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Body Project: More than Muscle workshops begin October 15

men in bat costumes from the 2010s and the 1940s.

At left, Ben Affleck in Warner Bros.' 2016 movie Batman v. Superman. At right, Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft play Batman and Robin in 1943 in a Columbia Pictures serial.

Batman, Channing Tatum, Jason Momoa: All these men are projected as ideal males. And all of these men (real and imagined) have body types that are completely unrealistic for the average male.

Illinois State University is providing a fun and interactive way to get beyond the appearance ideals that plague young men with a program known as The Body Project: More than Muscles. Poking fun at society’s expectations and media representation, the program enlists peer mentors to lead awareness exercises and discussions.

headsot of Jenni Thome

Jenni Thome

“The group will look at images from Photoshopped models to old black-and-white comics of Batman and Robin, and how they have evolved into these chiseled figures with six-pack abs,” said Staff Psychologist Jenni Thome of Student Counseling Services, which coordinates the project. The goal is to help men identify and respond to body shaming. “It’s about learning to normalize discussions about a healthy body over an ideal body, and refute negative appearance talk.”

Man standing in icy waters with mountain sin the background.

Jason Momoa plays the DC character Aquaman. Exaggerated body types can create unrealistic ideals for men and women.

According to Thome, new data shows that men have the same levels of dissatisfaction with their bodies as women at the college age. “We also find that men at this point are more reluctant to seek help,” said Thome, who added that young men are more likely to listen to one another. “That’s one of the reasons we look to peer mentors,” she said. In The Body Project: More than Muscles, those facilitating the workshops are also young men and fellow Illinois State students who are trained to lead the programs.

Data shows that men have the same levels of dissatisfaction with their bodies as women at the college age.

Those interested in becoming peer facilitators can apply at the Student Counseling Services website. Training for fall facilitators begins September 29.

Illinois State University is one of only two universities across the nation that provide the interactive workshop for men. “One of the developers of The Body Project for women knows what success we have had with the program on campus, and decided to give us the green light” to hold sessions outside where it was developed, noted Thome. “Our work will help them make the program better.”

Those interested in signing up to join The Body Project: More than Muscles can apply at the Student Counseling Services website. The workshops begin October 15. For more information, contact Thome at (309) 438-2907.

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