Ever since Cait O’Connor, an undeclared first year student, was seven she has struggled with a Binge Eating Disorder. Food was her friend for a long time and she has finally been doing something to break the cycle.
“Through healthy eating, monitoring my food intake, and regular but not excessive exercise, I’ve managed to find a happy medium and have begun the process of being happy with my body,” O’Connor said.
Now in her first year in college, O’Connor has started the Body Peace Project on campus to help others, like her, talk about their body image.
The Body Peace Project meets weekly and discusses accepting your body. The club welcomes anyone who is having trouble with their body or anyone who is happy with their body.
According to O’Connor, body hatred leads to so many different things, internally and externally.
“It can bring on suicidal thoughts and feelings, the constant idea that you’ll never be good enough,” O’Connor said.
The purpose of the club is to have students air out their feelings in a safe environment with no judgment.
Roslie Murray, an undeclared first year student, runs the club with O’Connor.
“Cait planted the idea of the Body Peace Project in my head and I decided I really wanted to help her with it,” Murray said. “To me, learning how to ignore the toxic ideas about how bodies should look is something very important.”
O’Connor is happy to have a partner for the club.
“With Body Peace Project, I’ve met a great co-chairperson, who is one of my best friends,” O’Connor said. “She teaches me ways to stay positive.”
The club is designed as a discussion panel, meaning the people who attend sit around a table to talk about how they feel. O’Connor and Murray are at the head of the table, but there is no hierarchy. They do not see themselves as president and vice president.
On a recent Tuesday, the club had a good turnout. The room was full of first year students, even though it is open to all students, who are either content with their bodies or have body image issues. The club members started introducing themselves and saying one thing they liked about themselves.
“I like my hair,” Murray said.
Murray read a poem called “Attitude” by Charles Swindoll. The members interpreted the poem and said what it meant to them.
According to Murray, body acceptance is a journey and we wanted to give students a chance to experience it.
“The club is about providing a safe space for students to talk about their insecurities and give helpful tips about achieving body peace,” Murray said.
During the meeting the club members also discussed a quote. “Though I may not be happy with who I am yet my focus is to get there.”
According to O’Connor the quote meant that she is in a place where she is uncertain about how she feels about herself. She feels that getting there is a journey and she will accomplish that.
Some people who attended the meeting have already reached their goal of the quote.
“I’m happy with who I am and that is only because I had a positive attitude,” Trish Backman, an undeclared first year student, said. “I learned that in high school being negative will never get me anywhere, so I face every day with a smile,” Backman said.
Murray hopes this club will help people understand that their bodies aren’t equal to their self worth.
“Everybody is different and there is no such thing as a perfect body,” Murray said.
Alen Quints, an undeclared first year student, was one of the two young-men who attended the meeting. Quints talked to O’Connor about starting a gender mixed club on campus.
“I looked at the New Paltz clubs and I saw female only body positivity club,” Quints said. “And I looked at Cait and said why don’t we have one that incorporates everyone no matter what their gender is.”
The club that Qunits was referring to was the Feminist Collective, which is for for feminists or people interested in feminism.
The Body Peace Project has a Tumblr account and they want their members and anyone who has body image issues to write their stories on the website. Stories can also be positive ones on how they overcame their issues. This will let people know that they are not alone in dealing with body image issues.
“Hearing other peoples’ stories helps me, too,” O’Connor said. I’ve had to slow down and learn that confidence is a process and nobody’s perfect.”
“When you hate your body, you fail to see what you’re truly capable of,” O’Connor said. “I know that that’s something I’ve struggled with pretty much my whole life, because I was always told that I would never be good enough to accomplish anything.”
“Some days suck and some days don’t, but don’t let the sucky days kill you just move on,” Backman said. “It’s gonna get better, so why let it drag you down.”
The club meets every Tuesday at 4:30. They do not have a set room yet, but check back with The Little Rebellion to see where the meetings will take place.