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Nutrition 101 puts body-image issues in the spotlight

Jan 7, 2013

Student actors of MU’s Interactive Theatre Troupe cover the topic in Nutrition 101, an 8-minute play that encourages audience members to discuss issues about appearance. The response has been healthful talk on topics such as body image, food, nutrition and media messages. In the play, the characters talk about the effects of advertising and how the media’s use of digitally enhanced photos affects the public. Issues of food, weight and nutrition choices come to the table as well. In their research, the team learned that body-image issues start very young and body dissatisfaction is common among people in their early teens. A review of literature also indicated that young women are more focused on their looks and weight than on maintaining healthy behaviors. The body-image project receives funding from Mizzou Advantage and cooperates with the One Health, One Medicine initiative.

Regardless of gender, college students share similar concerns about their appearance: Do I need to lose weight? Should I get a tan? Are my muscles flabby?

For young adults thinking about starting careers and finding life partners, societal messages about body image and appearance play a leading role in perceptions about their ability to succeed.

So how important is appearance for success in life? With a team of student researchers, two MU professors developed an interactive theater performance to help college-age men and women make sense of the mixed messages on body image.

Student actors of MU’s Interactive Theatre Troupe cover the topic in Nutrition 101, an 8-minute play that encourages audience members to discuss issues about appearance. The response has been healthful talk on topics such as body image, food, nutrition and media messages.

Nutrition 101 is entertaining for sure, but it also is a serious teaching tool about how society values people. The play made its debut this past spring for a class and in a residence hall.

Suzanne Burgoyne, Curators Distinguished Teaching Professor of Theatre, directed development of the play and works with the actors. Maria Len-Ríos, associate professor of strategic communication in the MU School of Journalism, led the research team whose findings informed the script. Graduate assistants Kate Wintz and Joshua Johnson, master’s students in the Department of Theatre, contributed to the research, script development, administration and shaping of the final performance. More…