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

  • PHYSICAL
    • weight loss or gain in a short span of time
    • abdominal pain
    • 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)
  • BEHAVIORAL
    • frequent attempts at dieting
    • pretending to eat/throwing food away, or playing with food
    • avoiding food in social situations
    • secrecy around eating
    • overexercising
    • 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

  1. 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)
  2. Interactive programs
    • these programs are more engaging, which facilitates internalizing important concepts and promotes attitudinal and behavioral change

CAMPAIGN STEPS

  1. 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)
  2. I sent out a survey to the middle schoolers to have them assess their self-image
  3. 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
  4. As an interactive advisory task, the students added their own messages to the mirrors
  5. (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

MY RESPONSE

  • 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!

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Results!

Feedback

Comment Below!

  1. What questions should I include in my final survey to assess if this campaign had any positive impact on the students’ body image?
  2. What do you think about the mirror message campaign? Do you believe it could successfully promote body positivity in middle schoolers?
  3. Suggest a kind message to add to a stickie note to be added on the mirrors.
  4. What other campaigns could be implemented in school to promote body positivity and prevent eating disorders?

Works Cited

Click here for the bibliography of this page

15 comments

  1. Avatar

    Looks like a super awesome idea! I love the creativity and that the students could add to it if they wanted!

  2. Avatar

    Kelsey!!!! This is such a beautiful project and I think this is a brilliant idea. If all schools had a mandated day for this that would make my heart so happy. I love everything about this.

  3. Avatar

    I think that this is such an important step towards de-stigmatizing eating disorders and offering support to those who are struggling, and I especially love your dedication towards discussing such an important issue with kids at the a pivotal age where they can be affected by it.

    1. Avatar

      Such an amazing project Kelsey!

  4. Emmi_203

    Hey Kelsey! This is an amazing take on this issue and I appreciate your efforts to help younger children prevent developing disordered eating! It is clear you put a significant amount of time and energy into this project and your data collected is admirable! To answer your questions, I think you could possibly add a question about how the students felt after the mirrors were covered/if this changed their thinking in anyway? I think the mirror message campaign is wonderful and I think its great to remind the middle schoolers that appearance isn’t everything which may definitely help with body image. Finally, you pretty much included it in your project but I love the idea of inspiring messages on mirrors to add more positivity that might help prevent eating disorders! Overall I think you did a great job!

    1. Kelsey

      Hi Emmi! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my project and respond to the question! I will definitely try to include a question on how the students felt after the mirrors were covered or if it changed their thinking at all.

  5. Avatar

    Hi Kelsey! I think that this an incredible way to go about promoting body positivity and helping adolescents stay away from disordered eating! Someone at my own school did a project similar to this last year. Most of the mirrors in the school are covered in little paper sticky notes with encouraging and empowering words written on them and I feel like it worked well for everyone in the community. Your project overall included lots of research and your surveys started a really important discussion among these middle schoolers who are at a very at-risk age when it comes to developing eating disorders. If you were to create more survey questions I think it would be interesting to see what impact the mirror message campaign had on these students! Wonderful job!

    1. Kelsey

      Hi Marley! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond to my project! I will definitely try to include questions that focus on whether my campaign impacts the students. I think it is so great that somebody already did this in your own school. I hope that my project benefits these students as much as it seemed to benefit your own community.

    2. kelsey

      Hi Marley! Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my project! I will make sure to try and include questions to see if the campaign has any impact on the students. I am so glad that your school has done something similar! I hope that my campaign can have as much impact on my community as it seems to have had on yours!

  6. Julia

    Hi Kelsey! I think topics like eating disorders, mental health etc. really need to be de-stigmatized and I think that this project is definitely a first step in doing so. Your project was incredibly empowering and really well executed. I definitely think that this is something that schools could easily implement and as a result of this it could change the lives of so many. Great job!!

    1. Kelsey

      Hi Julia! Thanks so much for responding to my project! I agree with you that eating disorders need to be de-stigmatized, and I hope to have contributed to doing so. Thanks for all the positive feedback and I hope to continue to make an impact with my project in the future!

  7. Layla

    Wow, Kelsey! This project is really awesome! I love the mirror campaign aspect and I think that is such a great idea. I can just imagine how positive the effects of the were. What was some of the feedback you got from that? Again, really great work!

    1. Kelsey

      Hi Layla! Thanks so much for responding to my project! I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from administrators and teachers informed about this project in high school and middle school. There also seems to be a lot of positive feedback from some of the younger middle schoolers, 5-6th graders, having placed their own sharpie and pad of stickie notes available in the bathroom. Last time, I checked so that anybody could easily add more notes to the mirrors. I haven’t got any feedback or any inclination of feedback from the older middle schoolers, but I hope to send out a survey soon to see what their responses are!

  8. Avatar

    I love this project! It’s so inspiring. It’s clear that it is well-researched and thought out, and the fact that you decided to implement the mirror campaign for the middle-schoolers really shows how much you actually cared about your topic. In answer to your questions, I think you could ask the middle schoolers if they prefer to leave the mirrors covered for the rest of the year or if they want them covered next year. A positive message: I love the way you look today!

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