UC Santa Barbara Health and Wellness recently hosted the Body Project, a weekly event aiming to gather research and help women feel comfortable in their bodies and navigate toxic beauty ideals. 

The sessions were held over four weeks from Feb. 2 to Feb. 24, with weekly sessions involving exercises, roleplays and discussions. 

The Body Project will continue again in the spring quarter, and organizers hope to have two groups again. Courtesy of the Department of Health and Wellness

The project has five goals: to define and explore the origins of the “appearance ideal,” examine the costs of pursuing the appeal, explore how to resist beauty standard pressures, challenge cultural pressure and body-related concerns for looking a certain way and learn new ways to speak positively about our bodies.

Micaela Gomez, third-year sociology student and health promotion intern at Health and Wellness, is a facilitator at the Body Project. Her intern position also has an emphasis on body image awareness and eating disorder prevention.

Gomez said that each of the sessions covered a different topic but shared an overall goal of increasing satisfaction with the participants’ body image. 

“For the first session, we go through and define the appearance ideal. We talk about its origin, and we talk about the costs associated with pursuing the appearance ideal,” Gomez said. 

Facilitators for the project were trained and selected at the beginning of the year. 

“We had a facilitator training where anybody who was interested in becoming a peer facilitator for the Body Project applied, and then we went through applications,” Gomez said. “We narrowed it down, and then we had the individuals that we selected come in and train to become peer leaders.” 

The Body Project will occur again in Spring Quarter 2022, and organizers hope to have two groups again. If students wish to participate, they must attend every session as the program builds off of each workshop, according to Gomez. 

“We have everybody start from the beginning. It’s not a ‘you can drop into one session or choose not to come to one session,’” Gomez said. “Since it’s a series, it’s kind of this buildup.”

Gomez said that she has appreciated seeing the diversity of the program’s participants and their varying relationships with body image.

“It’s really interesting to talk to so many women from so many different backgrounds in so many social locations about the pressures that they feel to conform or look a certain way,” Gomez said. “So it creates this really cool group environment where you’re like, ‘I’m struggling with this but this person is also struggling with something that’s similar. It doesn’t matter what you look like — everyone is affected by it.”’