CSU Body Project combats ‘ideal beauty standard’


Collegian | Garrett Mogel

The Colorado State University Health and Medical Center located on the corner of West Prospect Road and College Avenue in Fort Collins April, 11.

DJ Vicente, Staff Reporter

The Body Project, a group-based intervention and support program for people struggling with body image, was held April 11 at Colorado State University’s Health and Medical Center.

Hosted by the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center, The Body Project, now two years running and organized by former Associated Students of CSU Director of Health Alejandra Quesada-Stoner, aims to not only act as a forum for college-aged women to address harmful appearance ideologies but also provide discussion and exercises in order to promote healthy body image habits.


“My friends and I have struggled with body image and how we feel about ourselves and our self-esteem,” Quesada-Stoner said. “Originally when I started as the director of health for ASCSU, I was looking for something that was along the realm of helping improve body image while also having that sustainability component of, ‘Will this last after I graduate (and) after I’m gone?’”

Quesada-Stoner mentioned her struggles with a negative body image as well as an eating disorder. She also delved into the work done by the National Eating Disorders Association, which originally created The Body Project and helped train Quesada-Stoner and other peer leaders.

NEDA offers college facilitator training, outlining options for training and the guiding questions provided by NEDA for distributing The Body Project to campuses.

Workshops for The Body Project are broken down into two sessions with both sessions addressing the existence of the “ideal beauty standard” in the Western world and the harm put on young women as a result, Quesada-Stoner said.

The first session of the workshop is spent focusing on addressing the “appearance ideal” with participants, an ideology of the ideal woman’s appearance created by societal pressure and norms and pushed onto young women by familial, social and professional influence.

In the session held Tuesday, ran by peer leaders Kylee Weis, Ellie Schroeder and Dane Roesler, participants addressed the aforementioned factors and shared experiences that negatively affected their body image throughout their life.

The session also analyzed ways to resist against the “appearance ideal,” promoting healthy body image habits and ideals for young women to practice. One exercise, known as the mirror exercise, aims to promote healthier thinking about one’s own body beyond just appearance, Quesada-Stoner said.

“I feel a really good example of that (practice) would be not necessarily focusing on what your body looks like but what your body does,” Quesada-Stoner said.

The first session also sends home participants with exercises that challenge both behavioral body image issues and exercises designed to address psychological issues that result in a negative body image. These include the mirror exercise and a letter to a younger girl.

“The letter to a younger girl helps you reflect on any toxic mindsets you had in the past,” Quesada-Stoner said. “The mirror exercise asks participants to look at themselves in the mirror, typically with as little clothing as possible, and point out positive qualities about themselves.”


“I feel like, in a way, we need to … show people here on campus that it’s okay to talk about our bodies in a positive way, and that goes for anyone, not just women.” -Alejandra Quesada-Stoner, organizer for The Body Project and former ASCSU director of health

The second session of the workshop focuses on debriefing participants’ experiences with the exercises done over the week from the first session, including asking questions on how participants felt with the exercises and what they learned.

The second session also focuses on body activism, which promotes healthier beauty standards by asking participants to recognize how to avoid body image concerns and work on self-affirmation.

Sreeya Kairamkonda, one of The Body Project peer leaders, recommends participants attend the second workshop.

“It’s strongly recommended,” Kairamkonda said. “We find that people get the most when they attend both sessions. … I think most people have gone to both.”

Kairamkonda and Quesada-Stoner also explained the significance of The Body Project not only to themselves but also to young women, especially those who are college aged and struggling with body image problems.

“Body image and talking about bodies in a constructive way, especially identifying as a woman, is such a stigmatized topic,” Quesada-Stoner said. “I feel like, in a way, we need to reclaim that and show people here on campus that it’s okay to talk about our bodies in a positive way, and that goes for anyone, not just women.”

“It’s also hard to figure out how to unlearn all the stuff that you learned, and I think The Body Project is a really good opportunity to do that,” Kairamkonda said.

The second session of the workshop will be held 5-7 p.m. April 18 at the KRNC. Registration for future sessions are on the KRNC website.

Reach DJ Vicente at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @DeejMako.