Whether it’s a family member commenting on how “she doesn’t have the body to be wearing that,” listening to a friend go on and on about her latest diet so she can lose weight to go on vacation, or the media encouraging us to get “bikini ready,” I’m tired of all of the body shaming and fat talk I hear on a daily basis. If you walk around campus during any given school day, you will see students of all shapes and sizes. So why are the majority of our conversations on body image still focusing on that unrealistic thin-ideal?

Considering all the factors that influence the way our bodies look—genetics, cultural norms, what life stage we’re in, and the environment we grew up in—the truth is easy to see: Body diversity is normal. Next time you hear fat talk or see body shaming, I challenge you to question these standards before you accept them. Take the time to not only recognize, but also appreciate, the body diversity that is constantly around you.

One of my favorite quotes, written by Ram Dass, states, “When you go out into the woods and you look at the trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. … The minute you get near humans, you lose all that.” It’s time to start applying that same mindset when it comes to each other!

Student Counseling Services and Health Promotion and Wellness are excited to offer female Illinois State University students the opportunity to help embrace body diversity. The Body Project is an effective program to challenge students’ perspectives on the thin-ideal and create a more positive image of themselves. Don’t go through 2017 stuck in the same old body shaming attitude. Register for the Body Project today.  It’s free, very interactive, and inspiring. You’ll be glad you went.