Body Positivity Week took place virtually at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) beginning Oct. 19 through Oct. 22. The events during body positivity week normally include documentary screenings, body positive workshops and activity tables, but due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) all activities were moved online. 

Laila Hammam, Health & Wellness nutrition educator and counselor, explained that the events this year looked very different than they did in the past. “Every year we have different events and activities during this week around campus to promote body positivity. This year things are looking a little different due to COVID, but we started the week off with offering a body positive meditation via zoom, on Tuesday there was a workshop on partnering with your body to feel stress relief, on Wednesday we did an Instagram Live on eating disorders and body image, and on Thursday we had planned a presentation about the media and how it is affecting our body image.”  

Although there were hopes that with everything online there would be a larger turnout, Hammam says that wasn’t the case. “We were hoping that having everything online we would be able to reach more students. Normally when we have the events on campus, we are often located in central locations on campus and get some good traffic from students passing by.” 

This is Hammam’s fifth year of organizing Body Positivity Week. She said it is an important week for her and students because “it is a time that we get to dedicate an entire week to remind everyone that all bodies are good bodies and to promote body positivity and healthy body image on campus. It’s also important to be able to challenge how society views the body, addressing unrealistic body standards, promoting acceptance of all bodies, and helping people build confidence and acceptance of their bodies.”  

Although Body Positivity Week is over, starting this week is the Peer Body Project. The Peer Body Project is a body acceptance program designed for college-aged women to resist cultural pressures to conform to “ideal” appearance standards of female beauty and reduce the pursuit of unrealistic bodies.  

The Peer Body Project will take place over Zoom every Thursday starting Oct. 29 until Nov. 19 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. The workshops will be in groups of five to eight undergraduate students who identify as a woman, and are led by trained UNH peer educators. The goal of the workshops is to gain powerful skills to build a healthier body image.  

Health & Wellness asks for those who are going to attend to plan on going to all four workshops, as the discussions build on previous groups.  

Hammam explained that moving the Peer Body Project won’t look much different virtually. “This will be the first group that we will be doing virtually, but there are not many changes that needed to be made to move it online. It may feel a little different at first to be participating in a group on zoom than it would if it were in person, but the same discussions and activities will be done during the sessions. We hope that participants will still get a lot out of the group, despite it not being in person and that they will still be able to make some of those personal connections with other participants.”  

By attending the Peer Body Project, students can expect to engage in discussions about today’s culture of an unhealthy fixation with unattainable appearance ideals, which can lead to dieting, eating concerns, and body image dissatisfaction. Hammam explains what these discussions will look like, “group participants will discuss different topics related to the appearance ideal such as the costs associated with pursuing it, and ways to challenge the appearance ideal. There are several activities during the four weekly sessions that participants will complete and reflect on discussions that take place during their sessions, to help them gain powerful skills to build a healthier body image.” 

For more information about the Peer Body Project contact laila.hammam@unh.edu.