New ‘The Body Project’ program empowers female students

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Women’s Services and Resources assistant director and sexual assault survivor advocate Jackie Nuñez brought The Body Project to BYU. The Body Project teaches girls how to combat body negativity. (Lindsey Bakes)

BYU Women’s Services and Resources implemented a new program in July called The Body Project.

The Body Project is a series of two-hour peer-led workshops that provide girls the tools to combat body negativity through various behavioral and mental exercises.

Jackie Nuñez, Women’s Services and Resources assistant director and sexual assault survivor advocate, found the program on social media and brought it to BYU.

“We want girls to be able to embrace all of the wonderful non-appearance-related aspects of themselves and others,” Nuñez said.

In the workshops, the participants are asked to sit in a circle and discuss various topics like what the ideal woman is and what it costs to pursue the ‘ideal appearance.’ Participants are invited to engage in positive self-image talk, utilizing cognitive dissonance to improve girls’ mindsets regarding their bodies. 

A popular activity in the workshops is the mirror exercise, where group members are asked to stand in front of a mirror and list at least 15 positive physical, mental, intellectual and social qualities about themselves. 

Nuñez’s own experience with body acceptance and non-appearance-related conversations is what led her to partner with The Body Project and introduce it to BYU. 

“I would be visiting family that I hadn’t seen in a while and the first comment might be about my appearance, whether I’ve gained or lost weight, rather than the fact that I’m just happy to be there and that I get to spend time with them,” Nuñez said.

When asked if they felt pressure to look a certain way at BYU, female students agreed there was a demand to present themselves in an appealing way to others.

“There’s definitely a pressure coming back to school at BYU. I went to SUU before I transferred here and no one cared at all what you wear there, but here it’s a different kind of culture,” BYU senior Sariah Nokes said.

Freshman Esme Schriver said she and her roommates have also felt that pressure. “I feel like there’s a divide, you can tell the difference between people who dress nice and people who don’t.”

All workshop leaders are part of the BYU Women’s Services and Resources staff and are required to go through training before leading any meetings. The first workshop was held over the summer, with six participants attending. 

The next set of workshops will be on Sept. 14 and 21, from 2-4 p.m. in the Wilkinson Student Center. The workshops are for female-identifying students only. 

According to Nuñez, Women’s Services have looked into a similar project for males called “More Than Muscles,” but have not implemented it yet due to low demand. 

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