Body Project helps students with body image, eating disorders

(Photo illustration by Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

Promoting positive body images for men and women to reduce the risk of eating disorders in college students is the stated goal for the Body Project, a program implemented at Kansas State this year.

The Body Project Collaborative is a nationally recognized program that is intended to help reduce body dissatisfaction in college students, which is a risk factor for developing eating disorders.

This year, the Body Project featured two sessions that consisted of discussions, activities and exercises led by peer leaders.

The sessions were intended to be a place for discussing concerns about body image and showing participants that they are not alone. All discussions were confidential and groups were limited to 10 people to help participants be comfortable.

After this semester, the Body Project will be undergoing some changes to enhance the program.

Dianna Schalles, coordinator of nutrition counseling and co-chair of the Body Project, said there is research proving that the program reduces bodily dissatisfaction in its participants.

“However, our greatest challenge has been getting students to follow through and show up for workshops once they sign up,” Schalles said.

After bringing this to the national coordinators’ attention, the campus organization is now looking into moving the program toward less time-intensive workshops that will still deliver benefits.

Schalles said she would also like to expand the program to benefit as many students as possible. Since college students are most at-risk for developing eating disorders, Schalles said the Body Project is very important to her.

“Having a nationally acclaimed, evidence-based program such as the Body Project on campus to assist our students is something that needs to be offered at K-State,” Schalles said. “For thousands of college students, the daily struggle with the mirror or the scale can heighten feelings of depression, isolation and low self-esteem. This can increase the likelihood of developing an eating disorder.”

Richelle Dadian, psychology intern for the Counseling Services and peer leader for the Body Project, said eating disorders can be detrimental to a student’s health and relationships.

“My biggest piece of advice for those struggling with body image is to use self-compassion,” Dadian said. “We already have a hard time with all the negative messages we get, so it’s important to be positive with ourselves.”

Kate Bowen, senior in kinesiology and Body Project peer leader, said body image issues are common among young adults, especially with the amount of media they consume daily.

“Body positivity issues and dangerous cultural standards of beauty or attractiveness are something I feel very strongly about,” Bowen said. “I have personally experienced these pressures and I want to empower and equip women and men to fight these societal influences and remind them to love their unique bodies.”

If you or anyone you know is struggling with their body image or an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at 800-931-2237 or K-State Counseling Services at 785-532-6927.