In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Mary Baldwin University community gathered in Francis Auditorium to hear speaker and author Shannon Cutts talk about “Beauty Undressed.” Mary VanNortwick, Mary Baldwin wellness dietitian, hosted the event with sponsorship support from several departments on campus.

Shannon Cutts, right, with Mary Baldwin resident assistant Myriell Tyler.

“Beauty Undressed” focused on women’s body image — and the effects of the media and culture on body image — including eating disorders, self-mutilation, and unhealthy relationship choices.

Cutts told the audience that her eating disorder began when she was in middle school after a falling out with her former best friend. In college, when she was at her lowest point, Cutts decided to figure out what she was passionate about, which allowed her to start the recovery process. At 26, she overcame her eating disorder.

“We get through, because we are living for something,” Cutts said. “Everybody has something — that something makes you stronger.”

One of the steps to her recovery was to surround herself with positive figures in her life — people, even pets, who can help build self-esteem. She also discovered things that made her feel better and accepted that not everyone looks the same. She shared three steps that she believes can help anyone overcome a challenge: accepting support, giving support, and becoming your own best friend.

“Everyone left with a message and they are in charge of the next step … spreading the message to other students,” VanNortwick said.

Cutts is has become an internationally known advocate for eating disorder recovery. She is executive director for Mentor CONNECT, the first global eating disorders mentoring community. The program has more than 3,700 mentors in 16 different countries. She is also the author of two books, Beating Ana: How to Outsmart Your Eating Disorder and Take Your Life Back.

In addition to the lecture, Cutts held a workshop with resident assistants at Mary Baldwin that can help them identify early expressions of poor body image and show support with a mentor network, which are foundational to her program.