When Emily Ballentine performed at Philadelphia’s DreamWalk with Temple University’s OwlCapella a capella group, she gained a new appreciation for body positivity.
DreamWalk is a costumed fashion show that promotes body positivity and empowerment. The show celebrates the models more than the clothes they wear. This year, OwlCapella performed while models walked the runway.
Going into the new year, Ballentine, a junior psychology and neuroscience major, said the show reminded her to implement healthy mental practices along with fitness-related resolutions.
“I think that for people who struggle with weight, fitness resolutions really also have to entail a lot of active body positivity practices,” Ballentine said. “That’s something that I really like to keep in mind every new year every time I get on a fitness kick, that I stay centered in that self-love practice.”
She added that DreamWalk, which took place in November, was unique in that it celebrated body positivity on a larger scale than just in reference to size or weight.
“The really special thing was that [DreamWalk] focused on all kinds of diversities, women, men, non-binary people, all races, all abilities [and] different ages,” Ballentine said.
The show was a rebellion against Victoria’s Secret’s annual fashion show, which lacks size, age and gender diversity, Ballentine added.
While getting in shape is a popular New Year’s resolution, focusing on altering the body can be psychologically damaging. According to Psychology Today, calorie-restriction studies conducted during World War II had subjects reporting anxiety, lethargy and irritability.
Likewise, those who have high levels of body dissatisfaction have increased risk for eating disorders, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.
Tom Shanks, a junior psychology major, made his New Year’s resolution to gain muscle weight, but he supports those learning to accept their body.
“Whatever makes you feel comfortable with your body, then go for it,” Shanks said. “Personally, I think I could work on some things because it will make me better. But if you’re happy the way you are, then don’t change. Don’t fix what’s not broken.”
The body positivity movement fights negative views on the body by teaching people to value their bodies. The movement has been promoted nationally through campaigns like Aerie’s “Real,” Dove’s “My Beauty My Say” and Lane Bryant’s “I’m no Angel.”
Aerie’s “Real,” challenges conventional beauty standards by using diverse groups of models, including women of different sizes, colors, and handicaps or disabilities. Dove’s “My Beauty My Say” features stories and images of women whose looks have been “used against” them in their social or professional lives, and Lane Bryant’s “I am no Angel” shares photographs and quotes from women who unapologetically display perceived flaws, like cellulite or stretch marks, in the brand’s underwear.
Marissa DiSilvestro, a junior communication and social influence major, embraced body positivity this year after past struggles with body image. DiSilvestro practices body positivity by taking pictures of herself and asking others to take pictures of her. She started taking these pictures to gain confidence.
“It’s still a process to look at [the pictures],” DiSilvestro said. “Sometimes I’m like, ‘Ugh, why did I ask to have my picture taken.’ But then I think about it and I’m like, ‘Nothing’s wrong with that.’ It’s a lot like retraining yourself how to think.”
Melanie Gregory, a junior early childhood education major, now uses the positive affirmations, “I am worthy,” “I love myself,” “I am great,” and “I am here for a reason,” to exercise body positivity. She recites these statements in the mirror each morning.
“It took me a while to come to the conclusion that [self-image is] not all about losing weight, but it’s all about body positivity and accepting who you are,” Gregory said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t be healthy and exercise, but sometimes those things aren’t easy for everyone.”
“People should know that they are beautiful and they were created to be who they are, the way they look and they have purpose,” Gregory added. “Regardless, you have purpose.”