Diego Magazine March, 2001
For the Health of It
WHAT BEGAN as a dinner
conversation among three friends in La Jolla has turned into a mind-expanding
multimedia project that's capturing the attention of the public and press across
the country. It's called the Real Women Project, and its goal is to spread an
epidemic of self-acceptance by turning the tide on women's low self-esteem and
"If a woman finds her
body unacceptable, her dis-ease compromises her immune system and can lead to
disease," says La Jolla psychotherapist Cathy Conheim, who started the project
with physicians Donna Brooks of La Jolla and Barbara Levy of Federal Way, Washington.
"We're looking at beauty through a wider, more inclusive lens, going beyond the
traditions that measure a woman's value by her physical appearance."
The Real Women Project
is calling attention to the staggering numbers of women and girls who are literally
dying to be thin. Close to 10 million people in America have a serious eating
disorder; 95 percent are women. More than 1,000 women die each year from anorexia,
while bulimia's victims go largely unreported. Research shows that exposure to
idealized images in fashion magazines produces depression, shame, guilt, body
dissatisfaction and stress.
Fighting fire with fire,
the three visionaries are using the tools of the media to get the message across.
They commissioned local sculptor T.J. Dixon to produce 13 bronze sculptures of
women of diverse cultures, sizes and ages. The artworks are part of "The Changing
Face of Women's Health," a five-year traveling exhibit for the National Health
Sciences Consortium that will be seen by 6 million viewers. Qualcomm also purchased
a set of the sculptures for display and educational programs at the Scripps Center
for Women's Health in La Jolla.
Several local artists
have joined the cause, producing music and storytelling CDs, a videotape and an
anthology of stories on the Real Women Web site. Presenters are leading multisensory
workshops locally and around the country, using imagery, song and story to help
women expand their belief systems about beauty and achieve a healthy level of
"The best foundation
for a healthy mind, body and spirit is self-love," says co-founder Donna Brooks.
"If we're going to create an epidemic of health, that's where we have to start."
For more information,
please contact the Real Women Project.