Challenging the “Appearance-Ideal” Starts with Our Perspectives

Introducing The Body Project Ryerson

Research shows that when people are given the space to talk about the “appearance ideal” shown in mass media, and how to challenge the pressures to be thin, it makes them feel better about their bodies and creates cognitive dissonance. This space to talk has been found to be the best option for improving positive body image and body acceptance and to reduce the incidence of eating disorders and other related mental health concerns.

The Body Project Collaborative is an evidence based cognitive-dissonance-based body acceptance intervention that was designed to help adolescent girls and young women resist sociocultural pressures to conform to the thin-ideal and reduce their pursuit of thinness. The conceptual basis for The Body Project is that if girls and young women voluntarily argue against the thin ideal, this will result in a reduced subscription to this ideal and to consequent decreases in eating disorder risk factors and eating disordered behaviours.

Thus, this intervention involves a series of verbal, written, and behavioural exercises in which the students critique the thin ideal. Theoretically, the act of publicly critiquing the thin ideal results in cognitive dissonance among those who originally endorsed this ideal, which causes them to reduce their subscription to the thin ideal. As such, The Body Project intervention attempts to apply persuasion principles, originally identified by social psychologists, to reduce an attitudinal risk factor for eating pathology. For more background info please see

In August 2015, an eating disorder counsellor was given the opportunity to bring the trainer from the Body Project Collaborative to Ryerson campus for a nominal fee. The trainer, Alan Duffy trained staff and students for 2 days on the peer led modules that encompass the learning and exercises that a student would participate in as a means to create cognitive dissonance around unhealthy appearance ideals and engage in a preventative capacity for mitigating the incidence of obesity and disordered eating that results from such media messages.
The Body Project Canada was then born in Pitman Hall on October 5th, 2015 and has been launched at Ryerson in a pilot-program before its university-wide launch later in 2016.

Please contact Colleen Conroy Amato at to get involved!

Watch some students’ reflections from last year and get involved with The Body Project Ryerson.