Photo by Jennifer Harriger
Pepperdine University’s peer-led Body Project program recently completed its focus group series on Nov. 10. Due to the overwhelming interest, the program plans to have two extra sessions before the end of the semester on Nov. 16 and Nov. 23.
“The goal of the program is to educate females about the thin ideal in our society and dangers associated with investment in that ideal, to enable them to challenge the thin ideal in their own lives and to empower them to act as advocates for body acceptance on campus and in their communities,” Associate Professor of Psychology Jennifer Harriger said.
Given that body type is a part of genetics, most women don’t fit the “ideal” image and are faced with constant reminders of this reality. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, these reminders begin to contribute to life-threatening problems such as unhealthy dieting, anorexia, bulimia, low self-esteem and depression. These issues are especially prevalent in young adults.
“When we spend time and energy feeling dissatisfied with our bodies, we are essentially buying into the [inaccurate] belief that appearance is more important than anything else,” Harriger, who is also the group’s coordinator, said. “We fail to recognize that the images we strive to mimic aren’t real; they are manipulated, edited and photoshopped to the point that they barely resemble the original model.”
Formed in 2012 by Carolyn Becker, The Body Project organization has been able to reach more than 200,000 college-aged women, according to the organization’s website.
Pepperdine’s branch of The Body Project allowed female students the opportunity to take part in peer-led focus groups that are aimed at helping young women feel better about their bodies, Harriger said. “Societal ideals for females have changed throughout history, so it’s likely that they will continue to change. The problem is that we just swap one ideal for another. It is my hope that we can continue to advocate for body acceptance; all bodies are beautiful regardless of shape and size,” Harriger said.
The program asked participants to attend two, two-hour peer-led focus group meetings that combat the ideal body mentality and promote positive body image on campus.
According to junior Peer Leader, Kelly Byram, they had a tremendous turn out.
“Between our four sessions, we had over 50 participants and have received a lot of positive feedback that the program has freed them from many body image concerns and has empowered them to start teaching others about the harms of conforming to societal pressures that fit the female standard of beauty,” Byram said.
According to senior Peer Leader Samantha Patella, these sessions are extremely interactive, where participants discuss the ideal body image and how it came to be.
“In the group we create a picture of what the ideal woman looks like,” Patella said. “Girls know all along that they don’t fit the mold, but when they see that their peers and role models don’t either, they truly give themselves permission to stop striving for it.”
The Body Project will be releasing a registration page for the Nov. 16 and Nov. 23 group session soon, Patella said.
Students can reach out to the Pepperdine Counseling Center by phone at (310) 506-4210, or email at nationaleatingdisorders.org for more information on the issue. Contact Jennifer Harriger at email@example.com for more information on the upcoming dates for the Body Project Spring 2016 sessions.
Follow Kelsey Blosser on Twitter: @kelseyblosser