggling a necessary step on the path towards realizing our full potentials?
We never intentionally choose our struggles, but we can interpret them in positive ways
For Sim, her struggles helped provide her with a purpose in life - to become an adolescent psychiatrist!
For many of us who have struggled with an eating disorder, these life experiences were certainly not pleasant, but they did serve as a turning point in life that helped us appreciate the little things, and motivate us to pursue our best life.
One of our members spoke about how difficult her eating disorder was for her to experience, as well as for her close family and friends, and how this was the one thing that she wished she could reverse (the suffering of close others). However, we then spoke about how these experiences stimulated discussion of mental health issues with her close others, and how they even inspired her family and friends to seek help for mental health issues that they were previously reluctant to speak about, or didn’t even know that they had!
How can speaking up and being vulnerable about our experiences benefit others?
Helps show others who may be struggling that they are not alone!
There is so much fear and shame associated with mental health struggling, which can prevent help-seeking behaviors. By speaking up about our own struggles boldly and unabashedly can inspire others to pursue their best lives! :)
Finally, Sim shared how she keeps herself accountable in recovery through her body positivity blog, numbersdontdefineus.com. On her blog, she channels her insights, opinions and frustrations into photographic works, blog posts and artwork. Sim is also a national ambassador for Project Heal, the largest nonprofit in the US that provides recovery support for eating disorder sufferers.
In short, she’s a pretty inspiring lady! We were honored to listen to your story and are so grateful to have you as part of the Body Banter community! :) <3
“How has your relationship with your body evolved throughout your life and where do you hope it’ll go next?”
Target: What does it mean to “have a relationship” with our bodies?
There is a difference between internal and external body image: we can be completely comfortable with taking care of our health (e.g. Taking vitamins) but still have bad body image.
What is the line between acceptance and avoidance? Acceptance involves action, in a compassionate way. For instance, forgiving your body when it’s tired, but still focusing on eating well and exercising. On the other hand, “accepting” your body when it is unhealthy and/or feeling subjectively bad is actually avoiding doing something about the situation.
Relate: What has shaped your body image throughout your life?
Parents’ behaviors, comments and judgments at a young age are strong shapers of how we view and evaluate our bodies.
The way that our peers look and what they do (e.g. Participate in many sports) can also strongly affect our body image.
Body image insecurities aren’t just about weight - for example, standards of femininity often prescribe physical traits such as bigger boobs, smooth skin etc, and learning that we are expected to be this way (especially during adolescence) can be very harmful for body image.
Implement: How can we act on what we discussed today?
Try to find ways that we can maintain a healthy body, while working within our mental boundaries. For some of us, it might be more comfortable to know what it is in our food and about how much we are eating, which can become an unhealthy obsession. Without proper guidance, this might mean that we restrict or binge, because we feel that our lives are out of control once our food habits become unpredictable. Seeing a nutritionist and establishing a structured eating plan can help us feel more comfortable mentally, while also taking care of our physical health.
Reflect on our motivations before we exercise. For some of us, this means setting an intention for our exercise session, and making sure that we are not stepping into unhealthy mental territory (e.g. Forcing ourselves to exercise for solely image-related purposes, even when our body is exhausted).
Finding different motivations for exercising. For some of us, “health” can be a very intangible concept. Using other motivators, such as “feeling better” subjectively, or keeping in mind that exercise is beneficial for brain health, can be helpful.
Give ourselves credit. For those of us who recognize that we are individuals who need to “justify our rest time” by working equally as hard, keeping a diary of everything that we’ve done in a day and acknowledging our effort is important. (Reminder: we never have to “justify rest”, but it is better to find a way that works for your mind to allow you to actually rest, than to never address this issue!)