Students battle body expectations with the Body Project

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Across social media, television, magazines and even friends and family, students are constantly bombarded by body image expectations.

The Wildcat Wellness Coalition — a group consisting of Lafene Health Center, Counseling Services and the Peters Recreation Complex — has helped students combat eating disorders and body image dissatisfaction by implementing the nationally acclaimed body acceptance program, the Body Project.

The first session of the spring Body Project workshop took place Sunday evening. Three students gathered at the K-State Student Union along with Body Project peer leaders who facilitated interactive discussions, personal reflections and other activities, such as writing a letter to a young girl.

The Body Project first came to campus in the fall of 2015 when Dianna Schalles, dietitian at Lafene Health Center and co-chair for the K-State Eating Disorders Team, became aware of the national Body Project training.

“An increasing number of college-aged students are experimenting with unhealthy diets and developing body dissatisfaction,” Schalles said.

Schalles said she hopes the program will be preventative and educational for students who struggle with body image. The program is also intended for students who are interested in how culture affects the way individuals view themselves and others.

As part of the program, participants attend a two-hour workshop. The first introductory session gives participants the tools they need to start making small adjustments in their daily lives.

Encouraged by peer leaders, participants accept small challenges to try during the week between sessions. These challenges include looking at the mirror less frequently, talking positively about their bodies and resisting the urge to compare themselves to those on television or social media.

“We underestimate the power of social media and Hollywood,” said Melissa Miller, counselor at Counseling Services and Body Project peer liaison, “We are constantly told how to look, and the Body Project helps students to take a step back and look at why we all struggle with body image.”

The second session expands the skills the students put into practice throughout the week.

The workshop’s peer leaders play a vital role in facilitating sessions. The peer leaders are selected from groups including the WellCAT Ambassadors, Recreation Trainers and the Peer Advocates for Mental Wellness and Success.

As part of the training for the workshop, peer leaders undergo 16 hours of training over the course of two days to ensure the success of the workshop and its participants.

“Going through the training was such an eye-opener for me,” said Bradyn Nicholson, senior in kinesiology and Body Project peer leader. “I want to help others realize that it’s not about having the perfect body, it’s about being healthy.”

The Body Project was designed in 2012 by Carolyn Becker, professor of psychology at Trinity University in San Antonio, and Eric Stice, senior research scientist at Oregon Research Institute. The project incorporates research that Becker and Stice have found and puts it into a script that peer leaders follow as they facilitate the workshops.

The Body Project has been used by over 140 college campuses. Over 3.5 million girls and young women in 25 countries have participated in the program, according to the Body Project’s website.

“By attending a workshop, you are sure to walk away with a new outlook on things,” said Megan Maransani, assistant director at Recreation Services and Body Project peer liaison.

The Body Project will have sessions for its second workshop on March 5 and 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. The third workshop will be held in two sessions on April 2 and 9 from 7 to 9 p.m.

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