Amber Krzys and Joey Julius discuss body positivity and issues surrounding it
To kick off Mental Health and Wellness week, keynote speakers Amber Kryz and Joey Julius spoke about body positivity, mental health, and their journeys with those issues on Monday Nov. 13 in Freeman Auditorium sponosred by the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA).
Amber Krzys is the founder of the bodyheart Campaign and Fierce Loving, organizations surrounding body positivity and helping people achieve fulfillment in themselves. Krzys began her presentation by discussing her history with how she viewed her own body.
She had experienced a life of seeking perfection, and was a yo-yo dieter. She would spend months starving herself just to go to the other extreme and constantly binge. It was during her masters program when she took a spiritual psychology class that she realized something was wrong.
Krzys then asked the audience to think of something they loved. Many members of the audience had expressed they were dissatisfied with their body, and wanted to change the way they look. Krzys then went on to point out many people don’t think of the relationship with their body, and that people tend to become trapped in the if/then cycle when thinking about the way they look. However, it was when Krzys went more in depth with her own past that she explained how achieving your goals doesn’t always cure the problem.
Having come from a single family household with an alcoholic father, Krzys struggled to find a sense of freedom and safety as a child, but was able to do so in the dance lessons her mother put her in. Later in life, she had finally achieved her dream of performing on Broadway and was cast in “Mamma Mia!”. She had put her body through so much intense dieting, had lost so much weight, achieved her dreams, and still did not feel fulfilled.
“I thought ‘how small do you have to be to be enough?'” commented Krzys on when she realized she was in an abusive relationship with her own body.
Krzys went on to discuss that she got over her constant battle with body image issues because she started to relate to her body differently. She stated that how we think of our body now is the foundation for the progress we want to make. If it is not a good foundation, then the process will be harder than it needs to be.
“Your body is yours… We disown the parts we don’t like. The instant we do that we stop any kind of nurturing.”
Krzys finished her presentation by highlighting the four most important things we can apply to any relationship, but especially one with our own bodies: communication, trust, respect, and love.
Joey Julius is a former Penn State kicker. Last semester, Joey released a statement that he was struggling with an eating disorder and would not be returning to the football team this year. Julius struggles with binge eating disorder, which is characterized by eating large quantities of food on a consistent basis and experiencing the feelings of shame and distress after. The roots to Julius’s disorder began in his early childhood.
Julius recounted his childhood, and how he would practice with the soccer teams that played for his father’s club. After every practice, his father would take him to dinner regardless of the fact that his wife was making dinner. Julius would fall asleep and wake up sick to his stomach due to the overeating. Due to Julius playing for his father’s club, his father became obsessed with his weight.
Julius’ father put him through intense workout regimens and give him diuretics and diet pills. His soccer coach forced him to keep food logs. He had began to hide food in his school bag and places throughout the house. The binging had gotten so bad that he gained 40 pounds.
Julius quit soccer before college, giving up Division One scholarships due to the fact that they would require him to lose weight. He thought that, by pursuing football as a walk-on and having more freedom as he came to Penn State, things would get easier. However, trainers and doctors informed him he would have to work harder than most of his teammates so that he could lose weight and be healthy enough to play.
While his battle was getting harder and harder, a peak moment came during a loss against Temple. Thousands of people took to Twitter, not to discuss his skills as a football player, but Julius’ weight and appearance. This was the birth of “Big Toe Joe.”
This past March, Julius walked into his trainer’s office and told him that he would be taking his own life. It was then that Julius’s coaches and family helped him seek treatment. While he is much better than he was in March, Julius commented that he is still in a battle to love his body.
Julius also spoke out on the fact that eating disorders are typically seen as a women’s issue. He commented that while he isn’t taking away from the fact that many women do face this issue, men are typically ignored and there needs to be a cohesive effort to raise awareness.
“I think more men have to step up. Right now, it’s all women who are doing things. In order for there to even be cohesiveness, there has to be a lot of men coming forward as well.”