My placement at Hopewell by Lisa Whiffen

Hi everyone!
My name is Lisa Whiffen, I’ve travelled to Hopewell from Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador as a Social Work student, currently studying at the University of Victoria in BC. I am new to the Ottawa area and am finding it an enriching experience so far.

My perspective in beginning at Hopewell is unique in that I have not struggled with an eating disorder.  I have, however, been an active critic of the barrage of media and societal pressures to conform to an ideal body type. The increase in influence of the media is a catalyst for many negative body issues that affect all people and can span across a lifetime. This is why I am so passionate about my placement here at Hopewell. I feel that prevention of eating disorders and advocacy for all body sizes fit quite well both in Hopewell’s education piece that I have been a part of, and in social work’s role in questioning the status quo.

In the past five weeks I have had the opportunity to present to students, organizations, and attend a health fair.  I have also been grateful to have the opportunity to take part in education through training and teleconference, and to learn about current eating disorder research in the academic community. I have recently been involved with updating our presentations and in the process have learnt a great deal about our role, as individuals, in the prevention of eating disorders. As role models to our families, peers, youth and society we have a responsibility to emulate a positive body image. This means not engaging in negative self-talk, actively critiquing the media’s representations of the ideal body, having open discussions about myths and body image, as well as maintaining a non-judgmental attitude so that others have someone with whom they can speak openly. Reflecting on these activities and incorporating them into presentations has taught me that we all can all take steps in the prevention of eating disorders, and that the first step is often by looking at our own actions.

Overall, I am enjoying being immersed in a new province, a new community and new work setting.  All these experiences give me new perspectives and knowledge with which I can build on my awareness of eating disorders, community based work, and collaboration.  From this standpoint I am able to challenge my own preconceived ideas of what I have grown to accept as true, and gain some insights on how I can move forward and critique how things can be done differently.

In other words, to change the way those around us see themselves we must start with changing our thinking, our words and our actions. Modeling a healthy body image!