May 5, 2016
Werklund School researcher says weight-related issues impact people of all shapes and sizes
Turn on a television or radio — or even a computer — and chances are you’ll be faced with an advertisement of some sort that suggests that you need to do something to change the way you look and live.
Sometimes, the focus is on cosmetics or procedures, and in other instances, on diets, fashion or lifestyle. Many of these ads may suggest you could be doing something different, or better, to change the way you feel about yourself — or how others feel about you.
When it comes to body image, Shelly Russell-Mayhew says that no one is immune to the cultural discourses about weight.
“Most of society’s current conversations about weight are not taken up in consistent or evidence-based ways, and actions taken in the name of health are often misleading, misguided, and even potentially harmful," says Russell-Mayhew, associate professor in the Werklund School of Education. She is also the recipient of this year’s Werklund Annual Distinguished Research Lecture award.
Weight-related issues affect people of all shapes and sizes
On top of the messaging that comes through conventional and social media, there are other constant reminders about size, shape, and appearance; how, and what, we should all do to make ourselves better and happier. Add in peer interaction and an emphasis to adhere to cultural norms, and it’s really no wonder that almost everyone thinks about their own physical appearance a lot, and most often in a negative light.
Russell-Mayhew, who holds a Werklund Research Professorship, says weight-related issues like eating disorders, obesity, body image, and disordered eating impact people of all shapes and sizes. She has made her career researching weight-related issues and says that weight bias is one of the last acceptable forms of discrimination.
And she wants to do something about it.
Public lecture addresses issues around weight bias and body image
As the recipient of this year’s Werklund Annual Distinguished Research Lecture award, Russell-Mayhew gave a public presentation on Jan. 28 titled, Weight of the World: An Embodied Research Journey.
In her lecture, Russell-Mayhew, who is also a three-time alumna of the University of Calgary (BSc‘94, MSc‘98, PhD’03) reflected on the personal, professional and political aspects of her research program as she strives to stimulate the changes she believes are necessary in tackling the issues surrounding weight bias and body image.
“My professional journey working with weight-related issues is influenced and fueled by a deeply personal and sometimes troubled relationship with my own body,” says Russell-Mayhew. “My presentation situated my research program in my personal experiences across the weight spectrum, which is something I have not done before.”
This year, the Werklund School partnered with Alumni Relations for the event.