What schools can do
Research shows that educational programs in schools that focus on body image and eating behaviour can improve knowledge regarding these issues, but alone they aren't effective in improving body image or reducing risky eating behaviours.
Creative approaches that address underlying issues of self-esteem and that impact on young people's experiences outside the classroom (eg through friends, family and the media) may be more effective.
Use International No Diet Day (May 6th each year) as a springboard for gaining school wide commitment to develop a school policy that will help create an accepting environment for a range of body shapes and sizes and foster a positive attitude to food and eating.
Ideas for Activities
- Arrange a special 'guilt free' lunch where there is a range of foods available, from recreational to tasty and nutritious. Really savour the foods, and avoid labelling them as 'good' or 'bad'.
- Refrain from conversations about dieting or body complaints, at least for one day.
- Create a list of ways to improve self esteem and body image that don't involve trying to change your body through dieting. Pin them up in the classroom and publish them in your school newsletter.
- Hold a debate on the topic 'Labelling chocolate as bad leads people to eat more chocolate, rather than less' or 'Ken and Barbie are good role models for young people'.
- Make eating issues and body image a theme for a Rock Eisteddford or similar performance, or an art exhibition.
- Check the school for posters, books, magazines, competitions, videos or activities that endorse striving for a narrow ideal of beauty or portray a stereotypical view of people.
- Hold a video screening and discussion group for students, teachers, family and community members.
- Develop a school policy or code of conduct based on respect for individuals regardless of shape or size.
- Hold a classroom discussion on what is 'normal eating' vs 'dieting'.
Acknowledgement to Body Image and Health Inc.