Continuing on my soap box about how we need to increase ED awareness, I want to spend a bit of time on this post talking about nutrition and health education in schools.
When I was young, we never got taught about ED. In fact, all we learned about was how too much junk food would make us fat and obese. We also learned how important it was to have a diet that did not have 'junk food' in it. But we never talked about the other end of the spectrum - the ED part. The part about the victims who never eat because of their mental illness. Who can die because they cannot eat.
I think schools need to start educate children and teens about this. Teaching them that overweight is needed, but we also need a balance to include what happens when you don't eat enough. Many people fall into ED and they don't know how this illness can kill them. Others have ED and they constantly hear messages in their schools saying that certain foods should not be eaten. It would me helpful to teach children about the 'moderation' in life - that both extremes are wrong.
I remember in high school gym, we had to weigh ourselves in front of everyone, plot our weight, and then measure again after a month to see what it did. I recall one my friends was so thin. She stood on the scale and people were shocked at how little she weighed. 'Wow! Only xx pounds! You are so skinny! I was I was that small'. That's what everyone said.
I was right after her. My weight was significantly higher than hers. No one said anything. They just looked at the scale, then at me, and said nothing. A few people kept taking about the skinny girl. But inside, I felt terrible. I weighed so much more! In fact, by the end of the class, I realized that I weighed the most. That was a terrible day. I felt fat and ugly. I don't know if this created ED, but it certainly fueled it.
The point of that story was to show that schools don't need to encourage students to track their weight and compare to others. It just reinforces negative ideas about food and weight. Weight is not a competition and should not be focussed on, even in gym class. Teachers need to be sensitive to these issues and realize that students need to be taught about living with food in a healthy way. In a way that promotes healthy eating, body image, food in moderation, and happy living.
Again, society needs to change. We all need to reframe our ideas about what is healthy and what is right. We need to make ourselves aware of the fact that while obesity is an issue, EDs are also problematic. Both extremes are dangerous and both should be taught in schools to educate the public.