SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Studies show at least 9 percent of people worldwide struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime, but a free program at Syracuse University is working to prevent that.

The Syracuse University Psychological Services Center is offering a virtual body positivity workshop for women ages 12 to 24-years-old throughout February.

“The Body Project” is a nationwide initiative to help improve body image and reduces the incidence of eating disorders in young girls and women. The free program targets young girls and women who struggle with the very common issue of body image dissatisfaction.

Destiny Orantes, a clinical psychology doctoral student at Syracuse University, is one of the group facilitators for this year’s Body Project.

“I have a family member with an eating disorder, so I’ve seen firsthand how impactful it is. Unfortunately, body image dissatisfaction is something that most girls and women do experience at some point, so having these conversations makes it a little bit easier to confront that dissatisfaction and really challenge it.”

Destiny Orantes, Group Facilitator of “The Body Project” at Syracuse University

The program allows participants to confront unrealistic appearance ideals by developing ways of speaking, acting and writing that support body acceptance and self-esteem.

“It can be really difficult for girls or women with body image concerns to talk about that,” Orantes explained. “Part of the group is really having these discussions with other girls to see ‘I’m not experiencing this alone.'”

The virtual workshop is 4 sessions in total, held every Thursday from February 2 through February 23. There will be two groups: one for girls ages 12 to 17-years-old and the other for 18 to 24-year-olds.

An important note: “The Body Project” at Syracuse University is not a treatment program, but rather a preventative measure for body acceptance. It’s a way to erase what women have been trained to believe by reminding every woman she is good enough just the way she is.

“It really is getting at that societal pressure. There’s an idea that there is the perfect woman who acts this perfect way, so the goal of this program is to really challenge that because there is no perfect person.”

Destiny Orantes, Group Facilitator of “The Body Project” at Syracuse University

For more information on “The Body Project” or to register, click here.

This program is only open to women and girls. However, if you’re a man experiencing body image issues, the Syracuse University Psychological Center can provide you with individualized therapy sessions.

Click here for more information or call the center directly at (315) 443-3595.