Everyone talks about the enormous social pressures around body image. They lead to extreme reactions — including self-esteem issues, eating disorders, even death.
In Westport, a small group of teenagers is doing something about them.
Reshaping Reality is a Staples High School club. Two dozen students reach out to middle schoolers — and their parents — to break the cycle of dangerous behavior.
This is no ordinary, resume-padding group. Potential members fill out a written application, and undergo interviews. They form a tight-knit, trusting community. They share their hopes and fears. They spend months educating themselves about the complex dynamics of body image.
Then they go out into the wider community, and share what they’ve learned.
Before spring break, the Reshaping Reality crew sponsored a presentation and conversation — called “Middle Schooler in the Mirror” — with parents at Toquet Hall. They talked about friendships, relationships, and everything else that affects eating patterns.
“It wasn’t ‘parenting,'” club president Jenna Patterson says. “We’re not parents. It’s just us looking back on middle school, and things we would have liked hearing from our own parents.”
The evening was a hit. One woman called it “better than adult talk, because the info came from first-hand sources. It was so honest and thoughtful.”
Now — for 3 Tuesdays (running through May 10), the group has organized an open-dialogue session for middle school students. They begin at 5:30 p.m., and are open to all middle schoolers. Registration is not required.
“It’s very personal,” Jenna notes. This is not a ‘school assembly.'”
The 1st session focused on the media and students. The next is on social pressures. The 3rd highlights self-image.
The Stapleites have prepared for this since the fall. They meet for 2 hours every week. First they talk about their own lives. Then they split into small groups.
“Everyone in our group has had different experiences,” Jenna says. “But all of us have tried to move past our awkward middle school times. That’s when eating disorders often start. Middle school kids look up to people in high school. We’re just doing what we can to help.”
Eating disorders and body image are big, complex topics. By taking the time to tackle them — personally, using their own words and voices — 2 dozen Staples students are truly reshaping middle schoolers’ reality.
(The middle school sessions are set for Tuesday, May 3 and May 10, 5:30 p.m. at Toquet Hall. For more information, click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org)