The Body Project, a national program that focuses on women’s body acceptance, has been changing women’s lives for a decade on many college campuses across the country. Now, it is coming to McDaniel College to raise awareness about the individual and societal issues around having the “ideal body.” This is the first time McDaniel College has implemented this type of program on campus.
According to Heidi Huber, counselor at the McDaniel Wellness Center and head of The Body Project at McDaniel, the American culture is constantly influenced by an ideal of beauty, having blonde hair and blue eyes.
“We want women to challenge that ideal,” says Huber.
The Body Project practices “cognitive dissonance,” which means that participants will challenge the “ideal body” by speaking about and bonding over their experiences with their own bodies. In this club, the women will also be doing other fun activities like crafts and meditating. It is important to note that this program was specifically designed for women, but other programs for men, athletes, and people who identify as LGBT are also currently being developed.
“It is a body acceptance project that has been used for women, to improve women’s feelings about their body and to prevent eating disorders,” said Huber. “The goal of the Body Project is to have women talk about their feelings about this. We are going to point out who benefits from it, like fashion industries, because they keep people unsatisfied with their bodies.”
Huber also wants women to learn how to balance their life, which means that they can be healthy without becoming obsessive. Huber states that putting too much energy into how your body looks can get in the way of your own individuality.
According to Huber, this program was first run by licensed counselors, but the the founders then decided that it could be better to have other students run the program so that everyone could feel related to each other. These students are known as “peer educators.” Their task is to help start the conversation about these issues by sharing their experiences with the group and providing skills to the participants involved.
The program recently hosted a “peer educator training and retreat,” in which students spent a weekend learning to facilitate these group experiences while creating bonds with each other.
Senior Emma Hankins is one of many students training to become a peer educator. She became involved with the program last February and last weekend she finished the peer instructor’s training to finally launch the program this year.
“Heidi and I attended the two day training at Shepard Pratt’s center for eating disorders. After two long days, [I was] officially a peer educator for the program,” stated Hankins.
Hankins and many other students at McDaniel College will be guiding the groups this year. These groups will be small so that participants feel comfortable and everyone has to opportunity to talk about their experiences.
This program wants to promote “a campus free of negativity about people’s bodies,” says Huber.
Huber also explained what beauty means to her: “Beauty is the marriage of feeling comfortable with your physical self, taking care of your body, being healthy, and loving yourself.”
In addition to the group sessions, the Body Project will also be in charge of hosting events open to the public to let the word out about body issues.
The Body Project will be ready soon, so check the campus announcement for news.
If you have any other questions about this program, feel free to contact Heidi Huber at firstname.lastname@example.org.