Protect young people from eating disorders in the Education System

Protect young people from eating disorders in the Education System

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Shai Wittles started this petition to acara

Key Figures:

  • According to ANAD, eating disorders affect over 9% of the world's population. According to Deloitte Access Economics, in 2015 over 16.4% of the population was affected by severe symptoms of Disordered Eating.
  • Moreover, transgender people are more likely than cisgender people to experience an Eating Disorder, with 23% of transgender young people having a previous or current diagnosis of an Eating Disorder (Strauss, 2017). 
  • Indigenous Australians are the group most at risk, with over 28% of Indigenous high school students having a diagnosed Eating Disorders. (Burt, 2020). 
  • Anorexia Nervosa, an Eating Disorder characterised by severe restriction of food and an unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight (though many diagnosed sufferers are not considered underweight according to the flawed BMI scale), has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness. In 20 years, 20% of suffers die from anorexia related complications. Moreover, those who are diagnosed with Anorexia are 32 times more likely to commit suicide than their peers.

Flaws In The Education System’s Treatment of Eating Disorders:

In 2018, when I was in year 10, I partook in Physical Education, a mandatory class, in a topic about health and personal improvement. While I acknowledge that the goals of this program were to promote health, it was highly triggering.

Key issues:

  • Students had to record their BMI, and come up with a new goal weight. At the time, I was highly active, and weight 62kgs, and though my body fat percentage was considered excellent, my BMI was overweight. My teacher told me to set my goal weight as 52kgs. At this weight, nowadays, I do not have my period.
  • Students had to fill in food journals. However, there was hardly any space, and reasonably sized meals did not fit in the allotted space. This, in turn, promoted restriction. Students felt judged for their daily intake, and many felt ashamed of what they ate.
  • Female students were encouraged to set ‘Toning’ as our health goal, in order to ‘tighten our stomach’. This, in turn, promoted the idea that appearance was more important than true health, and promoted the idea that being skinny was innately healthy.
  • Students had to complete pie charts recording sleep, exercise and sedentary activities, where students were taught all sedentary activities were harmful as they were coloured in red, while sleeping and exercising were coloured green.

The above instances showcase the ways in which our education system promoted disordered eating behaviours in young people.

Proposed Change:

In order to protect future young people from Eating Disorders, and reduce the growing number of adolescents affected, schools should take actions to educate young people on all Eating Disorders (Bulimia, Anorexia, Binge Eating Disorder, Anorexia Athletica, Orthorexia, EDNOS etc), so that they may be aware of harmful behaviours that should be avoided.

Furthermore, a more healthy relationship towards food, weight and exercise should be promoted, with students not having to measure their BMI, or have to obsessively track their food intake. Students should instead learn about self-care activities, exercise in a way that makes the body feel good, rather than achieve ‘progress’ with fitness, and that food has no moral bearing on an individual.

It is proposed that as part of the Well-being For Learning subject, students be taught the importance of body acceptance, proper nutrition, and self-compassion regarding food and self image. Students should also be shown age-appropriate documentaries regarding Eating Disorders with parental permission, and have the ability to anonymously ask for external support if they believe they or someone they know are experiencing an Eating Disorder.


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