Reshaping Reality, One Teen At A Time

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.

A slide from the Reshaping Reality presentation.

A slide from the Reshaping Reality presentation.

“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.'”

Jenna Patterson

Jenna Patterson

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

3 responses to “Reshaping Reality, One Teen At A Time

  1. Carla Schine

    It is important to note that the feelings associated with Middle School and High School pressures include a very wide range of topics including but not limited to perfectionism, academic excellence, fitting in with peers, feelings of isolation, awkward body image, sexuality, desire for independence from parents, invites to parties and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, etc. THE GROUP DOES DEAL WITH EATING DISORDERS BUT THE ENTIRETY OF THE RANGE OF TOPICS DOES NOT FOCUS SOLEY ON EATING DISORDERS, MOST OF THE MEMBERS DID NOT HAVE EATING DISORDERS BUT ARE SYMPATHETIC TO THOSE WHO DID/DO AND UNDERSTAND IT IS ONE OF THE MANY PROBLEMS FACED BY STUDENTS IN THAT AGE GROUP. Weight is given to all of the above topics and more, depending on what each member brings to the table when they are sharing their own experiences. I think that more students in that age group have similar feelings that are relatable to all, than feelings that are unique to only a few. Most adults, looking back can also relate. The students who are members of Reshaping Reality are very brave and very kind and thoughtful, not to mention smart and mature. They have so much to share. I would suggest any parent of a student in that age group to encourage their child to attend. I think it could be a source of support and encouragement overall.
    Thanks Dan for sharing…Thanks Jenna for leading

  2. Mary Beth Murray

    Hi Dan, is this only open to Westport students, or any student from the surroundings towns?

  3. Anyone is welcome!