Eating disorders are an increasingly large and dangerous problem inflicting a large portion of American youth. A school in North Carolina has been doing some pretty big things when it comes to preventing the prevalence of these types of diseases among young people.
Waddell Language Academy, a school teaching students in grades K-8, has been focusing on promoting “mindful eating” in an attempt to hinder and prevent the development of eating disorders in their students.
The practice of “mindful eating” entails the eater to focus on “present moment awareness” during meal times. This means that they will pay close attention to the food in front of them and deeply engage each of their five senses before eating anything.
Primarily, this technique is used to build a person’s awareness of physical cues such as hunger or fullness. This eating method can be very helpful to obstruct issues involving overeating and obesity, but it has recently been found to potentially hamper the development of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
Eating disorder researchers, Michael Levine and Linda Smolak at Kenyon College say that “By having children and adolescents participate in prevention programs, such as mindful eating, it can protect them from anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.”
Preventing eating disorders has become even more important as it is now known that anorexia is more deadly than those with major depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Those who suffer from the disease are at a higher risk of suicide and are also prone to major health complications, causing such a high mortality rate among the victims.
When investigating the validity behind Levine and Smolak’s claim, it was found by reporters at the Washington Post, that middle schoolers participating in mindful eating had a very healthy relationship with the food they ate.
“Mindful eating helps me respect the food that goes into my body, because when I slow down to eat, I can tell which food is filled with fake ingredients and which foods are organic.” said one student, Jamie, to the Washington Post.
Many other students had similar reactions to the eating habit and showed an overall healthy outlook on food. Not only did they not show signs of overeating or undereating, but they actively sought out healthy food, rather than junk food.
Mindful eating is being used in many eating disorder treatment facilities and other medical settings to treat and prevent these ailments. However, it is only recently that these concepts have been played out in a classroom setting. By exposing young children to these eating habits, they grow up with a positive and healthy relationship with food, reducing their risk for obesity or the development of eating disorders.
Mindful eating is a wonderful and effective technique to encourage youth to develop a healthy relationship with food. Hopefully, other schools will begin to follow suit and promote such habits among more youth in the U.S. and start to diminish the prominence of eating disorders throughout our nation.