New Online Course Teaches Students How to Have a Healthy Body Image

Brandon Hays, a junior in exercise and sports science pre med, works out at the Student Life Center on Wednesday night.

Dane Goodwin

Brandon Hays, a junior in exercise and sports science pre med, works out at the Student Life Center on Wednesday night.

Students struggling with self-esteem issues because of body image can treat themselves to self-care this spring by enrolling in a new online course called “Developing a Healthy Body Image.”

Colleges are a breeding ground for negative body image. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 91 percent of women on campuses have attempted to control their weight through dieting. One study found that although most men are dissatisfied with their body, college-aged men are more susceptible to a negative body image than other adult men.

Brandon Hays, a junior in exercise and sports science pre med, works out at the Student Life Center on Wednesday night. Photo credit: Dane Goodwin
Brandon Hays, a junior in exercise and sports science pre med, works out at the Student Life Center on Wednesday night. Photo credit: Dane Goodwin

Isabel Shimanski, a freshman studying ballet and nutrition, said she thinks “students not being comfortable in their body is a big issue.”

“There’s a spreading idea that you have to have a special body to be a good person, which isn’t true,” Shimanski said.

In Utah, body image issues are especially prevalent. Course instructor Amber Whiteley has conducted Utah-specific research since 2009 and has found unique cultural aspects that contribute to an increased risk of body dissatisfaction.

The online course, ED PS 5960-090, is intended to dispel negative body perceptions by moving toward each student’s personal body acceptance.

Based on internal reflection, the course will utilize “The Body Image Workbook” and “Body Image: Understanding Body Dissatisfaction in Men, Women, and Children,” a text that explores the roots of society’s struggle with body image. Students enrolled in the course will also watch several documentaries, including “The Mask You Live In,” “Killing Us Softly,” and “Miss Representation,” chronicling how popular media affects body perceptions. The class will encourage students to use positive psychology to form a new conclusion about themselves.

Whiteley said, “The class is a balance … [between] education about social issues … and utilizing this knowledge to become more aware of how we have all been socialized and impacted by society to have poor body satisfaction.”

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