By Mariana Dale
Arizona Public Media

Love Your Body Week is under way on the University of Arizona campus.

The aim is to make people aware of their body, the image of their body that they have and that is driven by society and the media.

UA Nutrition Services Coordinator Gale Coleman says it’s difficult to measure the number of people who grapple with negative body image.

The university distributes an annual health and wellness survey, but there’s no way to determine the truthfulness of respondents, she says.

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Trained peer-facilitators in the Love Your Body Program lead sessions that educate women about the difference between the media portrayal of physical perfection and reality.

“We list who this perfect woman is: the Barbie type, the Victoria Secret angel type,” says student coordinator Kendal Shanks. “That’s what everyone wants to pursue and then we go over how that’s not the perfect woman that’s the thin ideal.”

Last semester, Shanks and Coleman collaborated for Love Your Body Day. This year, they have expanded the program to sessions throughout the semester. About 10 women completed both two-hour sessions of the program in the fall 2012 semester.

There is a misconception the Love your Body Program is an eating disorder treatment, Shanks says. But the sessions are geared toward college women, even those that don’t think they have body issues.

Jean Kilbourne, who has studied the impact of media on body image since the 1960s, agrees.

“It does affect everyone. Eating disorders are at one end of a continuum of body dissatisfaction and problems with ones body image, but I would say that the vast majority of women in America have issues about their bodies, about eating, about having an appetite for food,” says Kilbourne.

Kilbourne also says that media literacy is the key to understanding and overcoming the negative body image.

“There’s no silver bullet," she says. “There’s no one solution, but it’s very important to become aware of these images and of their impact.”

Kilbourne will speak at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Student Union South Ballroom as part of Love Your Body Week.

Mariana Dale is a student intern at Arizona Public Media.