Category Archives: Body Image

Health Promotion and Wellness now accepting applications for peer educators

Health Promotion and Wellness is currently accepting applications for HealthWorks, a peer outreach and education program at University Park. The deadline to apply is March 2.

HealthWorks offers two unique opportunities for students who are interested in health and wellness. These opportunities include facilitating one-on-one wellness services and conducting outreach events and educational workshops. During the application process students prioritize which opportunity they are most interested in.

Participation in the program is a three semester commitment, which includes one semester of training (during fall 2018)  and two semesters of service. For this reason, students who wish to apply must plan to graduate in fall 2019 or later.

Training for the program requires the completion of a three-credit course offered through Biobehavioral Health in the fall semester.  Students learn about the following topics in the course: alcohol and other drugs, financial literacy, sexual health, nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and stress. There are no prerequisites required to register for the course.

After completing the 3-credit course, participants are required to complete 45 hours of service each semester. Members participate in one of two opportunities:  1) deliver free wellness services about stress and time management, physical activity, nutrition, sleep, sexual health and healthy relationships, and financial literacy;  or 2)  conduct educational workshops, hold outreach events, plan and implement health promotion initiatives.  A few examples of the health promotion initiatives include conducting healthy cooking demonstrations, writing blog and social media posts for Healthy Penn State and appearing in The Body Monologues.   A small group of students are trained to provide HIV test counseling.

If you’re passionate about health and promoting the well-being of all Penn State students, then HealthWorks is a great fit for you,” said Christina Volpicelli, a senior majoring in biobehavioral health.  “HealthWorks also offers many leadership and learning opportunities for its members such as video editing, leading health campaigns, public speaking and teaching skills to educate the Penn State community.  Everything you will learn and the people you will meet through this organization will benefit you throughout any career you wish to pursue.”

For more information about HealthWorks, including an application, please visit


Improve your Body Image

Your body hears everything your mind says.  Why is body image so important?  The way in which you view your body impacts your emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing.   Negative consequences such as eating disorders, obesity and depression can arise when your self image is persistently poor and you lack appreciation for your body. Studies show that the more a person focuses on their body, the worse they feel about their looks.  Other factors like personality traits, genetic make-up, family, friends and social media also influence body image.  What would it look like if social media played a more positive role, instead of a negative one, when it comes to body image?  How can we begin thinking, talking, and posting about ourselves in a way that encourages ourselves to love our bodies and others to do the same?

Practicing positive self-talk is a great starting place.  Become aware of the language you use when you talk to yourself.  Journaling can often be helpful to bring about this awareness.  If you find your language to be harsh and negative, try stopping the thoughts by putting your focus on something else.  One helpful next step is to begin making more neutral or positive statements.  For example, instead of criticizing how a certain body part looks, state what that body part allows you to do.  My legs allow me to walk, run, or play a sport.  In time, transition the self-talk to be positive: I love my legs because they are strong.

Assess your social media use.  How much time, each day, do you spend on social media?  How do you use social media?  What’s the purpose?   Who do you follow, like or tweet about and why?  Are the images and messages you see on a daily basis helping you feel good about yourself or are they perpetuating feelings of not being good enough?  Challenge yourself to unfollow or defriend accounts that don’t support your goals of feeling good about yourself and being the best version of you.  Doing so will have a positive impact on your life and the life of others.

Minority Women and Body Image

By Dejah Harley, HealthWorks Peer Educator, BBH ‘18

Issues with body image are extremely common and at least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. (Hudson, Hiripi, Popo, & Kessler, 2007). Eating disorders are also incredibly underreported in minority populations.

Eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating are often associated with white women. However, women of all races are susceptible to both body image issues and eating disorders.  When the “face” of a disorder does not match the race of the person, it can be difficult for that individual to understand their perceived susceptibility.  This can also be true for men and may be the reason many men do not seek help for body image issues.

Minority groups experience different struggles with body image than those of white women. There are many cultural and societal factors that influence how minority groups view their body in the context of beauty. Also, the cultural values within some racial and ethnic groups often define beauty in a way that is contrary to the dominant white definition of beauty. For example, in Latino culture, a fuller, rounder female figure is valued.

Monday marked the start of “Love Your Body” week here at PSU! This week is all about loving every inch of your body so that you can live a happier life. Beauty standards are always changing. This week is all about loving your body and learning to let go of the unattainable “standards.”

All bodies of all sizes, sexual identities, and races, are beautiful. This week we want to create a conversation about body image across those demographics.  This week is for everyone to feel that their concerns regarding their body can be heard. Please attend the events. Be part of the movement to think positively about our bodies.

Head to @healthypsu on Instagram to stay up to date on “Love Your Body Week” activities!




  1. Abrams, K. K., Allen, L. R. and Gray, J. J. (1993), Disordered eating attitudes and behaviors, psychological adjustment, and ethnic identity: A comparison of black and white female college students. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 14: 49–57.
  2. Cachelin, F. M., Rebeck, R. M., Chung, G. H. and Pelayo, E. (2002), Does Ethnicity Influence Body-Size Preference? A Comparison of Body Image and Body Size. Obesity Research, 10: 158–166.
  3. Hudson, J. I., Hiripi, E., Pope, H. G., & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3), 348–358.
  4. Hoek, H. W. and van Hoeken, D. (2003), Review of the prevalence and incidence of eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders., 34: 383–396.
  5. Le Grange, D., Swanson, S. A., Crow, S. J., & Merikangas, K. R. (2012). Eating disorder not otherwise specified presentation in the US population. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 45(5), 711-718.
  6. Molloy, B.L. & Herzberger, S.D. Body image and self-esteem: A comparison of African-
    American and Caucasian women. Sex Roles (1998) 38: 631.
  7. Ruth H. Striegel-Moore, Faith A. Dohm, Helena C. Kraemer, C. Barr Taylor, Stephen
    Daniels, Patricia B. Crawford, and George B. Schreiber. Eating Disorders in white and black women.  American Journal of Psychiatry 2003 160:7, 1326-1331

Love Your Body Week October 23-27

HealthWorks is hosting Love Your Body Week at University Park October 23 – 27. The week-long series of events is designed to encourage students to appreciate, nurture and respect their bodies. Students will have an opportunity to participate in Love Your Body table events including: create your own affirmation cards for yourself or a friend; take a KIND bar to spread KINDness; and tell us what you love about your body while posing for a picture with the “Inspire Hope, Empower Change” Instagram frame. Handouts and information will be available at each table with tips to improve body image as well as other Penn State resources and giveaways.  The Love Your Body tables will be on the ground floor of the HUB Monday 10/23 – Wednesday 10/25 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.  Additionally, HealthWorks will have a Love Your Body table in the Intramural Building on Thursday 10/26 and Friday 10/27 focused on body positive reasons to exercise and ways to fuel one’s body.Tuesday night guest speakers Lindsay and Lexie Kite will share simple strategies for building body image resilience. They will share how the media and society are negatively impacting many people’s view of themselves and how we can counter the messages and improve our wellbeing.  The Kite sister’s presentation will take place at Freeman Auditorium in the HUB, on Tuesday, October 24th at 7pm.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders — such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder – include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. They are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females and males. In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life (NEDA).

Interested in learning more about eating disorders or do you want to learn proactive ways to foster a body positive environment? Visit the websites below:

Are you or someone you know struggling? There is a team of providers at Penn State who are dedicated to helping students who are struggling with eating disorders. Use the information below to make an appointment.

Healthy Eating and Living Support (HEALS)
University Health Services (UHS) Medical Appointments 863-0774
Nutrition Clinic 863-0461
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) 863-0395

Skin Health Series 2

Summer is about to begin and you may be tempted to get an early start on your tan.  Here is “need to know” information about tanning salons that could help you avoid serious health risks down the road.

According to Spencer (1998) the ultraviolet radiation from the artificial light in tanning beds is linked to skin cancers and other types of skin damage.  Indoor tanning beds are associated with a 50% increase in the risk of basal cell carcinoma (i. e., skin cancer).  In fact, 90% of melanomas are estimated to be caused by ultraviolet (UV) exposure (1).  “Tanning beds use fluorescent bulbs that emit mostly UVA. The UVA radiation is up to three times more intense than the UVA in natural sunlight”. (2)

The tanning bed industry often makes inaccurate claims about the benefits of artificial tanning.  For example, the industry claims that indoor tanning promotes the production of vitamin D which is important for bone health and has been linked to reduced risk for cancer.  The industry also claims that indoor tanning helps protect against sun burn.  In reality, an indoor tan provides “the equivalent of a sunscreen rated SPF 4 or less”. (2)   And you can obtain all the vitamin D that your body needs through a healthy diet.

Given the science behind the dangers of indoor tanning, you might be wondering why people still do it?  Harrington and colleagues (2011) found that the ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from tanning beds stimulates areas of the brain associated with reward and, therefore, encourages excessive tanning. (3)

  1. Spencer, J. “Tanning beds and skin cancer: artificial sun old sol = real risk.” Clinics in Dermatology4 (1998): 487-501. Web.
  2. Harvard Women’s Health Watch – By the way, doctor: Is a tanning bed safer than sunlight?
  3. Harrington, C. R., Beswick, T. C., Graves, M., Jacobe, H. T., Harris, T. S., Kourosh, S., Devous Sr, M. D. and Adinoff, B. (2012), Activation of the mesostriatal reward pathway with exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) vs. sham UVR in frequent tanners: a pilot study. Addiction Biology, 17: 680–686. doi:10.1111/j.1369-1600.2010.00312.x

Skin Health Series

As the weather warms up and everyone starts to head outside, we need to remember to be kind to our skin. One of the most important ways to take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun. While soaking up some rays can be good for the body, by increasing the amount of Vitamin D, excessive exposure can cause wrinkles and age spots, and can increase the risk of skin cancer (1). Research shows a strong dose-response relationship between UV exposure and skin cancer, the more time you spend tanning, the higher the risk of developing melanoma and other types of skin cancer (2).

Exposure to UV is not the only way source of irreparable damage to the skin. Tanning beds, which rely mainly on UVA light to create a tan, have been classified by The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as carcinogenic to humans (2). In fact, studies show that occasional use of tanning beds triples the risk of developing melanoma.

Fortunately, there are simple approaches to help protect from damaging UV rays. The best way to protect yourself from UVA exposure is to not use tanning beds. Tanning beds are dangerous, and offer virtually no positive health benefits.

Here are three ways to protect yourself from damage caused by excess exposure to the sun(1):

  • Wear sunscreen when outdoors with at least 15 SPF and reapply every two hours. Regular daily use of a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent (3).
  • Seek shade or shelter during from about 10 am to 2 pm when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Wear protective clothing when you are outdoors for prolonged periods of time.

As you head outside this summer, remember to protect yourself to ensure that your skin, and your body, stays healthy and happy!

  3. Green AC, Williams GM, Logan V, Strutton GM. Reduced melanoma after regular sunscreen use: randomized trial follow-up. J Clin Oncol 2011; 29(3):257-263.



Self-Compassion is the concept of loving one’s self and being sympathetic to one’s mistakes. Practicing self-compassion can create positive wellbeing as well as decrease anxiety and depression.[1]

Self-compassion and being nice are important because both of these things can actually improve your well-being.  Kristin Neff, Associate Professor in Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin, explains the three layers of self-compassion: self-kindness, sense of common humanity, and mindfulness. If used together, all three can promote the strong sense of wellbeing that most of use desire. Learn more by watching Dr. Neff’s TED talk:

[1] Elements of Self-Compassion. Web. 30 Mar 2017

The Body Monologues

On Wednesday evening students from HealthWorks, a peer education program in University Health Services, organized and performed The Body Monologues. The event was inspired by National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and included members of the Penn State W.O.R.D.S. (Writers Organized to Represent Diverse Stories) performance team. The performers shared their personal struggles with body image and their journeys to self-acceptance.

A HealthWorks student performs her monologue. Photo by Michelle Mehallow.

From gymnasts to runners, fashionistas to dancers, they told decidedly different stories that all centered around how they learned to accept their body in the face of ever-changing societal norms.

As part of the event, members of Orchesis Dance Company performed a piece that a story about humans battling their personal struggles. One dancer explained the piece illustrated that humans can win the battle, but that the struggles they will always be a part of the person. In the discussion portion of the event, students agreed that “Self-love is a process,” albeit a slow and ongoing one.

Maddy Galascio, a HealthWorks student and monologue performer, said she was introduced to the project last semester and it piqued her interest. At first, she didn’t think she had a strong story to tell but ended up delivering a moving performance about her struggles as a competitive gymnast. For Maddy, the best part of participating in The Body Monologues was bonding with her fellow performers. She said, “We’re really close now because we’ve been through so much together.”

The Body Monologues was a resounding success, and an example of how impactful discussions like these can be to college students. Opening up the conversation about self-acceptance, body image, and health is beneficial to not only the audience but also to the cast.

Written by Healthy Penn State Ambassador – Michelle Mehallow