The new Netflix film, To the Bone, which depicts a young woman’s struggle and recovery from anorexia, is about to be released. I write this without having seen the whole film, but the trailer itself has sparked such controversy that I felt compelled to address it.
As the Executive Director of EDIN, a non-profit dedicated to the prevention and awareness of eating disorders, and as a therapist who treats clients with eating disorders, I welcome the opportunity to have a discussion about the most effective ways to raise awareness for eating disorders. I believe we need to have more conversations about what helps, what can unintentionally cause harm, and how to make our conversation more inclusive of all ethnicities, ages, genders, body sizes, abilities, etc. These are all valuable questions, and I’m glad we’re having this discussion.
Many talented clinicians and experts in the field have already weighed in about this film (NEDA, The Mighty, Paige Smathers, Washington Post). Rather than writing another article from the perspective of an expert, I'd like to offer a part of my own story.
My sophomore year of high school was tough. On the outside, I probably looked like a healthy, happy teenager. I came from a “good family,” I had friends, I played sports, and I did well in school. Internally, I was struggling. I didn’t feel equipped to cope with experiences I’d had, to manage the stress I internalized nor to handle all of my complex feelings. I was also highly body-conscious, preoccupied with how I felt my body “should” look. I had absorbed messages from the media, family and friends about what bodies were acceptable, which were beautiful. Since middle school, I’d been engaging in behaviors to try to change my body.
But there was a crucial turning point when it got much, much worse.
For me, the trigger for this turning point was a film; specifically, a television movie about a teenage girl with an eating disorder. The movie did not intend to glamorize the disease. The girl in the film wants to change her body. She develops an eating disorder that makes her very sick. She eventually gets help. While I’m fairly certain this was the plot, all I remember from the film were the destructive behaviors in which she was engaging.
Immediately following this film, I began to engage in the behaviors I’d witnessed in this film. (Please note: I’m being purposely vague about these “behaviors.” They are harmful and I don't want to draw more attention to them.) I had the genetic predisposition, a highly sensitive temperament, and was already struggling with food and my body image. In essence, I was vulnerable (at high risk/predisposed to developing an eating disorder).
The behaviors I learned from the film allowed my eating disorder to consume my life. Within a few months, instead of going to camp with all my friends, I was admitted to an inpatient eating disorder treatment program.
My eating disorder stole years of my life. It took an enormous toll on me physically, emotionally and spiritually. And I’m one of the lucky ones: I got help. I found life on the other side of an eating disorder.
To those of you who are asking why this film is so controversial:
I hope my story serves as a cautionary tale. Let me be clear: the film I watched did NOT cause my eating disorder. Eating disorders are incredibly complex illnesses. The media or a film cannot trigger an eating disorder without other factors already present. But for vulnerable individuals like me, films like To The Bone can provide ideas and images that can cause harm. The detailed depiction of an eating disorder can serve as a how-to guide for disordered behaviors for those who are already predisposed to these diseases.
Can vulnerable individuals find these images and ideas elsewhere on the internet? Absolutely.
Should the media avoid portraying anything that could potentially trigger someone? Of course not. I am not advocating censorship. I believe this film was made with positive intentions.
I am advocating that we be highly aware of the potential for unintentional consequences when films like this are released.
(And if you’re in the “Toughen up, Snowflakes” camp, I’ll never convince you. I've come to embrace my sensitive nature as an asset and I strongly believe that vulnerability and compassion are more courageous than “acting tough,” but that's a whole other post..)
For ways to respond to and support vulnerable family or friends, check out these articles from The Butterfly Foundation, Eating Recovery Center, and EDIN.
To the precious, sensitive and vulnerable human beings out there:
If you’re already struggling with your body image, or with food...or you just feel overwhelmed and want to connect with someone else who “knows your pain”... I get why you want to watch this film. You may simply wish to feel less alone in your struggles. (I know I did!) An eating disorder isolates you from those around you. It promises acceptance while it destroys you from the inside out. You may feel alone, but you are NOT alone! There are many people who care about you and want to help. If you can resist, I’d urge you not to watch this film.
If you do watch it, please consider watching it with a friend or family member. (If you don't have someone nearby, this Friday, July 14th at 7:30 pm, watch and discuss this film with a positive recovery community on Twitter hosted by @kcleddy, #TTBlive) Talk about what comes up for you as you watch it. If it influences you to engage in harmful behaviors, please ask for help.
Eating disorders destroy lives. Your life matters. From one survivor to another: it’s not easy but if you ask for help, you can recover! You are worth the time and energy it takes. There is a massive recovery community just waiting to welcome you into our fold.
PS: EDIN's website has lots of information about eating disorders and how to get help.
Montana Marie Davis
Freshmen at Wake Technical Community College (North Carolina)
Dear younger self,
What if you wake up one day when you’re 65 and you never got your memoir or novel written or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice comfortable tummy or you were just so hung up on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy, creative life, of imagination and silliness. It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Learning to love myself again was like learning to walk all over again. Self-appreciation comes from within when you realize that what other people think about you, isn’t nearly as important of what you think of yourself, and I finally realized that at the end of the day if I’m happy, that’s the only thing that matters. Don’t let this happen to you. Just because others don’t see your worth, doesn’t mean you don’t have any. A positive body image won’t magically appear when you reach a certain weight or when you look a certain way. It’ll come as you begin to realize that your body has carried you through life. Your thighs have carried you when you didn’t have the energy to walk, your stomach has held many of delicious foods, and your eyes have let you see the beauty of the world. Don’t grow up the same way I did, don’t learn to love yourself again, learn to never fall out of love with yourself. The day you decide to love yourself is the day you’ll conquer the world. You can only hate yourself for so long before what you think becomes who you are and that’s a life that isn’t fun to live.
Aleksandra ‘Oly’ Zayac
Junior at Elon University (North Carolina)
Oh little one,
I see you eyeing that favorite cake batter ice cream. Oh, why’d you turn around? And…she’s made eye contact with the model cardboard cutout advertising some don’t-have-the-ice-cream jeans. And…cue the crying.
I could tell you not to cry. I could tell you that you are beautiful. I could tell you that picture is photo-shopped and that no one looks that way. But I know there is no magic advice to bring you up from embarrassingly hysterically crying on the floor.
I will tell you this, though. Today sucks. And tomorrow might suck too. But all you need to know is that it will be okay. You are not crazy for wanting to be thin. But being asked why you’re so thin isn’t all it’s hyped to be, either.
You may not think this now, but you are worth so much more than what that mirror growls back at you. People truly care about what you have to say and what you have to offer.
I can guarantee that you have not lost five pounds by walking five feet and you haven’t gained that five back by sitting down.
Know this: you are cared for; you are loved. You have so much to offer to this world, but only if you believe me.
Let today be a little rough but please allow tomorrow to improve. You’ll feel great in dresses and jeans and eat that ice cream once again.
There is a future, and yours shines like the glimmer in your eyes you’ll one day have back.
I could tell you I love you from five years older, but I want you to tell yourself today.
Take mom’s hand, stand up, wipe the tears, give mom a smile, and, when no one’s looking, give that model cardboard cutout the finger—it’ll make you feel better, I promise.
Be here for you in five years,
Your happier self.
High school finalist
Senior at Parkview High School
Dear Younger Self,
Everything is about to get very different very fast. By the end of this year, you’ll know more people with doctorates than you can imagine, and gain a whole new vocabulary of love and hatred, because your brain is about to get sick, and it’s going to spread to your body.
Pay attention. This isn’t the only warning you’ll be given, but it just might be the only one you listen to.
From what I remember, you’re almost paranoid right now. Everyone is out to get you and force you to break your own rules, and though those people definitely aren’t perfect, they are healthy, which is more than you’re about to be able to say. It’s going to sound like utter treason to your ears, but you need to turn your choices-food, exercise, all of it- over to them. You’re staring at the world through warped glass right now, and cannot trust your own judgment.
I know I can’t convince you, I know I can’t change what you’re about to become and what I’ve already been, but I wish so much that you could know something, and maybe ease it just a little: your body is so incredibly loving. The stomach that you’re so fixated over holds most of what keeps you living. It’s the source of breath, ‘gut’ instinct, nervous butterflies, and maybe one day, even a baby. It is completely responsible for your life, and even when you treat it this way, when you let your brain trick you into torturing it, it is so loyal that it will still do everything it possibly can to keep you going. But it can only do so much.
This incredible and miraculous machine needs to be treated like one, and it’s up to you to learn to care for and love it. Unconditionally. Good luck.
Love (and I mean it),
Soon to Be You
Senior at Pace Academy
Once you love who you are on the inside, the love you have for your body will come. I promise. When you don’t take what other people say to heart, you will feel a great relief. I know you want to please everybody, but you can’t. You can’t force your body to look a certain way; you’ll only go through agonizing pain while you attempt to distort your body. It doesn’t make sense- why you have the need to be everything you’re not. I know you want it to make sense, so you lie to yourself and say that you’ll be happy smaller, and that you don’t deserve to eat, but you’re wrong- deep down you know it too. And don’t take any of what others say personally. You are afraid to speak your mind and be who you are because of this, but I promise that what other people say and think doesn’t matter. Once you can accept yourself, when you can appreciate your snort when you laugh or your unique personality and not be afraid to share your love with the world, loving your body will come. I promise. Don’t assume what people think of you, don’t you dare say the girl from Calculus “hates you” when you haven’t ever spoken to her. Chances are she has the same fears that sometimes keep you awake at night. When you discover the truth, that the world is not against you, you’ll become free of the prison you’ve put your mind in. When and only when you can say “I love me, my soul and my heart,” will you be able to look in the mirror and truly love yourself. It isn’t easy, I won’t lie-it will be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. But love will come- I promise.
Junior at South Atlanta High School
You’re standing in the mirror at eleven years old, and the way your belly pops out makes you feel deranged and insecure with a tinkering power. Little did you know, that beyond that glass, the image reflecting only what your dark eyes could see, that there was a beautiful girl with a lovely smile and a quirky personality with a uniqueness that caked your self-demeanor.
But no, I’m still ugly, I’m still black, no one looks like me.
I’ll just tell you otherwise.
The media has fooled you and used you as a playing pawn…making you feel like this is the way to be. I know you loved to read your Seventeen magazines who displayed Caucasian beauty idols 24/7, and I know you enjoyed your bag of Cheetos while watching a teen clique show full of stick thin girls with long and silky straight hair and pale skin, but…they look nothing like you, and guess what?
That’s the beauty of variety in the world.
Standards of beauty had you locked in a trance that had you set on “black being ugly and not pretty.”
If I knew now what I knew then, you would’ve been a much more proud kid and you wouldn’t be worried about your outlier appearance.
I’m still chubby, and I can’t wear cute clothes.
You had been programmed into believing that “thin is in”, when really, ANY body type is in. Without variety in the world, there would be no pop of color and indifference and everyone would be clones.
Love yourself no matter what, because you’re one of a kind and gorgeous in your own state of nature. No one can come close to your diamond beauty, despite being thick, brown, curly-headed, and a tad bit crazy.
Middle school finalist
8th grade at McConnell Middle School
You will be more then your crows feet and the wrinkles that adorn your sun bronzed face. Embrace this new era in your life with as much vigor and strength as you did in your youth. You are an earth angel and the spirituality and mindfulness that will illuminate from your eyes, will light up every room that you walk in. A wise word will be evident in every word you will speak, it will be proof in the grayness of your head; Loreal will have no place in your life...you shall love every strand of your silver hue. While some try and turn back the hand of time with face lifts and tucks and tugs and peels that they cannot pronounce, you will be defying age by drinking from the fountain of youth...the full glass of creating, discovering, and volunteering to help those other then yourself. I like the idea of throwing my cane to the wind, the way some folks throw caution. You will look forward to being that hard place for someone to lean upon for support and lending your heart for that soft place for your grandchildren and support of the young or the young at heart.
7th grade at Woodward Academy
Dear future self,
Do you remember to smile at yourself everyday and to tell yourself that you're beautiful and that you matter? Do you accept yourself? I hope you do and teach others to do the same. Our generation has grown up with people telling us who we have to be, how we need to look, and act. Is that what we really want to teach our kids? To tell them that they have to change their body to match others. Do we really want that for them? Ask yourself would you rather have everyone focused on creating a new brand of makeup or working on curing cancer? You may or may not like how tall you are, what you look like, or your characteristics but at some point everyone dislikes something about their body. It takes patience to learn to look yourself in the mirror, in your eyes, and say to yourself that you're beautiful, you're kind, smart, funny, and you're special. Many people don't learn till their older or plainly don't learn. This generation is different, we don't care about brands or someone's race. We care about friendship, trust, and kindness. Isn't that what beauty really is? Why is it so hard to learn to trust yourself? There is a barrier that meets you halfway through the process, it leads you to the wrong or right path. It will be hard to cross but once you break that wall down you're able to see who you really are. I can't wait to see who you become and what you do with your life. You have the potential to change the world. Just remember you have to learn to tuck yourself in at night before you can let others.
8th grade at Woodward Academy
Dear Future self,
I'm past you. Right now I'm a 13 in the 8th grade. I see all these girls who are tall, skinny, and beautiful but I'm realizing this before it is too late, body image is not everything. It is not worth just changing yourself for a guy who just likes you for your outside. A boy who just cares about how you look is not worth it. As I'm write this,I have yet applied that to myself. It's better said then done. I often sit and criticize myself in the mirror ask "Why doesn't he like me?" "I'm too fat." Who cares what he thinks! It's all about you. Even he doesn't like you for you body, then you don't need to be with him. If you feel like you're not worth it, that is a lie because you are. You are beautiful and every single way, to your hair and face to your feet. Also, to be pretty, you, first have to be pretty inside. There are girls these days cutting themselves, starving themselves, becoming bulimic just for a little boy. It seems so wonderful and glamorous but its not. They could die just because of someone called them fat or ugly. Changing your body is not going to change your face. If you feel fat, rock your beautiful body because you are the only one who can change (without harming your body). What changed me is my self-confidence and self-appreciation (self-importance). It does not matter to me,what people think of me, it matter what I think. If a boy does not like me, so be it. It will just be like that. I'm unique and that is how it going to be.
By Rachel Glover
“You will not be running a half-marathon next weekend. I’d be too concerned you’d pass out long before reaching the finish line. Instead, you will leave this office and go to St. Judes Hospital to get an EKG. Then, you’ll go to Kroger, and your mom will buy you Boost shakes. Drink them in between your meals. You’ll come back and see me once a week until you’re back to life, Rachel.”
My eating disorder despised her, its loathing kept me enslaved, bound to denial. My brain was malnourished. My frail body, habitually cold, sheltered a lost girl with a faint heart. It struggled to beat at a normal rate. This all-consuming tug-of-war between deceit and truth raged war over my identity. Like a ping-pong ball—back and forth, back and forth. I had become a slave to perfection—held captive to an addiction that promised acceptance and fulfillment, but led only to bondage and self-hatred. Anorexia had made me a stranger, a bag of bones bystander within my own story.
The eating disorder told me they were all crazy—my doctor, my family, and the handful of faithful friends who cared enough to perceive the fraudulence in many well-crafted lies. Gaining weight meant nothing but failure. It meant surrender. Control freaks don’t do surrender. It meant admitting failure. Perfectionists don’t admit failure. It meant forsaking the skinny, “fit” body I worked so hard to attain. Women engulfed in a culture that equates a twig-like, magazine cover figure with beauty, they don’t typically strive to gain weight. Restriction felt safe. Food remained a familiar enemy.
Recovery was risky, like jumping off a cliff into the ocean, unaware of the precise depth of the choppy water below. Only senseless idiots do shit like that. My unrelenting doctor forced me to realize that I had a choice. I could, like a senseless idiot, choose recovery or I could live the rest of my life a slave, a resident of an inpatient facility. I wondered what life might feel like, free from the heaviness of the shackles that bound me. So I jumped—but not without a forceful push from my fierce mother who refused to lose her daughter to this disease. I did not jump alone. Courage and bravery leapt beside me. Thank God. My flotation device, named Faith, also came along for the swim. She was the only thing that kept me from sinking in those abysmal, scary waters of healing.
I believe in healing—that it’s worth the incredibly exhausting fight. Recovering from an eating disorder was excruciating and wearisome. It meant more weight loss and more weight gain, buying new clothes and throwing away old clothes, over-exercising and being pissed that I couldn’t run anymore. It was emotionally taxing, as I wrestled with names I’d been called since a little girl that made me believe that my worth rested in how well I lived up to the expectations to stay beautiful. I believe that true healing happens only when the soil is removed and the roots are exposed and the rain of grace comes to nourish our cracked and thirsty hearts. It is here, and only here, that healing begins.
Yes, I believe in healing, but I also believe that in our very broken human condition we resist the exposure of our stories and our struggles. We are a culture that belittles vulnerability, for we fear it. We are a culture addicted to shame, for we are hardened to it. Cynicism is easy, it’s safe. But hope—hope means faith and faith means trust. We are a culture of perfection and idealism, for we equate our worth, the very essence of who we are, by our performance—a laundry list of accomplishments. I believe that if this disease remains veiled, the statistics on eating disorders will multiply. Shame will win. Belonging will become fallacy, not a reality.
Through faith, I’ve been empowered to own my story and embrace vulnerability. Light has pierced the darkness. The voices that whisper degrading lies, ruthlessly fighting to steal my dignity, they are fewer. On this side of Heaven, in a deeply wounded world, I do not believe that they will ever completely vanish. I believe, however, that every day, I am given yet another choice. A choice to believe that I am beloved, worthy of affection, and created without flaw in His image. To believe that, despite a thirty-pound weight gain and feminine curves that I often struggle to embrace, I am still beautiful. I am worthy of receiving love and belonging. With unwavering conviction, I believe, healing befalls with a choice—a choice to grip the shield of faith with steadfast strength and to never let it go.
By Page Love, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
Written by Page Love, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, Board President of EDIN, Owner of Nutrifit Sport Therapy
Reposted from Oliver-Pyatt Center's blog
Many of us have been influenced by the diet and exercise obsessed culture and have been pushed to an extreme to over-exercise. But, for many, they are not aware that their exercise routines are abnormally excessive. For many of us, we choose exercise as a coping tool for stress and feeling overwhelmed. Many of my clients report decreases in anxiety when over-exercising, yet do not realize that they are hurting their bodies and creating imbalance in their lives in other ways.
You may be struggling with over-exercise if:
What can you do to set reasonable limits on your exercise and develop and more normalized and balanced movement routine:
If you feel you struggle with over-exercise to an extreme, consider reaching out for guidance and support to a psychotherapist, registered dietitian, or certified strength trainer who have experience working with exercise addiction and over-exercise. The following organizations may be helpful in finding a certified professional that may be a good fit for you:
Most fad diets come and go, but the following nutrition myths just won't disappear!!
#1 "Eating Fat Will Make You Fat"
THE TRUTH IS: Dietary fat is an essential nutrient that is used in brain development, transporting vitamins, providing omega 3’s for heart health, and providing materials for hormones and Vitamin D production. When you eat fat from food, it is used for these functions, burned as energy, and excreted in waste. If excess calories are consumed (from any food), fat tissue may build up on the body.
#2 "You Should Avoid Carbs"
THE TRUTH IS: Carbs give us energy—which we need for exercise, daily activity, and in order for all our organs to keep running properly. Low carb diets may cause initial weight loss (from fluid and glycogen store loss), but will eventually cause decrease energy levels and impaired mood. Hangry, anyone?? Weight loss is usually regained.
#3 "Eating at Night Causes Weight Gain."
THE TRUTH IS: There is no significant difference in metabolism through the day. We do not stop using energy while we sleep. This may be a “diet rule” because some people eat mindlessly and snack more at nighttime.
#4 "I Don't Deserve to Eat Because I Didn't Work Out Today."
THE TRUTH IS: About 50 to 65 percent of total energy needs are for the basic function of your body organs. So, if you do NOTHING all day, you’ll still need energy from food for your heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, etc, to keep working.
#5 "I Need To Eat Less Than Everyone Else Around Me."
THE TRUTH IS: Calorie needs are different for everyone depending on your height, weight, age, gender, activity level, stress level, and genetics. Another point to remember is that the people around you may have eaten more earlier in the day, or will go home to eat a larger amount later. So don't compare and trust your own hunger and fullness levels!
#6 "No Desserts, No Fried Food, No Candy, No Icecream. It's All Too Addicting!!"
THE TRUTH IS: Placing foods completely off-limits causes them to be forbidden or addictive. The more you tell yourself “no”, the more likely you will crave them, and eventually binge on them. It's a vicious cycle. Eating these foods in moderation decreases the risk for overeating and obsessing.
Author: Erin Bushman, Registered Dietitian and owner of Erin Bushman Nutrition, LLC
Voices of Atlanta teens:
What's your first reaction when you read these words?
What do you assume these young people are reacting too?
"Being weighed makes me feel like a number rather than a person."
"I hate getting weighed because no matter what the number is, I know I'll never be happy with it."
"In my high school health class, the teacher had us make this huge chart on the whiteboard with our weight, fat caliper measurements, and our waist circumferences so we could make graphs about the whole class. Even though mine weren't that different from everyone else's, it was humiliating because I jest felt so exposed and violated. I remember coming home that day and crying and wishing my numbers had been lower."
"It makes me nervous because I don't want to know I've put on a lot of weight."
"We calculated our BMI's in PE and weighed ourselves with partners. My BMI has always been on the higher end because I'm a swimmer and have lots of muscle. The teacher told me I was at risk for being overweight and that I needed to start healthier habits. Lunch period was right before PE. I always felt so guilty eating right before going to that class because the teacher would often ask what we had eaten for lunch. It definitely affected what and how much I ate for lunch that year. I felt like she thought I didn't deserve to eat anything because my BMI was high. I associated eating lunch with a lot of guilt."
"Per my 10th grade PE class requirement, I gripped the handheld BMI calculator as instructed by my PE coach, and was horrified when I saw the number. My BMI placed me in the higher end of what our PE coach said was a normal age for girls my age. Even though it was normal I was mortified. All of the girls swarmed around the locker room, comparing results, scrutinizing their bodies in the mirror, and criticizing themselves for being too fat (even though their BMIs were lower than mine!). In no way did we receive a lesson in healthy living. On the contrary, this was an activity in breeding insecurity and unhealthy competition. It was clear that our coach either had no foresight or just total disregard for the ramifications of evaluating the bodies of already insecure teenagers. No educational discussion of the results took place, and many of us were left with a bruised self-esteem and the take-home message that the less fat on our bodies, the "healthier" we were (nevermind our mental health...)."
Last week, many of you read this New York Post article about a 66-pound 3rd grader who was deemed overweight according to the FitnessGram that she received from her school. Please read EDIN's recommendations to our schools about this issue.
Dear Educators and School Administrators,
In the 2011-2012 school year, the Georgia Department of Education passed legislation that requires each local school district to conduct an annual fitness assessment program for all students in grades 1 to 12.(1) The assessments require teachers to measure students’ heights and weights for BMI calculations. It can be extremely stressful and even dangerous for students when the testing is not performed in a sensitive way. The focus on numbers can lead to self-consciousness, shameful feelings, and comparisons between students. These social comparisons have been shown to lead to lowered body image and self esteem. 2
It is extremely important that precautions are taken in order to safeguard students against these negative consequences. EDIN recommends that students be weighed in a private room, and not in front of other students. Ask them to turn backwards on the scale so they cannot see their weight. Do not comment on their weight, whether it is high or low. Even acknowledging a low weight in a positive way can send the wrong message. For example, a student may assume that he or she needs to stay at a low weight to be healthy or must continue to lose weight in order to receive “positive” comments.
When fitness reports are delivered, only parents or guardians should see them. Please include additional information in the reports, such as the attached letter to parents regarding Fitnessgram and recommendations to consult with a professional. Health professionals are trained to interpret BMI based on the child’s growth trend instead of looking at one weight measurement. Additionally, BMI and "growth charts are not intended to be used as a sole diagnostic instrument. Instead, growth charts are tools that contribute to forming an overall clinical impression for the child being measured."3
Parents and educators need to recognize that children grow at different rates and that this is normal, especially around puberty. Some children gain height first, and then weight. Others gain weight first, and then height. Boys and girls also grow at different rates at different times of life. Do not be alarmed if students gain weight first and then height-- this does not necessarily mean that they have bad eating habits. (See attached handout: Medical Reasons Why a Child Might Rapidly Gain Weight.) If students take good care of their bodies, they will grow into the exact size their body is meant to be. However, if they are faced with pressures to control their weight and body size, they may develop an unhealthy relationship with food, exercise, and their own bodies.
EDIN supports the Health at Every Size (HAES) campaign, which acknowledges that good health can be realized independent from considerations of size. It encourages people of all sizes to address health directly by adopting healthy behaviors. HAES accepts and respects the natural diversity of body shapes and sizes by teaching that anyone with healthy behaviors can be healthy, regardless of size. Providing this information to parents could prevent excessive concern about weight and unnecessary, harmful diets.
Please be sensitive to the feelings that fitness testing and “weight talk” may induce in students. It is not helpful, or even accurate, to base a child’s health status on a single number such as weight or BMI. Putting this pressure on students can make them feel self-conscious about their bodies and may lead to extreme behaviors or self-depreciating thoughts. This is the perfect set-up for eating disorders and other disordered eating habits.4 It is extremely important that students do not put too much stock in these numbers or measure their self-worth based on them.
1. Fitness Gram. http://www.fitnessgram.net/state-information/georgia. Accessed on 5/23/14.
2. Eyal, K., & Te’eni-Harari, T. (2013). Explaining the relationship between media exposure and early adolescents’ body image perceptions: The role of favorite characters. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, And Application, 25(3), 129-141. doi:10.1027/1864-1105/a000094
3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts/. Accessed on 5/23/14
4. Jerica M. Berge et al. Parent Conversations About Healthful Eating and WeightAssociations With Adolescent Disordered Eating BehaviorsParent Conversations About Eating and Weight. JAMA Pediatrics, 2013; 1 DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.78