La Crosse, Wis., WKBT-TV morning anchor Jennifer Livingston.
A Wisconsin morning news anchor’s response to a viewer who criticized her weight is resonating with college students.
Jennifer Livingston combated body consciousness and bullying on-air, a brave response that went viral soon afterward.
“You don’t know me. You are not a friend of mine … so you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside, and I am much more than a number on a scale,” Livingston said.
Eating disorder prevention and body image health educator Kellie Carbone has been promoting the same message that Livingston delivered.
“I consider it my job to make sure the campus is inclusive for students of all sizes,” said Carbone, who founded the Body-Peace Corps at the University of Michigan.
Carbone works with a team of 70 students to promote confidence and positive body image on campus. Through peer discussion and presentations, Body-Peace Corps educates students on accepting weight diversity and promoting health, rather than an unattainable ideal.
“A lot of the work we do with students is how to find your voice to be an ally in these situations so you’re not a bystander to these types of discriminatory acts,” she said.
Carbone said that Livingston’s reaction was a demonstration of the confidence she wants to instill in UM’s student body.
“I think students really loved that example of just watching someone speak up and refusing to be shamed,” she said.
Although in the spotlight this week, weight issues are far from the only bullying-related problem on America’s campuses.
“Body size and body image are social justice issues just like other target identities of race or sexual orientation,” Carbone said.
Nationwide, universities are becoming more active in preventing all kinds of bullying.
Boston University junior Amanda DiMeo is devoting extracurricular time to the problem.
DiMeo, 20, works on a research team that investigates incoming college students’ adjustments to university life after being bullied previously.
She said that peer-to-peer mentor programs are often more helpful than formal counseling when faced with confidence issues that frequently result from the pressures of trying to conform to a college environment.
Carbone has found this to be true at Michigan as well. Trained in therapy, Carbone said she talks to students like a friend, rather than an authority figure, so that they can really open up about the problems they face with confidence.
“I think that students just don’t have as much experience holding true to themselves in the face of all this peer pressure,” Carbone said. “I think that giving them a space that they can do that, and know their authentic selves and advocate for themselves, is an awesome thing.”
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