Body Image Discussions Shouldn’t Be Ignored in Health Class Curriculum

Society fosters a hostile inner voice where insecurity takes root

Audrey White, Opinions Section Editor

People are taught to hate their bodies long before they are taught to love them. We, as a society, need to change that. 

Society instructs self-perception as a rigid mold that most people don’t naturally fit. Societal standards of health don’t really mean health, but implement a damaging outlook on one’s body.  Magazine covers and models made picture-perfect through editing tell their viewers that their stretch marks, stomach rolls, size, and curves are all flaws that must be altered.

In health classes, learning about body image is quickly overlooked. Instead, Students are solely taught how to count calories, rather than also learning the value food can provide. Instead of deeming foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, students should be taught to view food through its nutritional value and what it can offer in terms of energy and sustenance.   

Calories are units of energy that can be obtained from different foods. When people intake more calories than they burn, the body stores the extra calories, which turn into fat. Health class curriculums do a sufficient job of teaching students how to count calories. However, most eating disorders take root during teenage years, when calorie counting is also taught. People unknowingly compare themselves to others physically, which creates much-unneeded suffering. Understanding body image and appreciating what our bodies can do for us can help prevent disordered eating before it begins; and improve body image, so that students can learn healthy behaviors and develop an appropriate relationship with food. Health curriculums should also include lessons on mental health and provide practices for students to improve their mental health.

By no means should students be taught to eat unhealthily; it’s imperative that students can learn to develop healthful eating habits and balancing meals and treats. However, health classes fixate on caloric intake and the physical activities that can off-set the calories, which can promote unhealthy eating habits.  Alternatively, teachers should encourage their students to document the value of the foods they intake and how they contribute to their overall health. 

Additionally, people should be taught the importance of wellbeing instead of only focusing on the components on a well-rounded meal. The main purpose of health class, should be to teach students about how they can properly fuel their bodies and take care of their physical and mental health. The health curriculum fails to reach students who do not fit the societal idea of athleticism. By having a standard for students to look and perform a certain way, it simultaneously rejects any notion of difference. 

In other words, the health curriculum is shallow. Students should be taught about practical ways to take care of their personal health, as well as improving body image through expressing ideals of what our bodies are capable of and how we can take care of ourselves. The material taught rarely strays from from calorie-counting, MyFoodPyramid activities, and studying vocabulary terms. While each of those assignments and lessons are important and allows for students to reflect on their own diets; the curriculums fails to offer lessons on mental health, body image, and how to take care of your body. Every body is different and requires different amounts of rest, food intake, and physical activity. Furthermore, those afflicted with chronic diseases should be included in health courses. By spreading awareness of chronic diseases, people can learn how to help those dealing with such diseases. Through learning about different ailments and their affects on people, society in turn may become more compassionate. 

By discussing body image in the classroom, people may being to foster an appreciation for their bodies and their capabilities, and may compare themselves to others less and less.