Did you ever have that homework assignment making you write down everything you ate and drank for a day or two, including calories, fat, protein, carbs, sugars, etc.?
It often went along with an intense lesson on the dangers of each of these, how fat and carbs are bad for you and we should all avoid sugar and no matter how many vegetables you think you’re eating it’s not enough.
Ok, that may be an exaggeration but this assignment certainly did its best to scare us into eating healthier.
And some of us who have a bad habit of interpreting things to the extremes certainly ate healthier. A little too healthy.
Teachers claim these assignments are to teach students about good diets and eating healthier, and I can understand where they’re coming from, but these “learning opportunities” only exacerbated my already-existing body-image issues and pushed my eating disorder further.
And the worst part is, I thought I had recovered from these thoughts. Man, was I wrong.
My eating disorder experience included a severe phobia of fat, and tracking every gram of fat I ate in a day took me back to a place I never want to visit again.
And these projects don’t only affect those with preexisting food issues either. Food tracking can also cause otherwise healthy students to develop an unhealthy relationship with the food they eat.
Feelings of guilt or shame about something you eat can cause students to begin restricting, purging, binging or excessively exercising to avoid those feelings. If I ever ate anything not marked as a “safe food” in my mind, you better believe I was on the treadmill the next chance I got, making sure I burned off those “bad” calories.
This is something young girls should never have to go through but the sad reality is that up to 57 percent of adolescent girls engage in crash-dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting or taking diet pills or laxatives.
That’s over half of all girls between 10 and 19 years old.
Think back on your middle school days. I know, I try not to either. Middle school is a time where everyone just wants to fit in. A time where you’re willing to change anything about yourself to make yourself look better. Where boys suddenly aren’t gross anymore and girls don’t have cooties.
And that feeling doesn’t go away. Everyone wants to be the best version of themselves. So yeah, learning how to properly fuel our bodies is definitely important, but forcing young girls and boys to learn how to diet before they’re even in high school is not the way to go.
And while some teachers may allow some students to be excused from the assignment, that requires reaching out and talking to them, explaining that you can’t participate in this assignment because you’re too scared to learn how much fat you eat in a day. Could you blame me for not wanting to have that deeply personal and embarrassing conversation with my health teacher?
Schools should be a safe haven from the toxic world of eating disorders but instead, they’re assigning work that promotes them. Let’s save the counting for math class, not the cafeteria.