A nutritionist and body image researcher with an interest in preventing eating disorders and ‘treating childhood obesity’, has completed research showing that much of the advice given to school kids on diet, weight and health is detrimental. Full article here:
Jenny O’Dea of the University of Sydney has found approaches used in many of the nation’s schools are inappropriate and potentially harmful.
Associate Professor O’Dea interviewed 8950 students in 57 schools for a study of body image and obesity issues in 2006 and published the results and recommendations in her recent book Everybody’s Different.
“Our approach for dealing with these problems in children should always be ‘First, do no harm,”‘ she told a conference of teachers at the university.
Well, that’s a good start.
The article then goes on to list the some examples of the shocking ignorance displayed by some teachers, for example:
In one high school a teacher started a diet club for overweight girls and encouraged them to seek sponsorship for losing weight. The money they earned was sent to starving children in Ethiopia.
This could come straight from satire. Oh wait, it has.
In another all-girls school in northern Sydney, a physical education teacher forced girls to be weighed in front of their class. He told a girl from his class that her weight was “not good”, despite being well within the healthy weight range for girls of her height and development level. The girl went on to develop bulimia, Dr O’Dea said.
PE teachers are evil. Really they are. I know from my own experience. But still… why would anyone think its a good idea for teenaged girls to be publicly weighed in? Or comment on a girl’s weight, regardless of whether it was in a ‘healthy weight range’ or not?
In a third case study, a food technology teacher at an all-boys school repeatedly pointed out the chubby students as examples of the effects of eating “nasty food”. Some of the boys targeted stopped eating regular meals, while another started bingeing.
Glad to know that the vigilant obesity police are targeting boys too. Well done, guys. Let’s get equal opportunity across the eating disorder spectrum.
Dr O’Dea warned against teachers trying to make health diagnoses. “It’s not a teacher’s job to make clinical diagnoses, design diets or exercise regimes. The best thing they can do is work to make the school a healthy environment.”
Dr O’Dea said teachers who adopted a positive approach to exercise and healthy eating had observed improved self-esteem among students and increased participation in physical education classes.
This seems like sound advice, but I’d be interested to read Ms O’Dea’s books to find out exactly how body positive she is. Certainly some of the articles she is quoted in (which she links to on her home page) seem body positive. Can anyone who has read her books confirm?