University students are known to have a high prevalence of body dissatisfaction, dieting and disordered eating and exercise behaviours. Those enrolled in food and exercise related degree areas have been found to be particularly vulnerable.
Part 1 of this study compared the body image, body dissatisfaction, dieting,
disordered eating and exercise behaviours of first year male and female trainee physical education [PE; N = 295] teachers and undergraduates enrolled in non food and exercise related degree areas [Non PE; N = 207]. Male and female PE participants had a lower body image and higher body dissatisfaction and were significantly more likely to be dieting and engaging in disordered eating behaviours than Non PE participants.
These findings provide empirical evidence of anecdotal suspicions that trainee physical education teachers are susceptible to body image problems and eating disorders; and create a demand for for intervention programs to improve the body image, body dissatisfaction, dieting and disordered eating and exercise behaviours of this population.
Part 2 of this study involved the development of a dissonance and self esteem based (Intervention 1) and a dissonance, and media literacy based intervention that built self esteem and used computer technologies (Intervention 2) to be implemented into trainee physical education teachers’ [N= 170] undergraduate training. Both interventions were successful in improving the body image, and disordered eating behaviours of trainee PE teachers compared to a control group; which suggests that the inclusion of intervention programs in trainee teacher’s undergraduate training is both feasible and effective.
Further research should investigate the effects of intervention programs to improve body image and eating behaviours among trainee physical education teachers; and male university students. The development of standardised measures and approaches toward the improvement of body image, body dissatisfaction and disordered eating and exercise behaviours that are specifically designed for males is also encouraged.