Peer Educators launch new body image initiative

Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier Staff Writer

In the coming weeks, the Peer Educators will be implementing a new program on campus dealing with body image issues. The program will be run in conjunction with the Oregon Research Institute (ORI) and their research on preventing eating disorders. The ORI reached out to the Peer Educators, extending an invitation to implement their Body Project program on Berry’s campus.

“We thought this would be beneficial for campus, but also, the literature they have produced so far shows that it has been effective over the past 18 years,” senior Trent Griner, a Peer Educator, said. “We were offered to be involved with an effective tool to offer the campus, and that’s why it’s here.”

This program, known at Berry as the Peer Body Project, will teach women how to overcome cultural norms and accept their own bodies. It allows a group of eight to ten female students to participate in a four-session program that facilitates conversation concerning issues they struggle with related to body image. The ORI has provided the Peer Educators with a script, which they will use during the individual sessions. Sessions include writing components, role-play activities, and guided discussions.

All of the Peer Educators were taught how to run the project in an intensive two day training program, led by members of the ORI. It’s purely peer-led, there will not be any counselors or faculty and staff in the sessions at any given time.

This semester, the Peer Educators are going to be focused on integrating previously established groups into the program. The first Peer Body Project session will be next week, and the Lettie Pate Whitehead leadership team will be the first group to go through it. Assuming all goes well, the program will be applied to all Lettie Pate scholars next semester.

As the program grows, the Peer Educators hope to open it to both groups and individuals.

“The end goal is to have it open to anyone who’s interested,” senior Peer Educator Sarah Andrews said. “They would contact us and we would put a group together and have sessions going.”

The Peer Educators aim to have this program help start conversations.

“We’re a prevention program, but we’ve found the best way to go about that is by starting conversations about stuff that’s hard, that can lead to more intense issues,” Andrews said. “I think the ultimate goal of this is to get people talking about body image and how that affects them, so maybe we can have those conversations before serious eating disorders develop.”

Griner hopes the programs curriculum will give girls practical skills on addressing social norms on body image, which will lead to more conversations and positive results.

“We’re hoping that in the long run this could reduce the occurrence of eating disorders on campus.”

The Peer Educator program at Berry was founded about 30 years ago in order to help prevent alcohol and substance abuse. Since then it has expanded, now also covering problems like stress, nutrition, mental health, relationships, sleep, etc. The program tries to cover a wide variety of issues students will come into contact with while they are at Berry, promoting education and prevention.

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