New program confronts issues of unrealistic body ideals among women

Angel Rosas, News Editor

In the next academic year several academic departments along with student health, wellness, and counseling will be starting the Body Project.

The project will be tackling issues of unrealistic body and beauty ideals that pervade in media and in society.

The project’s main goal is to confront these ideals and promote healthy body image and body acceptance.

The Body Project’s website said that it, “has been supported by more research than any other eating disorder prevention program, with participants showing a 60% reduction in eating disorder onset over three years.”

The program has shown to improve body satisfaction and acceptance among college students.

Linfield psychology professor Tanya Tompkins has been working to bring Body Project to campus. Tompkins has been aware of the program since it was first released and has had her students in psychology seminar classes analyze the work for about a decade.

The idea of bringing the program to Linfield was inspired by Tompkins’ students in her seminar and intro to abnormal psychology courses.

One of those students was senior Veronica Horton who created a brief workshop using the Body Project facilitator guide and delivered it to her sorority sisters.

“Nearly every year in my seminar (and intro to abnormal class) as we discuss the relative neglect in the field of investing in prevention (and prevention science), one or more students raises the question about whether we couldn’t do more to prevent mental health problems in our own community,”  Tompkins said.

With the growing interest from students Tompkins said she saw it as a good time to think about the feasibility of bringing the program to Linfield.

In the early summer Tompkins met with Dean of Students Susan Hopp and the Director of student health, counciling, and wellness Patricia Haddeland to discussed how they could make the program work.

They agreed  to make the positions of  peer-leaders into an internship-based model across a range of departments that would split the cost of facilitating the program.

With the green light Tompkins contacted the Body Project group to bring them to campus and train faculty and staff supervisors.

Tompkins said, “we learned that the Oregon Research Institute/Body Project was actually conducting an National Institute of Health study to evaluate the peer-led version of The Body Project and, if we wanted to participate, we could receive the training for free!”

This August Tompkins, professor Dr. Amy Orr of sociology & anthropology, professor Janet Peterson of HHPA and counselor Natalie Bowker will complete the “Train the Trainer” training and will be the supervisors of the program at Linfield.

Since Tompkins does research on body image issues and teaches subjects of eating disorders in classes she can see the negative impacts of body dissatisfaction like low self esteem, dieting/weight-loss/weight-gain cycles, cognitive resources devoted to body surveillance and other many others.

She went on to say that even people who don’t suffer from an eating disorder tend to overvalue body shape/size.

“We are really excited to bring something that may reduce eating disorder symptoms, prevent onset of eating disorder in those at high risk, and generate opportunities for improving body image in all women who participate especially given the death of resources available to treat eating disorder in the Willamette Valley,” Tompkins said.