Jan. 12, 2016

Public talk on weight bias

Shelly Russell-Mayhew to speak about body image in annual Werklund Distinguished Research Lecture Jan. 28.

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 to address issues around weight bias and body image

As the recipient of this year’s Werklund Annual Distinguished Research Lecture award, Russell-Mayhew will give 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) will reflect 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 will situate my research program in my personal experiences across the weight spectrum, which is something I have not done before.”

This year, the Werklund School has partnered with Alumni Relations for this event, which will be held on campus on Jan. 28 starting at 4 p.m. Anyone with an interest in learning more about Russell-Mayhew’s work is welcome to attend. While there is no charge to attend, registration is requested.