June 1996 // Volume 34 // Number 3 // Tools of the Trade // 3TOT2
Body Power: School-Based Weight Management for Adolescents
Body Power! is a 20-lesson, school-based curriculum for adolescents that focuses on weight management. Activity-oriented lessons strive for improvement of body image, inclusion of regular activity, and better decision-making for healthy food choices. The program was piloted in a rural middle school by an Extension county agent and a health/physical education teacher. Participant knowledge, attitude, and food behavior was measured. Parent and community involved was encouraged. The program has been replicated in other settings and the complete package is available.
The incidence of overweight students, students suffering from eating disorders, and students dissatisfied with their body shape and size in a rural middle school prompted school officials, a health teacher, and Extension staff to collaborate on a three-year program for weight management skills for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. The program, Body Power!, was developed by the authors and piloted in the Conrad, Montana, middle school. The program was designed to enhance the positive self image of the adolescent participants, along with enhancing skills and knowledge to choose foods wisely balanced with physical activity. The 20 lessons were used as an extra- curricular program during the lunch period for either 10 or 20 weeks. Lesson topics include food groups, food choices, dietary guidelines, self esteem, body image, energy balance, behavior change and habits, eating for competition, food supplements, fad diets, breakfast, snacks, and fast foods. Physical activity was emphasized in the weekly goals.
The program emphasized goal setting and decision-making in eating patterns as well as exercise routines. The weekly lessons were designed to empower students to change their lifestyles, impacting their long-term and even short-term health. The program attempted to aid adolescents in feeling more comfortable with their bodies, and to help them gain control over their eating and exercise patterns. A token system allowed students to track their progress. A record book was used to write down individual goals for eating and exercise. Rewards were used as incentives for accomplishing identified group goals.
Body Power! can provide a focus for educators, parents, and other interested community members in working toward solution of adolescent obesity and eating disorders. The curriculum involves parents through letters and meetings. Since the family environment has a major impact on adolescent eating and exercise patterns, parents are an important aspect of this program.
Knowledge, attitude and food behavior were measured for all middle school students before and after the program. By comparing the participants with all other students in the school, the effectiveness of the program was analyzed; positive results are continuing. The curriculum was designed to be a total weight management program, not just weight loss. Many results can be expected to occur over the participants' lifetime.
Body Power! has been replicated in other communities and also as a 6 week and a 10 week program. Designed to be school- based, the program could be easily adapted for another youth group format (4-H, after school group, summer camp). The expected outcome would be the same as in in the original design: a group of adolescents who have positive self-images and the skills and knowledge to balance eating and exercise for a normal weight for a lifetime.
To order a copy of Body Power!, send your name, shipping address, and $8.00 to Montana State University Extension Publications, 118 Culbertson Hall, Bozeman, MT 59717. Request Body Power! #6001. Contact the first author for specific program information.