According to Eating Disorder Hope, a website that raises awareness about eating disorders, “Over 50% of teenage girls and 33% of teenage boys are using restrictive measures to lose weight at any given time.” Also: “eating disorders are a daily struggle for 10 million females and 1 million males in the United States.”
An eating disorder is a psychological disorder consisting of abnormal eating habits. Eating disorders and insecurities about body image plague high schools across the country, making it rare for any individual to pass through adolescence without being affected by them in some way.
Seniors Molly Murphy ’15, Alexia Hernandez ’15,and Binger Shangguan ’15 are creating a video on the topic for the sophomore health classes.
These three seniors are completing this project to fulfill their Deerfield health requirement, which they were unable to satisfy through taking the Health Issues class. When Health Issues Teacher Kristin Loftus presented them with the option to create a new, updated video, the three seniors thought it would be a great opportunity to inform their peers about a controversial topic.
Currently, Murphy, Hernandez and Shangguan are conducting research, collecting data from the community through an online survey and interviewing Deerfield students to put together an informative video.
Ms. Loftus explained the differences between eating disorders and disordered eating: “I do not think eating disorders are a major problem on the Deerfield campus. EDs are clinical mental health disorders, and very few of our students actually suffer from them. I would say we have more of a problem with disordered eating: behaviors that would not be considered ‘healthy’ eating—skipping meals, fad diets/cleanses, over exercising, supplement use, etc.”
Murphy explained how surprised she was by just how common disordered eating and body awareness is among the student body at Deerfield. She said, “About 78% of kids [taking the survey] expressed at least some interest in being thinner, boys and girls. Also, around a third of the student body expressed some urge to purge or vomit after eating.”
However, Murphy added that the goal of the video is to raise awareness through exposure to the topic rather than simply provide startling statistics. “We hope it will provide a support for people who feel like they’re the only ones going through eating disorders, experiencing symptoms, or feeling the wish to be thinner,” she said, “and just to gain awareness of what is healthy eating and how it is practiced within the Deerfield community.”
Hernandez spoke about how she thinks Deerfield could improve on this widespread issue, saying, “A major source of interaction here is through food, especially during feeds at night, so maybe we could find other important ways to interact with people and friends besides over overwhelming amounts of food.”
Overall, eating disorders are a fragile subject for many teenagers, boys and girls. This survey and project will help the community gain awareness about how prevalent eating disorders are and how we can help change the statistics. Since many experts believe the first step to changing a problem is learning about it, the goal of the project is to educate our community about this issue so that we can become more comfortable and adept at addressing it on campus.