I distinctly remember trying a diet of pretzels and ice cubes the summer before third grade. I thought it would help me lose weight. Surprise, it didn’t. Since then, I can’t count the number of diets I’ve been on, pounds lost, pounds gained, and the internal struggle I have fought with my weight. I have always been chunky, even since childhood. It is still something I deal with today. During high school, I remember wanting to be anorexic or bulimic because I thought it would solve the problem. But I loved food too much and when my stomach growled, I listened. I continue to work on my health and wellness and try not to stress about the size of my clothes, the snack I ate in the teacher’s lounge, or skipping a day at the gym to spend time with my husband.
Today I was faced with this issue all over again and truly realized how it affects people of ALL ages. In fact, so much so that I think something needs to be said about it. Every day there are boys and girls looking in the mirrors and hating what they see. They turn to starving themselves, vomiting, extreme exercise, and crazy diets that hurt their bodies and their well-being. Most hide it and never mention that they struggle with it. Some discuss their struggles online where the anonymity can keep them safe. Fewer actually talk about it with others and admit to their fight.
As educators, it is our duty to be aware of these struggles and have honest conversations with students. Not everyone battles weight like I have, but talking about it still matters. Let students know that it IS a serious issue and that you understand. Encourage them to look beyond Photoshopped magazine pictures, words used to describe beauty on social media, and the number that is written inside their clothing. Remind them to make healthy choices, focus on things that are more important and substantial, and practice balancing school, home, friends, and family.