Creating momentum – Be intentional about positive body image

In October, the national Tri-Delta sorority launched BodyImage3D®, a yearlong campaign to promote healthy body image. Collegiate chapters kicked off the initiative with Fat Talk Free® Week, a five-day event that addresses body image issues and the damaging impact of the thin ideal on women among girls and women. Each month, the sorority challenges its members to delve into related topics, such as combating stress and anxiety, expressing gratitude and the power of purpose.

Also in October, Rocketkidz Foundation introduced Let Me Run at University High, Dufrocq and Wedgewood elementary schools. Through setting running goals, the after-school pilot program seeks to inspire boys to be courageous enough to be themselves, build healthy relationships and live an active lifestyle. Let Me Run is, in fact, a spin-off of Girls on the Run, whose coaches were determined to create a comparable program for their sons.

“GOTR basically provides preadolescent girls with the tools to embrace their individual strengths as they enter middle and high school,” explains Baton Rouge Executive Director Hydie Wahlborg. Since opening in 2000, the Capital City affiliate has grown from 13 girls at two schools to 450 girls at 24 schools.

Each semester, trained volunteer coaches guide third-, fourth- and fifth-graders through the 12-week Girls on the Run curriculum; sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders participate in the more advanced Girls on Track.

“It’s not about how fast they run or how many laps; it’s about behaviors,” explains Wahlborg. The girls gain an understanding of themselves by identifying their strengths and exploring what it means to be healthy physically, emotionally and mentally. The lessons then foster independent thinking, relationship problem solving, and community-building skills. Discussions are supplemented by activities that help the girls train for a 5K.

For many girls—and sometimes for their parents and coaches—the greatest revelation often comes “when we show them they have a choice in what they believe about themselves and what they say about themselves to themselves,” says Wahlborg.

That empowerment transforms girls’ lives. “Last year I saw some girls who were going through some really difficult situations at home just blossom and become happy and energetic and so enthusiastic about this program,” says Sandra Cashe, a mother so impressed with the changes the program inspired in her daughter she became a coach.

When she started GOTR last year, Perry Berlin was delighted to discover something new about herself. “You have this bright light inside of you,” the fourth-grader says authoritatively. “When you are really sad and mad, you’re plugged into the negative cord. When you’re really happy and excited and jumpy and giggly, you’re plugged into the positive cord. So you try to be plugged into the positive cord.”

Her GOTR teammates say that concept alone has improved their ability to cope with stress and, in turn, has improved their grades and their relationships with their parents, friends and even siblings.

“It helps me think,” says Morgan Schnebelen. “Before I started, my sister and I always had the negative cord in. When I started GOTR, it made me feel like I was always plugged into the positive cord because it made me so joyful.”

Teammate Isabelle Cashe adds, “I think it’s a great thing that [GOTR] inspires girls to be a better person and to help more people. [But] people should join GOTR because it’s fun.”

“Even if you don’t like running, you should definitely start GOTR,” encourages second-year participant Anna Cattar. “You don’t have to run. You can walk. You can skip. You just keep moving forward—that’s what the coaches tell us.”