Since 2016, Body Positive at The Beach has strived to empower students through group sessions on cultivating self-love, practicing self-care and building a supportive community.
The eight-week educational series was created in partnership with The Body Positive, a national non-profit organization dedicated to combating societal body standards and encouraging people to fully love themselves.
The series was brought to CSULB to address the large number of students with body image issues and eating disorders, according to Body Positive facilitator and Student Health educator Allison Insunza. A recent study of over 260,000 college students across the United States showed that the risk of eating disorders increased by 13 percentage points between 2013 and 2021.
“Body image disturbance can be a precursor to depression, anxiety and isolation, which all then impact one’s ability to have a good quality of life,” Insunza said.
Kinesiology Professor Kim Fox joined the program as a body positive facilitator last spring. As a previous gymnast who faced body image issues growing up, Fox said that she has carried these insecurities into adulthood.
“[Body image issues] don’t go away if you don’t deal with them,” said Fox. “To share these feelings with others and to realize you’re not the only one who thinks these things is pretty powerful.”
The series hosts two groups each semester, with facilitators who decide the meeting schedule based on the schedules of students interested in the program. The series has enrolled a total of 111 students, with about seven to 10 attendees each session.
“Our group was so wonderful and cohesive,” said Fox. “It seemed like we bonded so quickly and by week two, relationships had already been forged.”
Insunza said that students have shared overwhelmingly positive feedback after completing the program, with some saying that the series has been life-changing for them.
The program is currently in the process of partnering with athletic teams at the university to create a condensed four-week series that accommodates their schedules. Insunza hopes to introduce the program to more groups on campus, such as students living in residential housing.
“I would love to get more students trained as facilitators and get into more classrooms to do sessions and presentations,” Insunza said.
Facilitators have begun recruiting students for the series this semester, which is set to begin during the first week of October. New members will not be allowed to join after the second session to provide a trustworthy environment.
Although the series focuses on repairing body image and gaining self-confidence, Fox said that students can learn to appreciate themselves as a whole throughout the eight weeks.
“There are some pieces of ourselves that we don’t love or enjoy, and this is about loving all that we are and being proud of our uniqueness,” Fox said. “I think that is pretty easy to walk away with.”