Two Tufts sophomores seeking a space to discuss body positivity have founded a new group, JumBodies, this semester.
Co-Presidents Emma Coltoff and Nikhil Nandagopal met during their first year on the Hill and spent much of last summer discussing body image issues on campus.
“We spent hours just discussing our own insecurities,” Nandagopal said.
A mechanical engineer and prospective cognitive and brain science major, respectively, Coltoff and Nandagopal described their commitment to body positivity as more personal than academic.
“It started more out of a personal interest,” Coltoff said. “I’ve struggled with body image.”
While Nandagopal said he had immense support as he struggled with body image issues, not everyone does.
“I was extremely vocal with my insecurities,” he said.
Nandagopal had attended meetings held by Tufts’ Counseling and Mental Health Services for those struggling with body issues and wanted to bring the sense of community he felt there to more people through JumBodies.
“I had found that it was really, really comforting,” he said. “We really want to harness that support.”
Coltoff explained that they see JumBodies as unique on campus, with its complete focus on body image setting it apart from related groups such as Tufts Burlesque Troupe and Balance Your Life. Coltoff said she sees loving oneself as fundamental to anyone’s well-being.
“It’s really the most important thing you’re going to do in your whole life,” she said.
Furthermore, an unhealthy self-image can create a host of other problems, according to Coltoff.
“It affects your social life … it affects your academic performance,” she said. “If you don’t feel good in your own body, how are you supposed to focus on a problem set?”
Coltoff said the discussion group will go over ways people can see themselves positively.
“What do you love about yourself? How do you practice self-love?” she said. “There are a million different ways that you can love yourself.”
Coltoff envisions the group creating an empowering photo-shoot under the hashtag #ReclaimTheMirror2015. Nandagopal also sees the group hosting events such as pajama and board-game nights to get people feeling at ease with themselves and each other.
“We want to make their own bodies a comfortable space for them,” he said.
The group also plans to host events critiquing how “beautiful people” are depicted in the media, according to Coltoff.
“They look great, but it’s not really them,” she said. “There isn’t a universal standard of beauty.”
JumBodies will be open to anyone who wants to discuss how they feel.
“Our mission is to be all-inclusive,” Nandagopal said. “This is a space for absolutely everyone.”
This includes men, who Nandagopal characterized as less likely to seek help when struggling with healthy body image.
“It’s definitely something that does affect all genders,” he said.
While only 10 people attended JumBodies‘ first general interest meeting last month, Nandagopal said that their Facebook posts reach as many as 800 users. He and Coltoff have received enough positive comments and submissions that they plan to apply for official recognition through the TCU Judiciary in the fall.
“That kind of confidence comes from the kind of feedback we’ve received,” Nandagopal said.
While the unrecognized group cannot currently request funding or space for meetings, it has already started minor initiatives on campus, including a poster in the Campus Center encouraging students to anonymously write down what they love about their body.
“We hope to encourage of climate of healthy body image and self-acceptance,” Nandagopal said. “This is a part of a healthy lifestyle.”