Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Health curriculum traditionally (re)produces obesity discourse, a fusion of biomedical and moral perspectives of weight and fat. This weight-centered approach to bodies may perpetuate weight stigmatization, indirectly supports a culture of thinness, and contradicts other health messages concerning bodies. A Health At Every Size® (HAES®) approach is an alternative, multidimensional health-centered approach that can reconcile the incongruent messages in obesity and eating disorder discourses and may reduce weight stigmatization. The purpose of this study was to develop and evaluate a college personal health curriculum module to promote healthy bodies of all sizes. Discourse positions of teaching assistants were explored through interviews and provided an understanding of their values and teaching methods regarding weight and health. A HAES®-based curriculum module was developed for college personal health classes at a Midwestern university. Quasi-experimental design was used to compare attitudes toward HAES® principles among students who received the alternative, HAES®-based curriculum module versus those receiving a traditional weight management curriculum. Pre- and posttest attitudes of students and teaching assistants were assessed using the Health and Weight Attitudes Scale developed for this study. Teaching assistants provided evaluation of the HAES® module in a focus group. While teaching assistants' discourse positions varied, most used obesity discourse to talk and teach about bodies and weight. Alternative discourses were most common when teaching assistants discussed eating disorders or body image. Students' attitudes at pre-test were slightly positive and did not differ significantly between comparison and intervention groups. Intervention group students' attitudes were significantly more positive than comparison group students' attitudes at posttest. Intervention group teaching assistants reported primarily positive experiences with the module. Teaching assistants rely primarily on obesity discourse to teach about weight and bodies but are receptive and positive when offered an alternative method. A HAES® curriculum module can increase positive attitudes of students and teaching assistants toward promotion of size acceptance and multidimensional health for people of all sizes.
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