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Silent suffering: a view from the mirror


These days it seems everywhere you turn, we are bombarded with ads on how to lose weight and are told how we can improve our looks. Thanks in part to the media, we have become accustomed to strict, uniform standards of beauty.  It’s not surprising then that today many people, both women and men, struggle with body image and self esteem issues. Working in conjunction with the University’s Office of Health Promotion and the Villanova chapter of the Student Nurses’ Association of Pennsylvania, Aa group of senior nursing students in as part of their Health Promotion clinical practicum and in conjunction with the Office of Health Promotion and SNAP, wanted to shed light on this issue in Villanova’s community as well as society at large.

On February 13th, students held a panel discussion titled “Silent Suffering: A View from the Mirror”,  discussing showcasing how people communicate messages positively and negatively about body image and also sharinged available resources for those who are struggling with these issues. Speakers at the panel included Assistant Professor MaricaMarcia Costello, PhD, RD, LDN;, reporter Jennaphr Frederick, and student Stephen Palmer.

In addition to teaching nutrition and health promotion in the College of Nursing in Nutrition and Health Promotion, Marcia Dr. Costello counsels students struggling with eating disorders at the Student Health Center. As a RRegistered DDietitician and an expert on healthy eating and nutrition, she provided useful resources for those who face challenges with diet and body image. Marcia Dr. Costello felt that the student participation in this project demonstrated the strong interest in this important issue and that “this program helped to highlight importance of body image messages and how friends, colleagues and even family members communicate on issues relative to body size and nutritional health.”

Part of the student’s’ focus for this panel was the influence and impact of the media on body image, so they reached out to someone who could provide personal feedback on this issue. As a woman in the media, Jennaphr Frederick, a reporter from Good Day on Fox News in Philadelphialy, was able to shared her experience with pressures related to body image and gave a more intimate perspective of body image in the media.

Steven Palmer, a senior math major at Villanova, was able to provided insight and shared the student perspectives on this topic. Steven is also in Air Force ROTC and addressed the stereotyped expectation of men and fitness. As a peer mentor with Peers Offering Wellness, Education and Resources (POWER) through the Office of Health Promotion, he addressed the issue of how body image can be a problem on any college campus and noted that “Villanova takes a large step in being proactive about this problem.” Steven also pointed out that “body image is more than just physical appearance-it includes mental and emotional health as well. Knowing that body image is a problem also means that we as students should recognize it is an issue and refrain from making negative comments about others and reach out to those who are having problems with their body image.”

The panelists helped created an informative yet personal presentation on this topic, acknowledging that media and societal pressure can affect us all but with all the valuable resources around, you never have to face these challenges alone.