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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tackling Unrealistic Body Images and Their Toll

By James Lomuscio

Dustyn Levenson, a senior at Westport’s Staples High School, recalled how the onslaught of media pressure to have an unrealistic body grabbed hold of her as early as elementary school. Image
The Staples students participating in Reshaping Reality. Dustyn Levenson is at bottom row, center. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

“I remember being affected in the fourth grade, and in middle school it was worse,” she said. “I was vulnerable and insecure, and you don’t know who to look to for direction, and you look to the media.”

What started out as a diet, became an obsession that developed into anorexia nervosa by seventh grade.

“I was a competitive ballet dancer, and it obviously started out with a weight thing, but it ended as an obsession,” she said.

Half-way through the eighth grade, Dustyn’s illness became so severe, taking its toll with “heart and blood issues and osteoporosis,” she had to leave school.

“I was out of school completing it via online while I was in 14 residential treatment centers around the country,” she said.

Two years ago, she returned to Staples.

“I had just returned from three years in treatment for an eating disorder. I came back into society very confident, very excited to restart my life, and I was very disappointed that while I had revamped my entire lifestyle, the world hadn’t,” she said.

She decided to change that mindset by starting Reshaping Reality, a student-organized and facilitated nonprofit organization comprising 23 Staples students who serve as board members and who meet weekly.

They visit middle schools, offering 90-minute presentations spreading a self-esteem message. Dustyn says her team teaches students “about healthy body image, media distortions, inner peace and self-acceptance.”

On Wednesday, April 30, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Reshaping Reality will host at Toquet Hall “Middle Schooler in the Mirror: The self-perception of a middle schooler from the ones who survived it all.”

She said the community discussion is open to teens and parents of middle schoolers, “illuminating the struggles that the middle school student faces.”

“We essentially want to be there for parents to hear the uncensored struggles and thoughts regarding self-confidence in the mind of their middle schooler, and provide some solutions to make their lives easier, in addition to hopefully creating a more open and honest environment among a kid and their parent,” she said.

Her advice to girls who are suffering the way she did?

“They should shut their eyes and not care about anyone’s opinion,” Dustyn said. “These women on the magazine covers represent less than 1 percent of America, so by not being one of these women, you are in the 99 percent.”

For further information on the event, or Reshaping Reality, visit http:/


Posted 04/24/14 at 03:43 PM  Permalink


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