On Image-Conscious Campus, Rosie Molinary Talks


By Hye-Jin Kim

“Where are all the fat Americans?”

I overheard an international student joke in Proctor Dining Hall during the first week of first-year orientation. And he’s got a point. Middlebury’s student body is often labeled not only as very attractive, but also fitter — and much wealthier — than the average American.
“Middlebury, in particular, is a very fit school,” said Abigail McCeney ’18. “People are really active and really ‘healthy’ or it appears to be that way. I think that it’s hard for people to talk about having an eating disorder or having a body image problem because they want to appear they’re just healthy.”

It’s true most college dining halls don’t have all-natural peanut butter and homemade granola; YouPower spin classes are so popular at the College, there is now an online pre-registration system. But after her first semester, McCeney and her friend, Victoria Pippas ’18, began to notice the shared passion for health and fitness spiraling into a dangerous and unhealthy obsession among their peers.

“But we didn’t see any support available, like there is for sexual harassment or other issues,” said McCeney.

She and Pippas then decided to reach out to Sayre Weir ’15 and Barbara McCall, the director of Health and Wellness, to see what they could do to raise awareness and start conversations about eating disorders and a more holistic approach to health, instead of just physical health and fitness.

“[Mental health] gets put on the back burner because there’s so much going on with school and extra-curricular activities and sports,” said Pippas, “but focusing on your mental health makes you more successful in everything you do, too.”

With the help of Weir, they fundraised $4,500 for an interactive library exhibit and a guest  speaker to address the issue of body image and self-confidence issues during National Eating Disorder Week, which begins on Feb. 15.

The interactive exhibit will invite students to reflect and share what they find most beautiful, either about themselves or others. It will be on display in the lobby of the Davis Family Library.

“The best way to break the taboo is to engage in conversation about body image, beauty, and wellness. The idea of the exhibit in the library is to spark conversation and reflection on what beauty means in our own eyes,” Weir said.

The speaker, Rosie Molinary, will give a talk titled “Ten Truths to Your Self-Acceptance Journey.” She is the author of the book, Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance. The event will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. in Wilson Hall, followed by a book signing.
“[Molinary] has been one of my mentors and inspirations over the last several years. I was inspired to bring her to Middlebury after reading her book,” said Weir. “After seeing so many people grapple with body image on campus, I am confident that her positive messages and realistic advice on self-acceptance and empowerment will be meaningful for our community.”