In the research phase of my project, I conducted an anonymous survey of 30 high school students. Below are some of the most interesting takeaways:
- 50% say that social media has driven them to feel insecure about their bodies
- 73.3% say that they have seen unreliable nutrition information being offered on social media
- 43.3% say that they have restricted their food intake in the hopes of changing their appearance
- 66% say that they do not think their school’s nutrition education has helped them create a positive body image and relationship with food
In order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of 1) eating disorders and 2) efforts towards nutrition and wellness education in school, I conducted an interviews with a mental health professional at my school. Below are some of the most compelling quotes from the interview:
“I do [think that increasing the level of nutrition/health and wellness education at school] would be beneficial but ONLY if they are taught by trained educators in the topic. Long gone are the days of teaching about the food pyramid and counting calories/keeping food diaries.”
“We need to talk about food as fuel (putting gas in our tanks) so that we can get through our days with optimal energy as well as enjoying eating and deriving pleasure from it. Discussing food and nutrition in good/bad terms can lead to an over obsession with calories/diet culture/healthy-ism“
As teenagers, many of us spend hours of our day on social media apps like Instagram and TikTok. Although these apps are fun, they do not censor misinformation and the harmful promotion of harmful fad diets under the guise of health information.
The internet so often romanticized eating disorders and this can heavily affect developing teenage brains. Those who develop eating disorders in their teenage years may find it extremely difficult to break their habits going into adulthood.
“A lot of these ‘what I eat in a day’ posts are, like, 900 calories, and they’re making people look at it and say, ‘If I eat exactly what she’s eating, I’ll look like her,’ but they’re actually going to be starving and be really hurting their health, their metabolism and their future… People are like, ‘Here’s my calorie deficit for weight loss.’ They’re posting these things as facts even though they’re not” – Jenna Werner, registered dietitian
“In her talk, Viveca Lee goes through her battle with anorexia in order to clear the wide misconceptions about eating disorders and help break the stigma around mental illness”
“When I had anorexia, it felt like my mind was possessed by demons that were constantly controlling my thoughts and actions” – Viveca Lee (in her TedTalk)
A large part of the process of creating my project was reading peer-reviewed scientific studies that address topics relating to eating disorders in teens and the effectiveness of nutrition education. One of the most interesting articles I read was titled, Prevalence of eating disorders among dietetics students: does nutrition education make a difference?
Dietetics students have better eating habits and fewer eating disorders -abstract of the study linked above
This article, along with others that I studied, clearly concluded that nutrition education has been shown to improve the eating habits of students.
Call to Action
Nutrition education is lacking at my school and at school across the United States. Misinformation on the internet would be less dangerous to teens if they were properly equipped with the knowledge they need to recognize and fight against media that propagates diet culture, glamorizes eating disorders, and promotes other forms of unhealthy relationships with their bodies and with food.
– High schools should include a unit on nutrition in every health and science class that educates students on such topics as
- Eating disorders
- Healthy diets
- Natural bodily changes (specifically during puberty)
- Recognizing nutrition misinformation online
- The way photoshop and other editing can affect our self-perceptions relating to body image
-School counselors should provide clear and accessible resources for students who are struggling with body image or eating, and make these resources known to students.
-High schools that hold assemblies on varying topics should include assemblies/workshops on body image, eating disorders, healthy eating and how social media can wrongly influence our diets
–In addition to nutrition education, health classes should shift some of their focus off drugs and alcohol and onto mental health education.
If people understand the warning signs of eating disorders, they will be better equipped to help those around them. Education about eating disorders will help break the fantasy that many teenagers hold that eating disorders and glamorous, trendy or effective ways to alter weight.
What can you do?
Look out for the people around you and use your knowledge to recognize when your friends or family might be suffering from eating disorders.
To help me continue to expand my knowledge on this topic, please fill out the survey linked below:
Thank you so much for reading and engaging with my page! I would love to hear your feedback- feel free to leave questions or comments in the comment section below.