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The Body Project aims to create acceptance, neutrality of appearance

The desire to achieve beauty and body standards, especially among youth and young adults, is driven by the diet and weight loss industry. Most standards also contradict one another and pull people in unhealthy directions. 

The Body Project, a program at Ohio University created to increase body acceptance and decrease the risks of disordered eating, is changing the ways students view and treat their bodies. According to the program’s website, “the definition of the perfect body changes radically over time and is often an unattainable ideal.” 

The diet and weight loss industry profits off of, and manufactures, unrealistic beauty and body standards. Also according to the Body Project, “diet and weight loss have grown to be a $71 billion industry,” but “95% of diets fail.” 

Members of the Body Project are fighting against diet culture and standards that promote changing people’s appearances in unhealthy ways. 

Paige Rossiter, the vice president of marketing at the Body Project, said the program stemmed from intervention groups where people can, still, attend discussions where beauty and body standards are broken down to discover their harm. 

“Our president last year, Lily, was a part of the intervention groups and loved it so much but wanted to create something separate,” Rossiter said. 

Rossiter, a junior studying human biology, also said she has been a peer educator for the intervention groups for two years. While educating others about body acceptance, Rossiter said she has learned a lot along the way. 

The intervention groups last for four weeks, Rossiter said, and help people openly discuss the effects of body and beauty standards on their own lives. 

“We just bring things up that can get personal, so it’s up to the person to decide how much they want to reveal about the situation,” Rossiter said. “But there’s different prompts about describing what the perfect person should look like and then realizing how silly all of those perfect things need to be.”  

Similarly, the Body Project seeks to make people feel less alone when struggling with negative body image and their relationship with food. Kana Wisniewski, a junior studying biology and the president of the Body Project, said when she came to OU as a freshman, she was concerned about what the transition to college would mean for her in terms of food and eating. 

“I always say this, like the mental trick about mental health or the trick about disordered eating is that it makes you feel alone,” Wisniewski said. “And to come together with people and realize that you’re not the only one going through that; It’s so empowering.” 

When the Body Project meets, every other Thursday at 6:00 p.m. in Tupper 104, there are different activities people can participate in such as drawing and painting. 

“The kind of point of this whole thing is just conversation and just taking time (and) dedicating time out of a busy schedule to really sit down, breathe and focus,” Rossiter said. 

Regan Magee, a junior studying chemical engineering and the vice president of self care at the Body Project, said last year the organization had a meeting where people wrote on a board what beauty and body standards they’ve been told are ideal. 

“And then we discussed how unrealistic that is and how it’s so unhealthy so I just feel like having a discussion about these things that society tells us is a big part of this,” Magee said. 

The program focuses on body neutrality and acceptance rather than body positivity, Rossiter said. There also isn’t an emphasis on progress made among members of the club because how people view their appearance isn’t the same each day. 

“Something that we went over the first week is that body positivity and body neutrality are very different things and there can be toxic positivity, too,” Rossiter said. “So just really understanding that you will have bad days and it’s okay to just get to a point where (with) your body where you just accept it because of what it does for you functionally.”

The Body Project is welcome to anyone. People who are interested in learning more about intervention groups and the Body Project can reach out to Wisniewski @kw110919. 

“It’s nice to just take a second and draw a picture and just talk about things with people you don’t see every day,” Rossiter said. “I think that’s another important part of this club.” 


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