Peer Body Project to help students accept their body image

Brooke Cobb, Campus Carrier staff writer

The Peer Educators and the Women’s and Gender Studies Department joined together and held a viewing of the film “Straight/Curve” Wednesday night. This film brings light to the issue of body image and how the fashion and media industries shape perceptions of it. The screening was followed with a discussion and Q&A led by Susan Conradsen, director of women’s studies and signature experience program. 

“I think body image is affected by so many things,” senior Peer Educator Callie Whitesell said. “The fashion and media industry are a little different in that they make a profit off of it. I think that is a good place to start looking at that and thinking about how it affects our society now.” 

This event goes hand in hand with the Peer Body Project that the Peer Educators have been conducting for over a year now. The Peer Body Project was created by the Oregon Research Institute. The research institute trains peer educators at schools to lead groups of females focused around the topic of body image and body positivity. 

The project includes discussion groups that aim to reduce body dissatisfaction, negative mood and unhealthy dieting and prevent eating disorders. The discussion groups are small in size and are made up of female students. Before being in groups, participants take a survey that asks about body dissatisfaction, exercise and eating. The groups meet four times during the semester, for about an hour each time, and discuss topics such as body image. 

“Each meeting has a different purpose, but the point is to talk with other girls about what society tells us we are supposed to look like and realize that is not actually important,” former participant senior Gabby Sola said. “Then you go and you have to do an activity every night after your meeting.” 

Group discussions are meant to help participants realize where their outlook on body image came from and how they can turn it into a positive view. 

“It is one thing to learn about body image and to try and go through it yourself, but it is just really helpful to have that discussion and community through it,” Whitesell said. 

The project involves discussing ways in which individuals can change the culture moving forward and how other women can be positively impacted. It is intended to have a positive outcome for participants and the way they view themselves. 

“I think it has just helped me rethink the way that I see myself and other people in terms of physical appearance,” Sola said. “The only person that can determine how you want to feel about your body is yourself. It is not up to anybody else but you.” 

Senior participant Diamond Newsome explains that this experience will likely be recommended to others because of what it can offer to students. 

“This project is incredible for a few reasons,” senior participant Diamond Newsome said. “One, you get to discuss a topic openly and vulnerably that you normally wouldn’t. Two, you are with a small group of girls who share a similar struggle. This breaks down barriers before even walking in the room. Third, you get to create a little support system that is kind and safe.” 

The Peer Body Project will continue at Berry next semester. To be a part of the project here at Berry, keep an eye out for emails regarding the program. Information is also posted on the Peer Educators Instagram @berrypeereds. 

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