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American society has an overwhelming preoccupation with physical attractiveness.

Magazines depict images of thin women and muscular men. Infomercials make promises of miraculous diets. Advertisements suggest tips for getting through the holidays without weight gain.

And the health and food industry moralizes food choices by touting the benefits of certain foods while demonizing others.

Our notions of beauty have become a kind of unachievable horizon. While established cultural messages reinforce peoples’ insecurity about their own weight, body size, and shape, weight is promoted as the primary indicator of health status. People turn to destructive measures to control their weight in the name of health.

And the idea that health is directly dependent on body weight fosters a culture of judgment.

As a result, individuals and their communities suffer, and the unfair, chimerical standard that we have for ourselves and other individuals tends to stifle any meaningful attempt to actually “be healthy.”

We as a society often scapegoat others and make a mockery of people who do not fit the “body ideal.” Yet we engage in these artificial jibes at the expense of putting more time, effort and thought into the real health of the individual and community at large.

The practice of internalizing negative messages about body size and type is culturally pervasive, and the attainability of the perfect body remains ever elusive.

Based on the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment that is administered every two years at the University of Colorado, students indicate that they engage in behaviors that point to an overall body dissatisfaction.

From 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in Old Main, CU’s Community Health is hosting Love Your Body Day, an event that will bring attention to the issue of body dissatisfaction and cultural notions of beauty. We are also hoping to create a conversation about the different ways that individuals and their communities can advocate for new, more accepting models of health and well being.

The following ideas and practices are a few ways in which we can all begin to approach health in a new way.

1. Practice self-acceptance. Acceptance is an active process of self-affirmation rather than a passive resignation to an unhappy fate. Be mindful of negative body thoughts. Acknowledge these thoughts when they come up and then try to let them go.

2. Engage in activities that are enjoyable and rejuvenating. This means being active because you want to and not to lose weight or change your body shape.

3. Learn about and listen to your body’s hunger and satiety cues. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied. Eat foods that make your body feel good and nourished.

4. Appreciate your body’s capabilities and characteristics that are unique about you. Try to focus on the things that your body allows you to do (my thighs carried me up Chautauqua, my sense of humor).

5. Celebrate size diversity. People come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There is no one ideal body size, shape, or weight that every individual should strive to achieve.

By disentangling ourselves from the messages and assumptions we receive about health and beauty we can finally begin to reevaluate our notions of what health really means.

Anne Schuster and Melissa Rizzuto are both professional coordinators of Community Health, a division of the University of Colorado’s Wardenburg Health Center.