WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT AND ERADICATE EATING DISORDERS IN MIDDLE SCHOOLERS?
What Are Eating Disorders?
An eating disorder is a mental illness characterized by serious disturbances of eating behaviors and meets specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM-V) published by the American Psychiatric Association
WARNING SIGNS + SYMPTOMS
weight loss or gain in a short span of time
feeling full or “bloated”
feeling faint/dizzy, cold, or tired
dry hair or skin, dehydration, blue hands/feet
calluses or scars on knuckles (from self-inducing vomiting)
frequent attempts at dieting
pretending to eat/throwing food away, or playing with food
avoiding food in social situations
secrecy around eating
preoccupation with food, weight, or body image
using the restroom right after eating
wearing baggy clothes
The best-known environmental contributor to the development of eating disorders is the sociocultural idealization of thinness.
WHY MIDDLE SCHOOL?
40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This body dissatisfaction elevates one’s risk for eating disorders.
Study of American adolescents in the 5th – 12th grades, 13% of girls and 7% of boys reported engaging in both binge eating and purging behavior.
US studies have reported that 50% of girls ages 11 – 13 see themselves as overweight and 80% of 13- year-olds have attempted to lose weight (both of which are less severe symptoms of disordered eating and shape and weight concerns).
Early treatment for eating disorders is imperative
If Bulimia Nervosa is treated within the first 5 years, the recovery rate is 80%. If it is not treated until after 15 years of symptoms, recovery falls to 20%.
In most cases of eating disorders, dieting or calorie restriction (intentional or not) is usually the trigger. If someone genetically predisposed to an eating disorder never diets, they will likely never develop an eating disorder. Therefore, to prevent eating disorders is to prevent dieting.
FOR NOW RESPONSE
MIRROR MESSAGE CAMPAIGN
CHARACTERISTICS OF GOOD PREVENTION PROGRAMS
Having a focus on body acceptance
because body dissatisfaction increases the risk for a host of other disturbances, such as unhealthy dieting, negative affect, and Eating Disorder behavior (e.g., vomiting for weight control)
these programs are more engaging, which facilitates internalizing important concepts and promotes attitudinal and behavioral change
I met with both the principal and vice-principal of the middle school to see what programs were and were not already in place to combat eating disorders and used that information to implement a program myself (mirror message campaign)
I sent out a survey to the middle schoolers to have them assess their self-image
I covered up the 5th-8th grader’s bathroom mirrors (4), both for the boys and girls, with paper and posted body-positive messages with stickie notes on it
As an interactive advisory task, the students added their own messages to the mirrors
(yet to be done) I plan to send a final google form to assess if this campaign had any positive effect on the middle schoolers’ body images
Encourage body positivity by covering up the mirrors and adding stickie notes with kind messages that promote body positivity and self-confidence.
I decided to do a body-positive campaign for middle school students not only because this is a feature of eating disorder prevention programs that studies have shown make a good preventative program, but also because society pushes the idealization of thinness at a very young age with studies showing that by the age of six, girls are already concerned about how they look and their weight. Also, this campaign is both relatively cheap and practical, making it easy to be implemented in other schools.
Eating disorders can take place for multiples reasons. Anorexia Nervosa usually stems from a lack of control in that person’s life and wanting to regain control in a way they know how: dieting. These people are often concerned with their weight or how they look, which leads them to choose dieting to gain control. Binge eating disorder and bulimia usually stem from stress or anxiety in one’s life, causing one to binge on food. People with bulimia feel guilty about this binge, causing them to purge the food they just ate because they are dissatisfied with how they look and do not want to gain weight. These disorders are marked with feeling bad about how you look, so, encouraging body positivity or good feelings about the way one looks would discourage someone from developing an eating disorder because of their negative body perception and other contributing factors.
Take My Initial Survey to Assess Body Image!
What questions should I include in my final survey to assess if this campaign had any positive impact on the students’ body image?
What do you think about the mirror message campaign? Do you believe it could successfully promote body positivity in middle schoolers?
Suggest a kind message to add to a stickie note to be added on the mirrors.
What other campaigns could be implemented in school to promote body positivity and prevent eating disorders?