The Owl’s Care Body Project is a celebration of positivity and acceptance

The Body Project are virtual sessions for students to learn how to combat unrealistic body ideals.


Image courtesy of Owls Care Health Promotion.

Darlene Antoine, Features Editor

The Body Project teaches FAU students all about self-love and acceptance. Established by the department of Owls Care Health Promotion, the Body Project is a space for acceptance, body positivity, and even activism.

The Body Project is a discussion guided by the Owls Care Promotion peer facilitators. Nimisha Rajendran, Andre Betancur, Jordan Golden, Peyton Henry, Madison Hecker, Mitzy Sosa, Tessa Moody, Naheelah Wallace, and Melanie Sanders are the peer facilitators leading the virtual student discussions.

The participants of the project have used Zoom to have their discussions on body positivity, health and wellness, and self-acceptance due to the challenges of the pandemic. Students have time to discuss their own experiences with their triumphs and challenges with body positivity as they can share their thoughts, ask questions, and learn in a safe and inclusive environment.

“When students talk to us about the program, it’s overwhelmingly positive. I’ve had a lot of students tell me that it was really freeing to talk about body image in a safe space and hear stories from other students as well,” Rajendran said. “I’ve come out of the project with a lot more friends as well, sharing these experiences builds a sense of camaraderie. And as a facilitator, I’ve managed to learn something from all of the students, and I really believe that the students learn a lot from each other as well.”

Assistant Director of Operations (Healthy Lifestyle) & Registered Dietitian Kristina Bergman and Emotional and Mental Wellness Coordinator Cherilyn Bean established the project at the end of Spring 2019. Dr. Eric Stice and Dr. Carolyn Black Becker were the original creators of the program, whose team trained the two in the program. The Body Project continued to grow as they brought in six students to support the facilitation of the program at FAU.

“It is important for students to go through this program because problems with our body image can have such widespread effects. When we are spending most of our time counting calories, body checking, or excessively exercising, that leaves little time for studying, getting involved in student organizations, or focusing on career goals. If we can work on accepting ourselves, then that authenticity can spill over into other areas of our lives,” said Bean.

With the support of the Owls Care team, the Women and Gender Equity Resource Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, Campus Recreation, Student Health Services, and Sorority and Fraternity Life the project came to life in the Fall of 2019 and has continued since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Body Project isn’t just a space for discussion but also learning as the students utilize worksheets where the group works together. It is split up into two sessions held one week apart (each session is two and half hours) and participants do a couple of activities on their own in the interim, then come back to share at the second session.

During the sessions, students are able to learn from credible resources, such as the Licensed Registered Dietitian at Student Health Services, and find new ways to ways to challenge unhealthy appearance ideals in conversation and during self-talk.

“This paves the way for establishing realistic behavior-based health goals, such as eating and moving throughout the day and getting enough sleep. When students learn to tune out the “noise” of unhealthy standards perpetuated by the media, they can focus on what truly matters to their health and wellbeing,” Bergman said.

While the number of participants has changed since the pandemic from 8-10 students in-person, the project manages about five students per virtual session who are all excited to join the conversation.

During the discussions, students find they can relate to the shared experiences of others on the topic of body image. The discussions create a sense of comfort and reinforce the notions that these problems aren’t singular, and has impacts that everyone has to deal with the issue of negative body image due to impossible societal standards

“I think the discussions we have during the class reinforce the idea that these issues are universal. We’ve all had an annoying family member try to tell us about what our body should look like, or a movie we’ve seen where fat people are demonized or used as comedic relief,” Rajendran explained. “It’s a prevalent problem in popular culture and society, so everyone has these experiences. Sharing these experiences builds a sort of communion among the students.”

While the project is aimed at FAU students, the principle can be applied to a variety of settings. The work of the project goes beyond FAU, as it has helped students set realistic, behavior-based health goals instead of appearance-based goals.

“Students may come in thinking the “lose weight fast” advertising mantra of many pseudo-health, fitness, and wellness companies and influencers is an appropriate health goal, but after the Body Project, they recognize it for what it is: a destructive and lucrative marketing ploy,” Bergman said. “They learn that 100% of the images we see, especially in those ads, are edited, which can fuel unrealistic body standards and associated unhealthy behaviors, such as dieting and compulsive exercise.”

When asked how The Body Project has increased positivity awareness among students and amplifies empowerment Bean explained that the program is a space for everyone to feel validated and understood.

“It has had such an impact in acceptance, positivity, and activism. Sometimes we can’t always be in a place where we love our bodies, but maybe we can get to a place where we accept our bodies and are more neutral. The Body Project allows space for anyone on the spectrum of looking for neutrality to positivity,” said Bean.

To find more information about The Body Project and the classes offered this semester, students can visit, or they can send an email with any questions and queries at [email protected].

Darlene Antoine is the Features Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email her at [email protected]