In a world full of objectification, the Body Project aims to promote body acceptance

When Marisol Perez brought the Body Project to ASU, she didn’t realize how many people she and her peer leaders would impact. 

Now in full swing, the Body Project does more than just research and investigate body issues with college women; it’s healing them and increasing body positivity.

As assistant professor in the department of psychology, Perez said the Body Project, which began at ASU in 2014, is geared toward college freshman women living on campus. The program consists of an open dialogue about body acceptance and the image issues that may come with being a woman.

“One of the core issues for women is body dissatisfaction and it relates to both health and physical functioning”, Perez said. “The Body Project is a two hour and a two session program, and trains to bring women together and bring women together and talk about issues and promoting personal growth.”

Perez also has a team of student peer leaders behind her who are dedicated to the Body Project and mentoring fellow young women to have a healthier connection with their bodies. Perez said that working with the peer leaders has been one of her favorite parts of the project.

“I bond with them and they have great attitudes,” Perez said. "(The Body Project) is going in ways i have never imagined.”

Although the program has brought success to the ASU campus, Perez said there are many still goals that she still wants to meet during the duration of the Body Project.

“We want to get as many women through the program as much as we can and start the dialogue about the objectification of women,” Perez said. “We want to change the negative stereotype of women and make the community healthier.”

Clinical psychology doctoral student Tara Ohrt discovered the Body Project while interviewing for her grad program and decided to get involved with program — and she hasn’t looked back since.

“I really love watching how united these groups of women can become,” Ohrt wrote in an email. “I think most of the time we all assume that we're the only ones with body image concerns but getting a group like this together makes you realize that you are not alone and you don't have to fight back alone either — as a community we can help support each other and hold each other accountable for healthier living. It's empowering.”

Ohrt also highlighted a portion of the Body Project that has been the most rewarding to her: a homework assignment that the peer mentors complete. The assignment has had a positive impact on not only the people she helps, but a personal impact also.

“Another aspect of the body project that I've found rewarding involves one of the ‘homework assignments,' " Ohrt wrote. “Part of the program involves having each woman write a letter to a younger girl discussing the costs associated with trying to reach the thin-ideal."

“Not only is it really helpful in reinforcing some of the ideas we talk about in group, but then we actually collect the letters and send them to high school girls in the area,” Ohrt continued. “We've heard back from several schools letting us know what an impact the letters have had--some schools are even integrating them into new body positivity programs.”

Psychology senior Anne Mattson said that she discovered program while looking at graduate schools and connected with Perez to raise awareness for eating disorders and body image. Mattson said her involvement in the Body Project has been an experience that she is immensely grateful for.

“Definitely seeing young college women make connections with other women with the same problems is a great experience,” Mattson said. “To see a lot of the women come together and talk about their experience is extremely rewarding.”

Related Links:

Body Project spreads acceptance at ASU

An effort to body acceptance: The body project


Reach the reporter at sgreene6@asu.edu or follow @thesydneygreene on Twitter.

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