February 24, 2011

Speaker promotes positive self image at CSUN’s eating disorder awareness event

Filed under: Body Image — Tags: , , , , , , — Melanie @ 3:15 pm

By Samantha Tata. Originally posted at CSUN’s Daily  Sundial. Cross-posted with permission.

Guest speaker Melanie Klein, spoke about eating disorders and how pop culture has influenced men and women. Photo Credit: Mariela Molina / Staff Photographer

CSUN adjunct sociology professor Melanie Klein advocated the understanding of media images and their effect on the self-esteem during a lecture held by CSUN’s Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating (JADE) Wednesday for national eating disorders awareness week.

“By being constantly plugged in and mediated to, our culture has lost the connection between mind and body,” said Klein, who also teaches women’s studies and sociology at Santa Monica College (SMC).

JADE’s theme for this year’s eating disorder awareness week focused on internal and external beauty, said Grace Wiesmann, JADE graduate coordinator.

“We wanted to promote a positive body image that wasn’t only based on what the media shows us,” Wiesmann said.  “We want to enjoy who we are and recognize what we enjoy about ourselves.”

Klein said students need to become aware of how much media they consume, whether it be through television, advertisements, internet or via smart phones, and learn how to deconstruct those images to cultivate and maintain a positive self-image.

Klein, who has personally experienced disordered eating and poor self-image, said reducing media consumption could help individuals feel better about themselves because they remove the temptation to compare themselves to others.

“Body images have fundamentally changed in the past 20 years,” Klein said.

Klein emphasized that the images with which people are inundated daily do not reflect reality although the ideals they represent are expected to be emulated.

Beauty icons from the 1950s and 60s were just that, icons, not images to replicate, she said.  Today, women are told they can and should look like modern beauty icons and are shamed when they cannot fit that mold.

For the past ten years, Klein assigned her students an exercise: they are to stand still, clothed, in front of a mirror for fifteen minutes followed by another fifteen minutes without clothes.  Klein said she receives similar feedback every semester.

“Students tell me that they noticed they started picking apart their entire bodies and identifying flaws,” she said.  “So I ask, how did you come up with the idea that these things were wrong?”

Klein said there is a correlation between the increasingly provocative images distributed through media and the rise in body loathing.  She cited Facebook as a portal through which people are seeing and scrutinizing themselves, in addition to films that emphasize beauty as the fundamental reflection of a person’s worth.

Relationships with the opposite sex have also been affected by this media influence.  Klein said studies show that young men have difficulty achieving and maintaining erections because they are more aroused by altered images of women.

“When (men) get women’s clothes off, they’re not as turned on,” she said.  “Real women have stretch marks, moles and dimples.”

Klein said men and women must shift these perceptions to maintain perspective.

“Instead of complaining that my legs are jiggly, why am I not grateful that I have two legs?  Some people don’t have two legs,” she said.  “But that’s not enough, we’re pissed that the legs that allow us to walk do not look like those on the magazine.”

This creation of an unattainable reality has permeated modern society.  Klein said no demographic has been spared from this criticism, including pregnant women, men and children.

Junior Dinia Sepulveda, 21, said she attended the lecture to educate herself in order to help family members who have eating disorders, one of whom started dieting at 4-years-old.

“It opened my eyes to the (importance) of not staying quiet,” the sociology major said.  “(My cousin) is a teenager now and I want to take the responsibility to say something.”

When a friend or loved one asks the dreaded question, ‘Does this make me look fat?’ rather than assume they are seeking validation, Klein said to consider they may be unaware of what they look like.

An impulse to compare bodies and engage in self-deprecating behavior may alter the way people physically see themselves.

“You do not go from pretty to ugly or from thin to fat in five minutes,” she said.  “There has been no change in your actual body but a shift in your body image.”

Although the mental reflex to compare oneself to others is natural due to the way modern media socializes its audience, Klein said a daily exercise could change that habit.

“Rather than pick out what is wrong with you, find what you like about yourself or what you are grateful for,” she said.  “The way we are treating ourselves now is a waste of time.”

Klein said that taking two minutes to have a positive conversation with oneself could effectively shift negative body images and bridge the gap between mind and body.

“It’s a waste of energy to put ourselves down,” she said.  “We’ve lost the magic and miracle of our bodies.”


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melanie Klein, sarit rogers, Kourtney Stone, Left of Liberal, sarit photography and others. sarit photography said: RT @feministfatale: Be grateful for your 2 legs instead of complaining that they're 2 jiggly, too…http://bit.ly/fyyuxd Practice gratit … […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Be grateful for your 2 legs instead of complaining that they're 2 jiggly, too... Practice gratitude #bodyimage #selflove -- Topsy.com — February 24, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

  2. Dear Samantha,

    I thought this was a facinating subject after reading this earlier today – http://www.healthyhappieryou.co.uk/2011/02/men-get-eating-disorders-too/

    I had never really thought about it before, and the media never really seem to cover much about eating disorders effecting us guys.

    Thanks for the informative post 🙂



    Comment by Richard MacKenzie — February 24, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

  3. […] life is now. Love the body you’re in. This is a sentiment I echoed in a recent talk during National Eating Disorders Awareness […]

    Pingback by The Princess and the (Downward-Facing) Dog | elephant journal — March 1, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

  4. I had been loyal and loving this blog for more than a year, but today there was something bothered me.

    -“why am I not grateful that I have two legs? Some people don’t have two legs,”

    Does this mean Ms. Klein feels pity for people who have no or one leg?
    Feminists look down on people with disabilities? great.

    I’m sorry but I just couldn’t help myself.

    Comment by Taylor — March 24, 2011 @ 1:26 am

  5. @Taylor: How does gratitude for my health and functional body equate to pity on my end? How does cultivating self-love and gratitude convert to an attitude of disdain for people with disabilities, “feminists look down on people with disabilities?” I’d say that’s quite a stretch and a huge, inaccurate assumption on your part. I can attest to the fact that it took me most of my life to feel gratitude for my body’s capabilities and I won’t apologize for it. I think you may have missed my point.

    Comment by Melanie — March 24, 2011 @ 9:20 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment