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Teens Sensitive to Body Image

February 21, 2012
By JOSELYN KING - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Shadyside High School senior Conor Craig works out every day at school, and he believes body image is important to most teenagers.

Several local teens and a health education instructor were asked, "How big of a role does image - going to the gym, staying in shape and even taking steroids or supplements - play in teenagers' lives?"

"It's a very big aspect of their lives," Craig said. "Teenagers in general are very judgmental - of people their age, and of those of all ages. Trying to perfect your identity is very important to them.

"I work out at school every day, or I would be at a gym every day."

Audrey Abraham, a physical education and health teacher at Wheeling Park High School, said her students really haven't voiced concerns about body image to her.

But she expects their thoughts will become apparent through the recently started Wellness Club at WPHS. At the club's initial January meeting, members focused on the causes of heart disease, according to Abraham.

Fact Box

Q: How big of a role does image - going to the gym, staying in shape, even taking steroids or supplements - play in our children's lives?

A: It can play a big role, as health and fitness dominate the mass media landscape. Video games and other sedentary forms of entertainment can be a negative here, however.

"As we dive into body image and eating disorders, maybe some will come forward at that time and say it needs to be looked at," she said.

In her health classes, Abraham shows videos and leads discussions centering on the prevention of eating disorders and the consequences of steroid use.

"I don't have a lot of kids who come out and say how they feel about it," she commented. "But I know they are influenced by what they see in the media."

She shows them one video depicting a photo shoot for an advertising campaign, and how the models are "slimmed an inch at the waist" through digitally altering their photos.

"It shows them touching up photos," Abraham said. "It opens the students' eyes. Maybe they didn't realize before how much what they see in media is tampered with."

Christopher Walisiak is a freshman at Ohio University Eastern who graduated from St. Clairsville High School in May. He works out daily, and uses his physical abilities as a recently-elected trustee in Wheeling Township.

"Most teens today, I believe, do care about their image greatly - girls more so than guys," he commented. "On the other hand I believe staying in shape and taking supplements would tend to be more of a male trend."

"I do work out at the gym and take great pride in keeping myself in shape so I could live a longer, healthier life."

The Physical Education Department at Wheeling Park also is looking for students and staff to participate in this year's Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic, slated for May 25-26 in downtown Wheeling.

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