Everyone should be comfortable with their bodies.
This is the belief of The New Paltz Body Peace Project, a club started by Emily Ferencik, SUNY New Paltz’s Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, to promote and improve people’s self image.
The club provides a safe, judgment-free space for people to come together and share or vent about whatever they need to. Students give and receive support and perspective from their peers, according to Ferencik.
Ferencik originally wanted to create an eating disorder support group, but then sensed the need to create a group that was more inclusive. Many of the students she met with her first semester at SUNY New Paltz had a distorted view of their body which influenced their relationship to food and especially to themselves.
She said she hopes the club can aid in her goal of turning normal negative self-talk into a “compassionate self-accepting and loving attitude.”
At meetings, members discuss issues they are currently facing in regards to body image or any topic that is causing them trouble. Meetings begin with something Ferencik calls “new and good,” where members are able to speak on positive occurrences in their lives.
“I think that most people don’t feel comfortable sharing their innermost feelings about these issues,” Ferencik said. “As a result they begin to feel like there is something inherently wrong with them, when in reality nearly all of us can relate.”
Katherine Zink, a fourth-year sociology major at New Paltz, is a member of the New Paltz Body Peace Project and also helps behind the scenes of the club.
To her, it’s important to be able to attend a safe space where she is able to speak up about the issues of body image and share experiences.
In the future, Ferencik hopes to create events that promote the New Paltz Body Peace Project and its overall message of self-love. She wants to breakdown the stigma that many students have about their bodies within the larger campus community.
“I hope that our meetings and discussions will help ground participants more firmly on their path to self-discovery,” she said. “That they will come to truly know their own innate worth and beauty and that of others and leave meetings with a renewed sense of self love and acceptance.”
The New Paltz Body Peace Project meets every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Athletic and Wellness Center Conference Room.