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meadow

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Reply with quote  #1 
After I had calmed down today (agh! Why do the words 'healthy eating' make my blood boil?!), I emailed the Deputy Head at my girls' school and outlined my concerns about it all, explaining a bit more about what AN is like to live with, mentioning research linking EDs and anti-obesity etc. I think I managed to be polite and wasn't all guns blazing, honest😉.

Anyway, she has actually replied to say she totally gets where I'm coming from and would like to meet up to talk through how the school can deliver the health promotion stuff that they're obliged to from the curriculum, but whilst also getting the message across that what's healthy for one person isn't necessarily for another.

Isn't this good news? I would love to have any ideas from you wise, experienced and wonderful people so that I can go to the meeting (maybe Monday next week) as armed as possible.

Someone recently on the FB page suggested we talk about 'quality' foods rather than 'healthy' ones. I've also been thinking that kids are taught a lot about the negative consequences of being overweight, but less about being underweight.

If anyone has any other ideas I would really love to take them to this meeting. It seems like potentially such a great opportunity.

BW
Meadow x
Ping_Pong

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Reply with quote  #2 
Aaah!  I resonate with this!  We had a similar chat with our D's head teacher, who feels she's caught between a rock and a hard place between eating disorders and obesity.  She was really willing to listen to us, and let us see the medium term science plans on the food/nutrition topic.  The science teacher changed the angle on some of the lessons to help us.  For eg, they agreed not to do the examining-food-labels-and-calorie-content-in-great-detail bit, and we asked them to miss out the bit where pupils were asked to discuss what they tend to eat at home.  It was a bit too early in D's recovery for her to list the content of her 3 meals and 3 snacks.  I know they did a fair bit of work on food groups and their roles on growth, energy etc, and we asked that questions and so on were posed sensitively for our D's sake - no talk of good and bad foods, for example.  Lord knows if that actually happened! 

I guess it's not just the science curriculum that needs addressing: there's also PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education bit of the curriculum, for non-UK based folk), not to mention how the school portrays messages about food and eating in the canteen, in packed lunches, rules on sweets in the playground etc.  And even how the school chooses to do the Year 6 height/weight thing with the school nurse, which proved a bit triggery for our D.  

Our D is about to start a new school, and we have a meeting set up with the pastoral lead at the new school.  I'd be really interested to know what agenda you took into your meeting, Meadow, as I might like to crib it for ours, if that's OK!

As an aside, I stumbled across an exam question in an old GCSE Human Biology book last week: 'What is anorexia?'  You only got one line to answer, and there was only one mark available...


toughbattler

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Reply with quote  #3 
Hi meadow, this is really encouraging for you. I wonder whether it would be helpful to reframe healthy eating with food as fuel?
Sometimes what is missing from the healthy eating education discussions is how many calories are needed for growth during the school years. It's important to stress that all food groups are important to fuel energy and growth and perhaps talk about the fact that home cooked, unprocessed meals help stabilise and fuel the energy levels needed for busy young lives - I prefer to talk about processed and unprocessed or natural foods rather than healthy or unhealthy.
My son's ED was most definitely not helped by info given by a rugby academy which compared average food plates compared to sporting food plates without pointing out that cutting out sugar for example would trigger a big calorie deficit. Hope this helps.
Tough battler
tina72

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Reply with quote  #4 
Hi meadow,
you are doing a great job by talking to the school about nutrition! It´s very important because in most schools the focus lies on overweight people and nobody talks about AN. The teachers now NOTHING about it and in our case no one in school contact us and told us that our d had a lot of problems to concentrate in lessons and got thinner and thinner (even not the sports teacher, who MUST have seen it). It it very important that the school has an emergency plan if a girl/boy gets thinner and thinner to contact the parents and give them information about ED and the possibilities to help them.
It might be too late for our kids but it could help some others in future. And it might help our kids when they come back to school when the teachers are informed and now something about this horrible disease. They could help to watch out for relapses and to stop the other kids talking negative things about the sick kids.
I wish you luck! Please keep on going. If we could change the focus on nutrition in schools, that could help a lot!
Tina72
meadow

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Reply with quote  #5 
Hi, thank you for the replies.

Ping-pong, I'm glad you also got the chance to speak to your Head and your concerns were taken seriously.  The person I'm linking in with at school wants to involve the PHSE lead as well, which I think is positive.  Tbh I'm becoming more worried about the other kids in the school than about my own daughters, who they are remembering to exclude from healthy eating lessons.  In my younger daughter's year of 30 kids, I know of at least two who have a sibling with an ED, and at least two others who have a parent with a history of ED.  I got a text today from a friend whose daughter is in that class (Reception) to say that her little girl came home from school and gave them a lecture about healthy eating, saying that 'bad' food should go in the bin. 

Oh my goodness, that question about anorexia.....

I will gladly let you know what I take and how I get on.

Tough battler, that's very helpful - fab ideas. Hadn't thought about processed v unprocessed food but that's quite a good distinction I think.

Tina, thanks and I agree that highlighting the dangers of being underweight is so important too, and I've already started talking to the school about risks, how quickly people with EDs get very ill, how hard it is to treat etc.  At school nobody noticed anything was up with my daughter, although the after school club did comment the very first times that she attended that she wasn't eating a snack.  They've bent over backwards to support us and I'm really impressed with them.

Am doing a little survey of friends and family's kids to find out what they "know" about healthy eating.  VERY interesting results coming in, from as young as nursery age.
Torie

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Reply with quote  #6 
Hi meadow - I need to have a similar conversation with my district, too, although all my kids have now graduated.  One thing I will point out is that they need to make sure their obesity-related information is correct, because it sure as heck has the potential to do harm. I think they tend to assume, "Oh well, maybe this won't actually help prevent obesity but at least it can't hurt."  WRONG.

For example, even the American Heart Association doesn't recommend low fat diets for otherwise healthy people - hopefully the school isn't doing that either. 

Dieting is dangerous for teens and should be discouraged.

I think the angle I will take is that no one knows diddly squat about causing eating disorders, but I can tell you loads about treating them, and what you're doing (x, y, z) makes it so so much harder.  For example here's what the doc says about treating ED:

Don't talk calories
Don't talk about good/bad foods or healthy/unhealthy foods

And here's what happens at school:

Encouraged / required to talk calories
Taught good/bad healthy/unhealthy foods

Makes it so much harder for them to stay on a path toward recovery.

Sorry for the jumbled thoughts.  Still working to sort it all out. 

Best of luck please keep us posted. xx

-Torie



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"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
Mamaroo

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Reply with quote  #7 
Hi Meadow

It is great that you have an opportunity to speak about this illness to the school.

I've included some articles that you could take with you to strengthen your point:

There are of course links between "healthy eating' programs at schools and ED. Here is an article on it: "School-based 'healthy living' programs triggering eating disorders in some children: Canadian study" http://nationalpost.com/health/school-based-healthy-living-programs-triggering-eating-disorders-in-some-children-canadian-study/wcm/9fca7c43-7826-461f-b9a4-eee659884fd0

Here is a link to an article from the American Academy of Pediatrics: "One approach can prevent teen obesity, eating disorders, new guidelines say" http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2016/08/new-guidelines-offer-one-approach-to-prevent-teen-obesity-eating-disorders.html?mc_cid=4d3592f84d&mc_eid=d4ccfdcb48
They recommend the following: not encourage dieting, no weight talking, no teasing about weight, families should eat together and creation of healthy body image.

In May a paper has been published about the genetic origin of eating disorders "Significant Locus and Metabolic Genetic Correlations Revealed in Genome-Wide Association Study of Anorexia Nervosa.". I don't have the full article, but an abstract can be found here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28494655
This may be something that can convince the school staff that children suffering from ED aren't just 'naughty'.


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D became obsessed with exercise at age 9. Started eating 'healthy' at age 9.5. Restricting couple of months later. IP for 2 weeks at age 10. Slowly refed for a year and WR at age 11. Challenging fear foods now.
evamusby_UK

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Reply with quote  #8 
Meadow and Ping-Pong, you're making me think that somebody somewhere needs help in changing the curriculum. Anyone know how this works and who we could be talking to? Where is this curriculum? Can we read it?

Anyway, back to your question Meadow. I recently enjoyed this article and it might help you, promoting a "food-neutral mentality" - how to talk about food at the dinner table. 

https://www.edcatalogue.com/using-family-dinner-model-food-neutral-mentality/



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Eva Musby, mother, author, produces lots of resources for parents at http://anorexiafamily.com and on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/EvaMusby/playlists
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Ping_Pong

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Reply with quote  #9 

You certainly can read it, Eva.  In England, the National Curriculum lays down the areas that need to be covered in each subject - I'm not sure how other areas of the UK do this (I think you're in Scotland, Eva, but I'm not sure) - although teachers have a fair amount of lee-way on how each topic is covered. I think I'm right in saying the the National Curriculum only applies to state-run schools, and that independent schools and the new academies don't have to follow it.  A teacher may be along soon to correct me.

The content for the National Curriculum for England is available on line - here's the one for Science, for example: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-science-programmes-of-study/national-curriculum-in-england-science-programmes-of-study.  And here is the content for Science for the topic on nutrition, for example, for Key Stage 3 (ages 11 to 14):

Nutrition and digestion

  • the content of a healthy human diet: carbohydrates, lipids (fats and oils), proteins, vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and water, and why each is needed
  • calculations of energy requirements in a healthy daily diet
  • the consequences of imbalances in the diet, including obesity, starvation and deficiency diseases
  • the tissues and organs of the human digestive system, including adaptations to function and how the digestive system digests food (enzymes simply as biological catalysts)
  • the importance of bacteria in the human digestive system
  • plants making carbohydrates in their leaves by photosynthesis and gaining mineral nutrients and water from the soil via their roots

All stuff you'd expect to see in a topic on nutrition, I guess.  The second and third bullets are the ones that are going to ring alarm bells with us, and it's down to the individual teacher and the activities/slant/sensitivity/depth they choose to bring to those lesson objectives, such as the good food/bad food thing.  

The PSHE curriculum, where things like self-esteem and eating disorders might be covered, isn't statutory and there are very few guidelines on what to cover and, IMO, is not generally well-taught, and teachers often feel ill-prepared to deliver many of the more sensitive issues. They often feel they are only a page ahead of the pupils on many topics, and so schools often stick to the easier ones. My kids seem to do nothing but e-safety ad nauseam in PSHE, for example. There are various PSHE umbrella organisations that try to plug this gap, and I'm sure there are teachers on this forum who have a more positive experience of planning and delivering this subject.  I sure hope so, and please share your secrets with us, particularly on subjects that might affect our ED children!

So, who are the ones to approach to effect change?  Mmm.... bit piecemeal in England, I'd say.  Central government?  The National Curriculum guidelines generally say WHAT but not HOW things are to be taught.  Local education authorities at county council level? Perhaps - for the schools they are responsible for.  But what about all those new academies and trusts that fall outwith local education authorities?  At individual school level?  Our school was very receptive to a crash course in ED and how we felt some of the activities could be changed to help our D.  But that's just one school or one teacher at a time, and not all heads will be as willing to enter into a discussion on it as ours was.

Perhaps organisations such as BEAT can pay a part in lobbying the policy makers, like they do on many other issues, on our behalf over curriculum content and, specifically, how it is delivered?  Eg: no food diaries, calorie counting, certainly no weighing of kids and calculating BMI etc etc in class. (Please tell me this last one doesn't happen.)

It would be interesting to hear how subjects that can be sensitive to our ED children are tackled in other countries, and whether parents feel they have any influence over them.  I'm sure I've read other posts on this forum from folk in the US where subject matter is very tightly set out, perhaps at State-level but I'm not sure, and how the teachers' hands are tied on what they must teach.  

Anyway, I shall go before I start ranting on too much about education in England and the state of flux it seems to have found itself at the mo.  Instead, I shall go and see if ED D and her 7 friends, who are camping out in the garden tonight have settled, cos that is a wonderful thing to celebrate, especially as this time last year we would never have considered such a thing!

Ping_Pong

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Reply with quote  #10 
Whoops- can't take the bold off - looks like I'm SHOUTING VERY LOUDLY - not my intention!
toothfairy

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Reply with quote  #11 
Hi Meadow,
This is great that you get this chance.
There may be a few gem's here for you...
http://www.aroundthedinnertable.org/post/what-do-you-wish-your-childs-school-knew-about-anorexia-1860333?highlight=school+talk&trail=25#gsc.tab=0

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Son,DX with AN, (purging type) age 13 in October 2015 ,  (4 months immediate inpatient) , Then FBT at home since.and making progress every day. He is now in good recovery, and Living life to the full like a normal teen. We are not completely out of the woods yet, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to ATDT. Hoping to get him into full recovery and remission one day at a time.
evamusby_UK

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Reply with quote  #12 
Ping-Pong, thank you so much for the info on where to find the curriculum, and even when Key Stage 3 is. Even though mine finished school just a few weeks ago, I have been utterly in the dark about all this Key Sage/curriculum stuff. 

And even though I've bee googling around a bit just now I can't even find the PSE curriculum or the Scottish equivalents. Any more help welcome!
And yes, I'm in Scotland. 

So I think your idea of BEAT is a good one, as one of the ways forward. I've just emailed Andrew Radford the chief exec at BEAT (info@b-eat.co.uk) as follows:

Quote:
Dear Andrew Radford
Would BEAT help teachers on the risky aspects of the school curriculum?
I'm writing to ask if BEAT would produce guidance for teachers around curriculum elements related to nutrition, health and eating disorders.
 
Parents supporting a child or adolescent through an eating disorder are regularly finding that the school does more harm than good while attempting to deliver the PSE or science curriculum. 
You can see a discussion on the Around the Dinner Table forum here.
 
For instance in the English Key Stage 3 Science curriculum  there is a "Nutrition and digestion" item that could be taught well ... or not: 

Nutrition and digestion

    • the content of a healthy human diet: carbohydrates, lipids (fats and oils), proteins, vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and water, and why each is needed
    • calculations of energy requirements in a healthy daily diet
    • the consequences of imbalances in the diet, including obesity, starvation and deficiency diseases
It seems that teachers don't have much guidance on how to teach this type of thing -- anywhere in the world. 
 
For instance in Scotland, in primary school my daughter had many sessions on supposed health dangers of being fat, of junk food and of not exercising enough. She was lined up along with her peers in order of weight for input into Excel.  Years later, youngsters were asked to keep a diary of all the 'good' and 'bad' foods they had eaten. In PSE, age 15, she had to sit through a teacher suggesting that anorexia should not be treated on the NHS on the basis it's deliberate self-harm.
 
The dreadful adverts from the Foods Standards Agency in Scotland are an extreme and surreal illustration of the messages out there.
 
On the other hand, an example of useful information my daughter received in high school was a sex education class where the girls were told they need body fat for their reproductive health.
 
Would you let me know if BEAT would engage with the education system to support teachers to teach these subjects in a useful way? Do you perhaps already have some materials on this, some ongoing work?
I will be glad to report back to parent groups, and we can all help with publicity.
 
Best wishes
Eva Musby
 
 

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Eva Musby, mother, author, produces lots of resources for parents at http://anorexiafamily.com and on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/EvaMusby/playlists
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toothfairy

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Reply with quote  #13 
Eva - thank you for doing that!
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Son,DX with AN, (purging type) age 13 in October 2015 ,  (4 months immediate inpatient) , Then FBT at home since.and making progress every day. He is now in good recovery, and Living life to the full like a normal teen. We are not completely out of the woods yet, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to ATDT. Hoping to get him into full recovery and remission one day at a time.
Ping_Pong

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Reply with quote  #14 
Go, Eva!  That was quick work!  Keep us posted!  If BEAT take this up, I'm sure ATDT members would get involved with publicity, as well as ideas on curriculum content and how to get the balance right between eating disorders and obesity.  The PSHE Association looks like a good place to visit, as well.  I'm not sure what they suggest - haven't signed up to it as a member as yet - and I'm not sure how many schools tap into it as a resource.

I've just been looking my daughters' schools' PSHE curriculum content.  At the high school (aged 13 to 18) eating disorders aren't specifically mentioned, but mental health problems, how to recognise them and where to go for help are.  It'd be interesting to see the teachers' medium term and individual lesson plans to see exactly what's included and how it is taught. I have asked to see them in the past so I could prep my elder D (the non-AN one) in case EDs cropped up but nothing came of it.  Might have another bash when I'm up there next week to talk to them about my younger D and her AN before she starts in Sep.

Oddly, the middle school (9 to 13) appears not to have a PSHE curriculum at all.

Those Foods Standards Agency in Scotland ads are seriously scary.  Are they still doing the rounds, or were they pulled?  Even scarier than the sugar counting app from the Change4Life outfit.
meadow

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Reply with quote  #15 
Hi, thanks so, so much for all this. Lots of useful stuff to read and process before I meet with them. I will feed back to you.

Meanwhile, my youngest has come home today wearing this...

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meadow

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Reply with quote  #16 
Eva, thank you for doing that....and so quickly. I'm really interested in getting involved/campaigning.

I've been thinking how great if we had a well-known figure on board...like Jamie Oliver has been for the healthy school dinners stuff. Maybe Jamie could even be pursuaded to tweak his message a bit. I think he's done some fab stuff, and people certainly listen to him.

Foodsupport_AUS

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Reply with quote  #17 
How infuriating that your child comes home with a badge indicating that his/her teacher has judged the health or otherwise of meals. 

It strikes me that educational approaches to nutrition for children should truly be at their most basic. I understand the concerns about childhood obesity and health risks of things like diabetes, but of course the greatest influence on what a child eats how much they exercise comes straight from the parents, and it starts from well before school age. We need to be encouraging parents to lead by example. My D's school had a physician who is a world leader in research into obesity come and talk to the school (he happened to be a parent at the school). He only spoke to the parents. His talk was interesting and spoke of how we need to be the educators for our children, exercise regularly (moderate) eat moderately and widely of mainly natural foods, not go on crash diets etc.. A truly sensible approach. 

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D diagnosed restrictive AN June 2010 age 13.5. Weight restored July 2012. Relapse and now clawing our way back. Treatment: multiple hospitalisations and individual and family therapy.
atdt31_US

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Reply with quote  #18 
Just opened the "welcome" packet from my d's Middle School (6-8 grade roughly 11 to 14 year olds) -- I was surprised to see this paragraph:  "Foods In Competition With The School Lunch Program:  The policy prohibits food being brought in one-half hour prior to and lasting to one-half hour after the serving of school lunch.  ... This means no outside food including, pizza, sandwiches, etc for their child and friends for a birthday party or celebration."  It does say it does not impact what a parent can bring/send their own child to eat -- but it is a confusing policy and I especially don't like that it is termed "competitive" with the school lunch.  

Good luck to all as we navigate this territory in our own schools.  

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Mom of either pre-diagnosis or non-ed underweight 11 yoa kid here to learn how to achieve weight gain.  BMI steadily in the mid 12's for nearly her entire life.  Born 2006.
meadow

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Reply with quote  #19 
Interesting and bizarre, ATDT! Have never heard of that before.

Yes, Foodsupport, and at her age (5), they all want stickers because they're a reward for making the 'right' choices.

Incidentally, the girls told me what was in the healthy lunch and it was a wrap, cucumber sticks, carrot sticks and pieces of apple. The one who earned the sticker was very hungry when she got home.
toothfairy

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Reply with quote  #20 
Oh my - Deep Breaths Toothfairy!!!
This is horrendous, Meadow, thanks for trying to EDucate...uugghh

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Son,DX with AN, (purging type) age 13 in October 2015 ,  (4 months immediate inpatient) , Then FBT at home since.and making progress every day. He is now in good recovery, and Living life to the full like a normal teen. We are not completely out of the woods yet, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to ATDT. Hoping to get him into full recovery and remission one day at a time.
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