The new school year is upon us again. Excitement, apprehension, curiosity, and concern are common emotions students, educators, and parents experience as the first school bell of the year rings. Add in concerns about eating and/or body image and the level of apprehension and concern intensifies.
According to statistics from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders:
42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
81% of 10 year old children are afraid of being fat.
46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets.
35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives.
In a college campus survey, 91% of the women admitted to controlling their weight through dieting.
Not everyone who changes eating patterns due to concerns about physical appearance will develop an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Nor does each person who changes how she eats desire body changes; the changes may be made to give her a feeling of control. But changes in eating behaviors can have a negative impact on a person’s mood, sleep, focus, brain and body function, which, therefore, impact school and athletic performance in both males and females.
School staff, coaches, and peers at all education levels play a critical role in helping persons with disordered eating behaviors move towards health and recovery. They may see signs that indicate a person needs help, such as: skipping lunch or eating less than usual, change in skin color in face/hands, trips to the restroom more than usual, swaying after standing, changes in performance in the classroom or athletic arena. It’s important to bring these concerns to the student and/or caregivers. School administration, counselors and nurses fill an important role in assisting the student and family by directing them to providers who can assist (physicians, psychologists, counselors, dietitians) in recovery.
The Eating Disorder Coalition of Iowa serves to help all impacted by providing resources and connecting providers.
The new school year is here, along with help and hope.