Promoting body diversity and dismantling diet culture in stressful times
As students scroll their way through social media posts, with fewer real-life socializing opportunities to provide a reality check due to the pandemic, unrealistic female bodies and impossible beauty standards can be more damaging than ever before.
Thanks to an innovative partnership, however, Branksome Peer Support leadership team, comprised of 62 Grades 10 and 11 students, is teaming up with the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) for a facilitated training session on January 21. In turn, the student leaders will be better positioned to discuss and role-model helpful skills for our Grades 7 and 8 students when they meet in their ongoing peer-to-peer support Circles throughout the term.
“This session is a start to making our community a more open and supporting one,” says Grade 11 student Naz Mutlu, who proposed the initiative, working alongside Lead Social Worker Joelle Therriault, Learning Strategies Coordinator Caley Blyth and Faculty Head of Peer Support Kalista Clement.
“The goal is to start a conversation around diet culture and body image with older students in Grades 10 through 12, and switch their perspectives on how they view themselves and their eating habits,” says Mutlu. “[In turn] we are hoping for them to lead sessions with younger students, as the positive role models they can look up to.”
The session will be hosted on Zoom by Aryel Maharaj, NEDIC's Outreach & Education Coordinator, who has partnered with Branksome in the past to facilitate learning for parents and employees on dismantling diet culture and cultivating body positivity.
“My hope for this workshop is that students will come away from it with an intention to be kinder to themselves,” says Clement, “reflecting on their learning about how weight is not an effective gauge of health; health is much more multifaceted.”
Especially in times of virtual learning, where in-person connection isn’t possible, it will be invaluable for the student leaders to be empowered to help peers with problems that can be difficult to talk about at home or with issues they have been struggling with alone, says Mutlu.
“Even though we started the partnership with NEDIC while on campus, we’re not losing sight of this ongoing need,” says Therriault. “We know routines are disrupted in this unique time and there are different stresses. One way to [mitigate them is to] promote acceptance of body diversity, and a healthy relationship with one’s self and body.”