Two young women share how a lack of body image awareness from educators and schools left a lasting impression on their lives.
Imogen Barnes, 22, and Emma Nisbet, 28, have shared their experiences with eating disorders in support of the Butterfly Foundation’s push to eliminate child weighing in schools.
In 2018 there was a major push to measure the height and weight of school-age children every two years in a bid to fight obesity.
At just eight years old, his second year, Imogen was asked to step on the scales.
“We were asked to do the beep test at school and after my classmates and I finished the test, we were taken to a separate room and asked to come up in the order we had taken the beep test to walk the scales”, Imogen toldnews.com.au.
Stream the news you want, when you want, with Flash. Over 25 news channels in one place. New to Flash? Try 1 month free. Offer available for a limited time only >
“Until this moment in my life I had no concept of what weight meant or what it meant to weigh something. Of course I had feelings and thoughts about my body.
“But I’ve never really attributed self-worth to the size of my body.”
She said she looked around the room and noticed that the children who took up less space were able to walk longer and were praised for doing so.
“I realized in that moment that not only was being shorter and walking faster supposedly made you healthier, you were also more likeable and that affected your social status,” she said.
“I think in that moment I kind of realized that to be worth anything in this world, I had to be small and personable. It had a lasting impact on my self-esteem and self-worth, body image, and relationship with food.
“Yeah, it was really, really awful.”
In year 10, she was again asked to repeat the same ritual, but this, along with other factors going on in her life, caused her to limit eating.
She was finally diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of 15 – a story she knows from many young Australians after being weighed at school.
For Emma, who lives in Adelaide, she revealed that she has always had concerns about body image, but it was a comment from a teacher that confirmed the thoughts in her head to Emma.
At the age of 12, a photo of her singing was used for a school project and a teacher approached her about it.
“A teacher came by and said I look so fat, like I’ve had a mouthful of marshmallows,” Emma said. “I remember when he said that my heart sank.
“It made me think it was validating my feelings about my body, that I should change and that something was wrong with it.”
Emma battled both anorexia and bulimia for years until she plucked up the courage to send her husband a Facebook message revealing the predicament she had been silently fighting for years.
Both women are on the road to recovery and recognize that other factors were at play in leading them to battle an eating disorder, but use their experiences to speak about the current system in schools.
“I just think it does so much more harm than good. While I remember the beep test and the weigh-in, I don’t remember the lesson he was supposed to teach me about health,” she said.
“I just remember how it made me feel. And I just remember the lack of self-esteem I had from that point on. And I just can’t imagine it being a useful thing for every kid.”
The Butterfly Foundation revealed that 30 percent of people who responded to a survey who developed concerns about their body and/or diet during elementary school began developing concerns about their body image at ages 5 and 6.
This led to the development of the Butterfly Body Bright program which began in 2021 and is currently being offered in 300 schools and is a full Year 6 elementary school program.
Each primary school is funded by the Australian Federal Government’s Department of Health and will be required to enroll free of charge before August 2023.
dr Stephanie Damiano, Manager of Butterfly Body Bright, said: “More and more school staff are becoming aware that students in primary school are experiencing body dissatisfaction and disordered eating and are looking for support to help the students and peers. “We are increasingly hearing reports of students exhibiting low self-esteem, not eating at school or being uncomfortable doing so in front of others, students overeating and undereating, and expressing desire to reduce calories from a young age count and eat. ”
Butterfly’s foray into the program comes after a student’s teacher brought a scale into the classroom before weighing the students and ranking them from lightest to heaviest using their names and numbers on the board
“Unfortunately, against the backdrop of increasing physical dissatisfaction among younger students, we remain aware of potentially harmful classroom activities and conversations that have recently included an emphasis on children’s weight,” she said.
“Activities of this type have the potential to increase a child’s risk for physical dissatisfaction, preoccupation with body weight and shape, anxiety, restrictive dieting, cycles of restriction and binge eating, and generally poor self-esteem, which often persist well into adulthood.
“There are many things that can be measured and weighed in a classroom, but a child’s body should not be one of them.”
An early evaluation of Butterfly Body Bright has shown a significant improvement in students’ body image, body awareness and confidence in dealing with external stimulation, with 54% of students reporting an immediate improvement in their body image.
Both Emma and Imogen said a program like this would have been tremendously helpful in their own journey to self-love.
Imogen said: “I would do anything to go back and have access to this type of program.
“I think there’s so much value in teaching kids that their worth goes beyond their bodies and how they appear and show themselves in this world.
“I think if I had been taught what it meant to appreciate bodies and celebrate what we can do in our bodies rather than what they look like, that could have made the difference between me having a childhood and adolescence where I was living my life while battling an eating disorder and a youth where I could just party.”
Emma said the teachers’ briefing on the subject could have made her feel very differently – for example, if he commented on her happy looks instead of her weight – she would not have had someone else’s appreciation for the thoughts in her head.
For others who may have been in their position is Emma who is the hostess you-compatible Podcast, said: “Take a step back and don’t have expectations of speaking up. I think there’s no pressure that you have to tell everyone.
“I know it’s super hard, but just give yourself the grace to know that you’re worth recovering from your work, that you’re not living in this dark hole that an eating disorder kind of drags you into.”
She said she told her story because many didn’t see what was going on with her as she was successful and good looking on the outside.
“I want to make others feel like they’re not suffering alone,” she said.
“Because eating disorders make you feel like you’re the only person who has them (and) people are going to judge you — just keep calm.”
Schools that enroll in Butterfly Body Bright before August 2023 will receive complimentary access to all evidence-based body image resources for three years from enrollment.
#Teachers #incredible #comment #schoolgirl