Feel Good at Camp

While leafing through an issue of Seventeen magazine at the Pediatricians office, I learned about something the magazine started called the Body Peace Treaty.  The BPT project is all about making peace with your body, and being comfortable in your own skin.    Readers and celebrities alike are being inspired by one another to focus on the good things they have to offer and to encourage young people everywhere to be comfortable with who they are. This project was started as the result of a 14 year old girl who wrote to the magazine regarding airbrushing practices used on teen models.  She got more than 12,500 signatures in an online petition to stop the magazine from drastically altering images of the models, and the Body Peace Treaty was created.  Participants vow to make peace with their bodies and body image, and the number of participants signing up is remarkable.  Some of the vows include…”Do the little things that will keep my body healthy, like walking instead of hanging on the couch, or drinking water rather than something sugary”…”Put my energy toward the things in life I care about instead of wasting another ounce of it on my insecurities”…”Quit judging a person solely by how his or her body looks – even if it seems harmless – because I’d never want anyone to do that to me”.
What a fantastic treaty to sign and live by, especially in today’s world where it is commonplace to dislike our bodies.  Increasingly unrealistic body images in magazines and on TV lead to the belief that these images are the norm, leaving so many of us struggling to achieve these looks.  These unrealistic body ideals can leads to dissatisfaction, self-loathing, eating disorders and even Body Dysmorphic disorders, where individuals perceive a defect in their appearance that is very small or non-existent.
And though it is true that body image issues affect people of all ages, it can be especially prevalent in teens that are going through body changes.  As the body changes, so can self-image.  A low self-esteem can negatively affect behavior and overall mental health.  Teens who feel badly about their bodies can withdraw from social situations, or unrealistically try to live up to what they think they should look like.  Their self esteem is wrapped up in what the media tells them is acceptable.  Girls are focusing on losing weight and looking flawless, while boys are bulking up to try and attain the perfect look, potentially leading up to feelings of helplessness, depression, and poor body image.  On the other hand, a teen with a positive body image likes and accepts the way they are.  A healthy body image allows someone to be themselves, develop healthy friendships, become independent and challenge oneself physically and mentally.  They may not be perfect but they do not let their looks define who they are.
It is important to educate ourselves about body image issues, be it by following the Body Peace Treaty, or just being aware of the effects the media plays on our self-esteem.  Images being sold to us are not real and should not be the goal to a happy and healthy life.  We should focus on all the good we have to offer and not our imperfections.  We should stop the self-criticism and be kinder to ourselves.  And we should set a good example to those around us, by living a healthy life and taking care of ourselves with exercise, good nutrition, and setting of personal goals.
The camp environment has always been a place that allows campers to feel good about themselves in a natural setting of healthy outdoor activities and people all around who encourage and support them for who they are and not what they look like.  Camp provides an environment of “come as you are”, and what could be more empowering than that. A camp experience is not about make up or the latest trends in clothing, it’s about being surrounded by true friends that are there for you no matter what.   During the camp season, campers get a break from unrealistic media images on the TV and internet, and have the opportunity to focus on challenges that they feel proud of, and moments that will help develop a healthy body image for years to come.