As of 2019, at least 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the United States, according to a journal written by Dr. James I. Hudson. The students in the Cal Poly Body Project want to make sure students have a place to talk about it.
The Body Project is a national organization created by researchers at Stanford University, the University of Texas at Austin and Oregon Research Institute. It is dedicated to fighting eating disorder risk factors and eating disordered behaviors, as well as changing the perception of the “societal appearance-ideal,” according to The Body Project.
The program consists of two two-hour-long workshops that aim to teach students how to confront and overcome unrealistic body ideals and then train them to run the workshops themselves.
In 2016, Cal Poly counselors and students were prompted to bring this program to Cal Poly.
However, the original structure of the workshop proved to be too demanding for students, according to club social media manager Emma Norland.
“There were literally three girls and me,” Norland said. “By the second workshop, no one was there.”
“The material and activities were backed by research and very engaging, but unfortunately, it was hard for people to want to commit to two sessions, a week apart and sometimes on Fridays,” current president of the club Anna Hempill said.
Still, the girls were inspired and committed to spread body positivity throughout the campus.
“Our campus is super serious about body image,” Norland said.
Hemphill added that being a part of the project made her realize “how much of an issue body image is on our campus given the fitness stereotypes Cal Poly embodies.”
While the workshops were informative, Norland said she found the structure of a club more helpful. She said being a part of a like-minded group of people made the most substantial difference in her life.
“The only things that really had an impact — out of all the articles I read, out of everything I did on my own, after all of the things I tried — it was just being in a room with girls who also had experienced it,” Norland said.
Norland and the other founders said they hope to share this experience across the campus, but in a space that would be “way more laid back” than the structured workshops from the national organization.
According to Body Project Coordinator Amelia Rodriguez, they decided, “Let’s not train a whole new group of students, let’s just be a student club.”
The club’s goal is to create a space or presence for students that are interested in the idea of body diversity and inclusion for everybody.
“Whether that’s skin color or size or shape, having a place for students that are like-minded or interested in that to come together,” Rodriguez said.
The Body Project’s most effective tool in reaching people has been their social media page, @cpbodyproject on Instagram. It has accumulated more than 300 followers thus far.
One of the hopes in this exhibition is to challenge “a lot of narrow views of what is considered acceptable or attractive on social media,” Rodriguez said.
Their posts range anywhere from uplifting messages to art and obscure images and bios about the officers of the club. Each one contains empowering and progressive messages.
Speaking to the future, Hempill said, “We would love to see the community aspect grow through social media [and have] more regular meetings, and we are working on a big event to engage both the campus and wider San Luis Obispo community.”
All information about club meetings and future events can be accessed through the Body Project social media.