Central’s Required College Wellness Course More Harmful Than Helpful

Nicholas Johnson, Contributor

Some Central Connecticut State University students are concerned about a required College Wellness course, where they learn about sensitive topics and complete a nutrition analysis assignment that some say, triggers many students.  

College Wellness is a required first-year class at CCSU. According to the catalog description, the course is designed to “promote all aspects of wellness as a vital sign of health.” 

“This class may as well be called ‘trigger an eating disorder 110,’”  Kristy McCartney, a sophomore, said. The 19-year-old thought the course material would instruct her to properly fuel her body while working out and maintaining a happy lifestyle, but she ultimately was “let down.”  

McCartney has struggled with anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and body dysmorphia for about five years. She has researched her conditions and worked with dietitians and therapists for her disorders.    

Dr. Peter Morano, the department chair of the Physical Education & Human Performance program, has been a faculty member of CCSU for 20 years and the department chair for the last two. 

“We have data that show the class is beneficial to a majority of students who have taken it,” Morano said.  He said the end-of-year surveys are never 100% but are “typically favorable” for the class.   

Senior Sydney Lallier, a 23-year-old psychology major, said she was very interested in learning about the different mental disorders. However, once the course covered eating disorders, “I was able to identify my eating disorder immediately felt uncomfortable, insecure, and extremely aware of my own body and habits,” she said.  

Morano made it clear that the eating disorder section “will not be removed.” He said that students should look at the syllabus, and if students have concerns, they should  “talk to their professors ahead of time.” 

McCartney was left upset and uncomfortable in the class. “I felt my professor was uneducated when discussing eating disorders, and I didn’t feel she truly had a grasp on what an eating disorder was,” she said.  

Morano said “there are no calorie counting assignments in PE 144, and we discourage that practice.  Caloric conversions and food logs are not the same as calorie counting.” However, students must track their food for three days. Directly quoting from professor Susan Beckert’s fall 2021 nutritional assignment, students had to collect information like carbohydrate grams and protein grams at the top of the log. There is a category for  “total calories.” Students are told to select a goal to either “lose, gain, or maintain weight.”  

McCartney and Lallier are not the only students that have an issue with the triggering material the required class covers. Morano said there have been “two concerns previously” regarding the course. A male student also shared that they “purposely took a zero for that assignment,” Morano said. 

“I thought that College Wellness was an important thing to learn, especially since I had no health class in high school,” Lallier said. However, as the class continued throughout the semester, “I found myself getting more and more insecure with my own body,” she said.  

Lallier was diagnosed with bulimia prior to the food logging assignment and did feel impacted by the assignment.  

In regards to the nutrition analysis assignment, Lallier said, “I found myself lying and making up ‘healthier’ meals on the paperwork because I felt insecure about my food intake, or I would avoid eating anything at all because I was now so aware of the calories and nutrition facts on my food.”  

Students are instructed to use MyFitnessPal for the food logging assignment. Lallier and McCartney felt uncomfortable using the app. “At one point, I was losing five pounds per week, and getting physically sick, such as fainting from not eating. It was only after my parents’ intervention that I stopped using the app,” Lallier said. Morano said students should address their concerns about the app with their professor.  

Lallier shared a broader perspective on the dangers of food logging. She said she works at a rehabilitation facility for teens that struggle with eating disorders. They have to monitor their patient’s food and water intake every day. “When a client had found the food logs, which they were not supposed to know about, they refused to eat for the remainder of their residential stay,” she shared.    

Lallier and McCartney both feel it is vital to have a College Wellness course, but alternate assignments should be available to avoid “triggering” students. Morano said if students feel uncomfortable with an assignment, they should talk to their professor and be offered another assignment.  

McCartney asked for a chance to do another assignment instead of the analysis one. “My professor said tracking my food intake should ‘be part of my recovery process,’ showing her ignorance but, allowed me to track my sister’s food intake instead- regardless. This was not a helpful alternative and was rather triggering,” she said. 

Because College Wellness is a general education course, Morano said, “professors with wide backgrounds are teaching. Some are stronger in the nutritional aspect than others.”  

This did not seem fair to McCartney. “I believe if College Wellness is going to be a required course, the professors should be better educated, particularly in the area of eating disorders.” Being told tracking her food should be part of her recovery process “makes me sick to my stomach,” she said.  

The author, Nic Johnson, took the class in the fall of 2021 with Susan Beckert. When asked to interview she did not respond back.