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Campus group seeks to help those who struggle with body image

The Fresno State Student Health Center. Darlene Wendels / The Collegian

The Fresno State Student Health Center. Darlene Wendels / The Collegian

The Fresno State Student Health Center offers a group therapy meeting every Friday morning designed for students who struggle with the issues of food and body image.

Called “Eating and Body Image,” the group is held with counselor Dr. Ya-Shu Laing.

“It’s important because on college campuses eating and body image are always a big issue for young people,” Laing said.  “There are two sides of the story. One is that eating disorder is on the rise, and also at the same time there is emphasis on obesity, and so this issue has been on a full front.”

The sessions are currently closed, but Laing has openings throughout the semester.  In order to be initiated, each student must first go through a screening to see that he or she fits the criteria to be admitted into the group.

Laing said it is important for students to utilize these services offered through the university and to be aware there is help available.

Currently, she collaborates with registered dietitian Stephanie Annett. Together they work on a mind and body workshop, which is a series of modules that entail tactics to help promote positive body image.

The session is open to all students, faculty and staff.

Exercises in the sessions include using metaphors and stories to help address different themes and helping participants identify negative body image thoughts, Laing said.

“I think it is important to counteract [negative body images] in the popular culture. It’s not even just females anymore,” Annett said.  “We used to say fashion made people feel bad about themselves, but even with males now there are somewhat unrealistic expectations to live up to.”

By attending one of these workshops, students can gain knowledge and interact with others in similar situations. The classes are generally small, meaning participants can talk among themselves and share their experiences.  The service is always available, confidential and free, and led by licensed professionals.

“The underlying message is just building a positive body image will help you to have better self-esteem, and it’s going to help you overall with your well-being,” Laing said.