MU brings body image resources to Columbia

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COLUMBIA - With growing pressure for physical perfection from social media on the rise, MU announced a new center dedicated to improving body image.

The Center for Body Image Research and Policy at the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences aims to improve body image, health and wellness for individuals, families and communities. 

MU theatre student Martha Allen struggled with her own body image growing up in Missouri.

“Every morning I would get up, get on the scale, and cry if I had gained a pound or was happy if I lost a pound. This was a pattern I had since I was a child,” Allen said.

After her junior year at MU, Allen made the decision to start looking at her body in a positive way.

“One year, I was like this needs to completely end. I am putting this all entirely on myself. Why was I doing this to myself and being so hard on myself?” Allen said.

She created an Instagram to celebrate her body as well as other bodies of different sizes, skin-tones and shapes.

“There are a lot of big people who are advocates for having bodies that are not conventional, and I just love that on Instagram,” Allen said.

Allen’s story is one that Ginny Ramseyer Winter, MU’s director of the Center for Body Image Research and Policy, has heard before.

“We see body dissatisfaction begin around age three, age four when preschoolers begin to identify that certain body types are appreciated over others and that appearance matters,” Ramseyer Winter said.

MU’s new center strives to learn from students, communities and families to further understand the growing issue of body image.

“Students who reach out will find ways to engage in the research we’re excited to work with students more and figure out how we can partner with them to really figure out what they’re interested in, in terms of body image,” Ramseyer Winter said.

The center is open to anyone in the community but is currently only online.

Upcoming research studies from the center include better understanding how body image relates to understudied populations including youth in foster care, transgender youth and mid-life-adults as well as a study aiming to improve depression among women using a 3D body map. 

“I think the thing I’m most excited about is that I think it’s going to allow us to make a larger community impact,” Ramseyer Winter said.