Eating Disorder Education

Again, I do realize I'm a little late for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, but that's pretty much the story of my life.

However, there have been two newspaper headlines about the true effect of teaching about eating disorders in school. I do vaguely remember a unit on EDs in my ninth grade health class- it was part of a general unit on mental health. (It was over twelve years ago- cut me a break will ya?). However, this study found that yes, indeed, educational videos on anorexia and bulimia did increase knowledge on the subject. Not all that surprising.

What they also found that was kind of disturbing was that these videos increased the appeal of anorexia and bulimia. Those who spoke on the videos appeared thin and smart and pretty and hey- recovery isn't that bad, so why don't I give it a whirl?


Granted, education on depression, schizophrenia, and OCD doesn't make them more appealing. And I am all for increasing awareness on any mental health issue. I've also had full-blown OCD while I studied it in my high school psychology class. As well, seeing that most people with anorexia and bulimia are in denial about their illness, or about the seriousness of their illness (it's a cardinal feature of anorexia), I don't think education should be targeted at sufferers themselves. I do know from my own experience that if I didn't have all of the signs and symptoms listed, then I wasn't that bad.

Furthermore, it would be nice if information on eating disorders was accurate. Eating disorders are genetic. They are not caused by bad families, the media, a backlash against feminism, or wanted to look like a model. Anorexia is basically like a phobia of food, of anxiety around eating the right foods, about eating foods at all. I would also like people to know that there are scientifically proven treatments for anorexia. That the road to recovery is long and treacherous and not everyone makes it. That eating disorders kill.

Teens do need to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of eating disorders so they can help support their friends. They need to know about the ineffectiveness of dieting. They need to know how girls (and boys) need to gain 40 to 50 pounds during puberty.

I've spoken to my high school psychology class about eating disorders. I don't know how good of a job I did, but I made sure to talk about the long journey back to anything resembling normal. I don't know that I dissuaded anyone from the path I took, or prompted anyone to get help for their problems. I honestly don't think I'm quite that powerful. But at least I provided a glimpse into the true nature of an eating disorder, about how seemingly normal-looking people can be quite ill.

posted under , , |


mary said...

This is such a sensitive subject and I think it requires the teachers to be well informed, intelligent, and sensitive. Hearing from you Carrie, I'm sure made an impression on them about the realities of ED's. Keep shedding light on this topic!


I do enjoy presenting to high schoolers- they're often quite inquisitive and have questions about symptoms in their "friends." I feel good that I can pass along helpful information. I just make sure not to gloss over all the not-so-nice bits about showering puke out of your hair, etc. That did a number on de-glamorizing an ED!

mary said...

I imagine you left a fine impression! : O

Post a Comment

Newer Post Older Post Home

ED Bites on Facebook!

ED Bites is on Twitter!

Search ED Bites

About Me

My photo
I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

Drop me a line!

Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at

nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


Popular Posts


Recent Comments