The Wilton High School student-run club Reshaping Reality aims to tackle body
positivity and self-love. Next week they hope to bring that message to younger students who may be more vulnerable to self-image issues through “Middle Schoolers in the Mirror,” an interactive program held at the Wilton Library.

The program, which will have sessions on two consecutive Tuesdays (May 23 and May 30), focuses on educating middle school students about the challenges and warning signs of eating disorders, as well as how to maintain a healthy body image.

The students of Reshaping Reality decided to center their efforts around middle schoolers after noticing the impact self-image had on their own experiences.

“We chose to do this with the middle schoolers because as high school students, we
know in middle school we faced these issues with social pressure and self-esteem
problems,” Jolene Massad, current WHS junior and co-president of Reshaping
Reality, said. “We saw a lot of our friends struggle through eating disorders and other damaging health behaviors — we wanted to help them know these warning signs, but also help them help themselves.”

Massad and the other students in Reshaping Reality will lead program at the library with eating disorder coach Oriana Laflamme using activities, discussions, videos and body image exercises to support their message. Most activities are planned around navigating online presence and distinguishing the ‘fake’ from the ‘real’ as middle schoolers start using social media.

They chose to cap each session at 20 students to offer more one-on-one, personal support for participants. Both workshops will be held from 3:30-5 p.m., and require registration beforehand.

At the end of her freshman year, Massad was approached by a friend from Staples High School in Westport about a club called Reshaping Reality; in her sophomore year, Massad founded its WHS chapter and now currently serves as co-president with fellow junior Vivian Eckert.

Reshaping Reality board members (L-R) Ella Dempster, Vivian Eckert, Jolene Massad, and Poppy Herve.

Every Tuesday at 7:45 a.m., a come-and-go crowd of around 30 members gathers in the classroom of their advisor, English teacher Heather Delude. When they aren’t planning outreach events to educate the middle and high school students, the group spends its meetings sharing the members’ own experiences with body positivity, as well as practicing self-care activities and affirmations.

“I just thought it was a very safe and inviting space, and that I’d be able to share stuff
with girls in the club,” club treasurer/secretary Poppy Herve said. “A lot of my friends have said things like, ‘Oh, I don’t like this part about me,’ or ‘This girl has
something else’ — it’s very built into Wilton High School and the culture of Wilton High School, and I don’t think that people realize the impact of it.”

Club founders first approached Delude about Reshaping Reality after she had led an in-class activity on the book Fahrenheit 451 examining media and its impact on the body image of one of the book’s characters. She readily agreed to become the club advisor.

DeLude emphasizes that, while most members are female, the club serves all students regardless of gender. She noted a stigma around male body image that needs remedy, particularly when it comes to the effect of fitness influencers online.

Reshaping Reality is holistic in its review of body positivity, bringing in guest speakers trained as mental health professionals and nutritionists as well as speakers with personal experience in body image and self-esteem issues. Delude stresses that body positivity “extends beyond the body — it’s more about just accepting yourself for who you are.”

Around WHS, the club has established resources for students to utilize for
questions or concerns about self-image. In April, Reshaping Reality also invited
Laflamme to speak to an audience of students as part of its exhibit for Wilton High
School’s annual Festival

“To me, this can be a life-or-death issue in some cases — I’m sure some health classes
cover it, but I would like this to be something that should be part of everyone’s
education,” Delude said. “I think we’re making sure that we’re not only approaching this sensitively but also responsibly.”

Disclosure: one of the individuals interviewed in this story is related to the editor of GMW.

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