What is an Eating Disorder?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the definition of an eating disorder is; “An illness in which the people who experience severe disturbances in their eating patterns and related thoughts and emotions.” This definition does an accurate job of describing an eating disorder, but any online definition cannot fully explain an epidemic that affects 30 million people worldwide.
An eating disorder not only affects an individual’s mental health, but also a person’s physical and personal capabilities. Mentally, an eating disorder changes the way a person thinks, causing an individual to twist their perspective of a healthy body image, making them believe there are not beautiful. Physically these disorders attack the body, establishing unhealthy weights or causing detrimental side effects to a person’s health. In our community it is commonly perceived that Ed’s are solely developed due issues with weight, but it  depends on what kind of disorder you have. This affects people of all different races, ethnicity, sexuality, and genders. It is most commonly perceived that an ED is experienced only by young females. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) suggests that about 10 million men struggle also  with some type of eating disorder at some point in their lives.
It is not widely known that over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys exhibit unhealthy weight control behavior. In an article written by Ann Marie Britton called The Beauty Industry’s Influence on Women in Society, Britton’s concepts for women can be used to explain the cause of most disorders today, not only females but males as well. Mrs. Britton discusses the high standard of beauty our society has created. Mrs. Britton states ”Women today are constantly being reminded of what is considered beautiful. There are thousands of advertisements that promote this elusive beautiful image to women of all ages, shapes, and sizes. By placing photo-shopped and computer-enhanced models in advertisements, society has built up impossible standards of beauty, which has led to feelings of inadequacy among women” (5.1). Britton explains how social media has created a platform for a mock version of our reality. This reality creates an untenable, and unrealistic standard of beauty. This makes not only women, but men as well, feel like they cannot be beautiful unless they meet this standard. This pushes us to wonder who in our community feels as if they are struggling with this problem, and who feels they cannot attain this false concept of ”beauty” Among high-school students, 44% of females and 15% of males attempt to lose weight. In the John Adams there have been a few instances where individuals have experienced eating disorders. I Interviewed a student here at Adams and asked her these three questions: What have you experienced with having an ed in High School? Have you noticed other individuals with an eating disorder in our schools community. Have you ever been made to feel as if you were an outsider because of your condition. For the first question, the student explained how going to school helped and also didn’t help with having a eating disorder. It helped her with feeding into her Ed, it made it easier for her to not bring food school, and to completely avoid it altogether. She explained that being at Adams and following a numerous amount of her classmates on social media, made her change the way she thought about herself. She compared herself to the models on Instagram and her fellow classmates. She wanted herself to be a reflection of what she saw. If she didn’t look like what was in the mirror, it would lower herself esteem.
She also did not notice any other students with an eating disorder at Adams, making her feel more like an outsider. She also couldn’t do any physical activity when the time came to take online gym. She told me that it was heavily based on Diet control, and focused on calorie intake. For an individual who has a disorder that developed because of those two subjects, it caused her a tremendous amounts of anxiety. To conclude our interview we talked about how our school needs to change the way it looks at diet culture. How we approach learning about it, and teaching our students and faculty to be sensitive to individuals who might be dealing with an Ed.
I created a google form created for our Adams students to take to see if they have experienced, or thought, of partaking in any kind of eating disorder behavior. This forum is for your personal use, and your results will only be sent to you. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd99ARI4UWuJQu_ZLjWfdcrQX2z3N5aTT3l0iUDJgiaTKdKQQ/viewform?usp=sf_link
If after you have taken this assessment you feel like you may have an eating disorder, please contact your local high school social worker, guidance counselor, or a local professional.  If you feel you are not at risk for developing an eating disorder, and if you know someone who is, please seek help for them. Choose to a leader for the our Adams community, rather than a bystander.