The body image challenge we should all take this week

Real talk. Can you go five days without saying something negative about the way you look, or for that matter, can you go five days without saying something negative about the way ANYONE looks? That means you can’t complain about the size of your tummy or thighs, that means you can’t whisper about a girl at school or work wearing an outfit she “doesn’t have the right body type for,” that means you can’t flip open the latest issue of US Weekly and go to town on celebrity bodies. It also means you can’t make a seemingly positive statement (“You look AH-MAH-ZING! You’ve dropped a few!”) that actually reinforces negative body image. Can you go a working week without talking about weight at all?

That’s what the students behind Fat Talk Free Week are asking us to do this week. The five-day campaign, launched today at Illinois State University, is drawing attention to the pervasive “thinspiration” epidemic in our culture, and how insidious the effect of skinny-worship is on women’s self-worth.

The campaign is based on the work of clinical psychologist Eric Stice, who found that the best way to prevent the development of eating disorders is by employing cognitive dissonance, which means actively trying to shift the way we think about our bodies; by changing our thought process we can change our actions.

And it looks like this methodology works. In a 2008 study Stice conducted, he found a 60 percent decrease in the risk of developing an eating disorder in young girls who spent just three hours critiquing the thin-ideal. That blows my mind. In the amount of time it takes to watch “Titanic,” we can push half our young female population out of harm’s way just by real-talk-ing about how body image stress is just bad news bears for everyone.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a party without DECORATIONS. And Fat Talk Free Week has some awesome-sauce decor. There’s a six-foot-tall Barbie doll that will be set up to show girls how RIDICULOUS Barbie looks when super-sized to actual-person height. There will also be posters hung up around ISU’s campus that challenge ridiculous stereotypes re: what a “real woman” or “real man” should look like.

Maybe my favorite decorating activity that the party-planning committee brainstormed on is covering the campus with body-positive Post-It notes. To which I say can we please cover the WORLD in positive Post-It notes? I know it would probably technically end up being litter but it would also probably technically be the best thing ever.

Yes, Fat Talk Free Week is technically just going on at Illinois State right now, but there is an Internet campaign going to get the rest of the world in on the action. Students are using the hashtag #ISUSelfiesteem to pass along messages like “If even you fake it until you make it, it’ll eventually become part of your routine” on Instagram and Twitter.

ISU isn’t the first campus to host FTFW. In October of 2010, thirty-five campuses nationwide participated in the event, which was initially piloted by Texas’ Trinity University, according to Time. This year, from October 20th through the 24th, the sorority Tri-Delta will launch a nationwide campaign celebrating FTFW. So basically, this whole week thing is more like a month, and we’re just fine with that.

It would be awesome if even more campuses and institutions gave this kind of week a try. Or if, like, entire NATIONS gave this week a shot. Basically, I just want to walk down the street and see body positivity Post-Its EVERYWHERE.

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