Secondary School – Eating Disorders – Short description
What are eating disorders?
Eating Disorders are complex mental health illnesses that can affect people of any age gender or background. There is no single cause for eating disorders and they can be hard to classify as a person may not have all of the symptoms that fit the diagnostic categories we have historically used.
What are the signs and symptoms of eating disorders?
Behavioural: Not being truthful about eating / weight, Strict dieting, Counting calories, Avoiding eating with other people, Social withdrawal, Isolation, Mood swings, Disappearing soon after eating (purging) or Buying lots of food
Psychological: Excessive focus on body weight, Distorted perception of body shape / weight, Anxiety (around food / meal times), Low confidence & self-esteem, Feelings of guilt & shame, Feelin out of control (especially with regards to food), General poor mental health
Physical: Weight loss / Weight gain, Tiredness, Hair loss / poor skin condition, Stomach pains, Feeling cold / low body temperature, Swelling of hands & feet, Damage to teeth, Bloating, Constipation
How can teachers and schools support students with eating disorders?
Teaching health and nutrition in a way that is mindful that there may be class members who take it literally.
Being careful to ensure healthy eating messages are about achieving a healthy balance rather than inadvertently promoting a ban on sweets, cake, carbs and sugar.
Promoting body confidence and body diversity. Acknowledging that they are still growing and moving away from unhelpful or dangerous messages about BMI that do not take into account diversity, ethnicity, etc.
Promoting eating lunch. Consider initiatives that promote the fun, social advantages of eating lunch (e.g., “Let’s do lunch club”).
Promoting body acceptance between each other as a staff groups. Avoid corridor conversations often overheard by pupils that praise weight loss, will power to restrict food or dieting success.