It started with a bang. It continued with a smash.
Members of the Carolina community, sledgehammers and baseball bats in hand, took turns walloping away at scales wrapped in garbage bags in The Pit on Wednesday, sending the weight-watching contraptions to the Scale SMASHing Graveyard — the place where those “perfect” numbers are finally laid to rest.
It was part of an event run by Southern Smash, a national non-profit organization that raises awareness about eating disorders and promotes positive body image.
“As someone who has been in eating disorder recovery for the majority of my time at Carolina, I love that McCall [Dempsey] has brought Southern Smash to UNC for an
other year,” said Ally Bardill, a student ambassador for the event. “Its message – to let go of the ‘perfect’ number, whether it be on the scale, on the treadmill or on your transcript – is one we all need to be reminded of sometimes.”
The organization was started in November, 2012 after Dempsey, its founder, recovered from a 15-year battle against an eating disorder. Throughout her struggle, Dempsey said she felt like a prisoner to her scale, and she wanted to find a way to reach out to others who were struggling, too.
“When I left, I just knew I wanted to pay it forward somehow,” she said.
After recovering at the Carolina House, an eating disorder treatment center with locations in Durham and Raleigh, Dempsey began sharing her story with groups across the country. She had also seen scale smashing used as a way to empower people to stop thinking about a “perfect” number in terms of weight.
Dempsey had frequently visited the Chapel Hill area while in treatment and fell in love with the Car
olina campus and community. She thought it would be a great place to hold a Southern Smash event and eventually worked with the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders and Carolina House to bring one to UNC-Chapel Hill for the first time last year.
During events, Dempsey provides some scales, which the Southern Smash ambassadors can decorate as they set up for the event. Participants who don’t bring their own scales c
an also write messages on pieces of paper that are placed next to the crushed contraptions.
“A lot of people don’t realize how prevalent eating disorders and disordered eating are,” said Courtney Sanders, a student Southern Smash Ambassador and the UNC Panhellenic Council representative for the event. “Everyone feels stressed out by appearance or grades or something, so this gives them a way to let goof that. It’s really relevant to everyone.”
Other empowering activities at the event included “Dare to Love Yourself” cards and the “BeYOUtiful” photo booth. Participants were also offered “Let it Go” balloons, to which they could attach a piece of a paper with their “perfect” number and let free into the sky.
Susanna Trotter, a student and visitor to the event, stopped by Southern Smash to write a note and attach it to a balloon. She said she’s learned to think beyond numbers on the scale when it comes to strength.
“I teach group fitness, but I’ve had a past where I’m constantly worried about what the scale says,” Trotter said. “As a group fitness instructor, I’ve seen how so many different sizes and weights can be so strong and powerful.”
After scales have been sent to the SMASHing Graveyard, they are donated to the Art Therapy Institute of NC where they can be re-purposed and transformed into creative works.
“The campus in general has been overwhelmingly supportive,” said Dempsey. “The students are amazing and enthusiastic, and it’s great to be back here.”