Hey all, Happy Monday and hope everyone is tucked away at home now during the big storm!
I’ve been dying to fill you guys in on an amazing day I had last week. This past Tuesday I spent the school day at my old stomping grounds, Marblehead Veterans Middle School, raising awareness about disordered eating and many of the issues surrounding body image. Neither are easy topics to discuss, but both need to be brought up and honestly the earlier the better! My main goals as a speaker were to emphasize the fact that disordered eating does not discriminate and is also a complex disease. I really wanted the students to see that disordered eating has WAY more to do with a mindset, as well as behaviors, than purely food and weight.
I’m not going to lie, but prior to walking into the building I was a nervous wreck! I spent at least a week preparing for the big day and strolled in with a solid plan, and filled with anticipation, but for reals… middle schoolers intimidate me! I mean that without a doubt stems from the fact that I was SO unhappy with myself during that time of my life…However, I pushed my insecurities aside and stepped up to the plate because I knew that my presentation was not only a crucial step in the right direction for my own recovery, but was also going to be an eye opening learning experience for the students.
So, I want to share with all of you the outline of my presentation and encourage you all to get in touch with me if you have any further questions! Here it goes:
I began my presentation by introducing myself and explaining to the students why I was “qualified” to discuss the topic of disordered eating and more specifically how the disease has affected me. It was probably the most personal/candid part of the talk and I felt extremely vulnerable sharing my story, especially because I had to tell the kids that I am still in recovery and not yet fully recovered. When discussing my own experience with disordered eating I made sure not to bring up numbers (i.e. weights, sizes, and calories) as well as specific behaviors. I spoke more about the emotional and physical tolls that the disease took on my life as well as what I am doing now, and have done in the past to combat it. I emphasized the fact that I’m not an expert, but I’ve lived the eating disorder reality for a long time and would pretty much do anything to make sure no one else had to go through that hell, so that’s way I was there to talk to them. It was my job to raise awareness and get the conversation going about a pretty taboo topic.
From there we moved on to talking about disordered eating facts and also dispelled myths about the disease. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the students knew a lot about disordered eating. The health/wellness curriculum at MVMS is awesome and the teachers have done an exceptional job with these 8th graders! As my references for the facts, myths, and all the more educational parts of disordered eating that I spoke about I used NEDA’s website, as well as my training to become a volunteer speaker for NEDA Awareness week. If you want to learn more you should definitely check out this site: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn
Then we addressed body ideals/media influence, which was the most interactive section of the talk. I wanted to emphasize the fact that in our media obsessed culture it’s almost impossible to escape the messages about what our body “should” look like based off of unrealistic body ideals that the media have created. The images that are being pushed at us are unattainable because they are photoshopped! In order to really drive this point home I actually brought in some images that on one side had the unedited picture and on the other side had the photoshopped version. The kids really were shocked by how drastically different the photoshopped images were from the real ones and I truly believe that they will think twice whenever they see an image of what society is defining (on that day) as “beauty.” I couldn’t help, but tell all of them that beauty can’t be defined because it is personal, and comes from the inside… I ended that little rant by telling all of them that they were beautiful because it’s true 🙂
I concluded my presentation by sharing with the kids how they can get help for themselves and/or how they can help someone who they love. I encouraged anyone who thought that they might be struggling with some form of disordered eating to take this online screening test that the National Eating Disorder Association offers. When it came to explaining how to help a loved one I shared with them some Dos and Don’ts.
- Learn as much as you can about EDs.
- Be honest, be vocal about your concerns.
- Be caring, but firm.
- Compliment your loved one’s inner qualities.
- Be a good role model, practice what you preach.
- Tell a trusted adult.
- Place shame, blame or guilt.
- Make rules or promises that you cannot or will not uphold.
- Give simple solutions.
- Ignore or avoid the situation until its severe or life threatening.
Speaking at MVMS was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. The faculty and the students were welcoming, warm and engaged throughout my entire talk and I’d love to be asked back next year 🙂 What I hope the students, as well as all of you, have learned is that disordered eating is a disease than can affect anyone, but it doesn’t have to define you and by talking about it we clear up some of the stigmas and myths that are tied to the disease.