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The Daily Tar Heel

Students smashed scales to challenge body image issues

Amanda Roth (left) and Emili Hall, both juniors, participate in Southern Smash, an event hosted by UNC Panhellenic Council that allows participants to break scales that represent the things that weigh them down.
Amanda Roth (left) and Emili Hall, both juniors, participate in Southern Smash, an event hosted by UNC Panhellenic Council that allows participants to break scales that represent the things that weigh them down.

Participants in Southern Smash, an event held to raise awareness for social stigmas surrounding body image and support organizations at UNC, were invited to write down negative opinions of themselves, tie them to balloons and let them go. Students then used bats and hammers to demolish personal weight scales.

McCall Dempsey, the founder of Southern Smash, said the group’s mission was not solely to raise awareness of disorders but also to promote self-confidence.

“Our mission is to bring attention to not only eating disorders but also positive body image as well,” Dempsey said.

Organizers invited participants to reflect on what oppresses them and what they love about themselves.

Between 10 and 20 percent of college-aged women and four and 10 percent of college-aged men suffer from eating disorders in America and more suffer from poor body image, according to Embody Carolina, a UNC-based eating disorder support group.

The event was sponsored by Carolina House, the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, Embody Carolina and the UNC Panhellenic Council. The groups also held an informational dialogue with students.

Senior Chloe Paterson thought UNC students would be especially susceptible to eating disorders.

“Carolina students face a lot of pressure to be perfect, and that doesn’t help,” she said.

Stephanie Zerwas, assistant research professor for the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders agreed, saying college students can be prone to developing a disorder.

For much of the event, nearly all of the Southern Smash participants were female, though organizers emphasized that men can also develop a disorder.

“A common misconception is eating disorders only affect rich, vain, white girls. Eating disorders do not discriminate; people of all backgrounds struggle,” Zerwas said. “A lot of guys are out there struggling with eating disorders but have no one to turn to or feel like they are the only ones.”

Sophomore Mackensie Kvalvik, a Zumba fitness instructor, said body image is a universal issue.

“Everyone has thought their body wasn’t good enough,” she said.

On-campus support options include Embody Carolina, which trains students on how to help friends with eating disorders, and the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, which treats victims and conducts research on biological factors that lead to the disorders.

McCall was satisfied with how the event turned out.

“If we have planted a seed of hope, then we have done our job,” McCall said.

university@dailytarheel.com

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