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Schools Are Feeding Diet Culture

Health classes are teaching kids to be experts in calorie counting, diet culture, avoiding certain foods, and probably developing an unhealthy relationship with food. As a high school student, I am being fed a lesson plan surrounding the ideal of “Eat This, Not That!” That lesson, while lacking any educational component, is teaching kids how to count the calories they are putting in their bodies. This is the first step to an eating disorder. A school cannot advertise “help is out there” if THEY ARE THE PROBLEM!!! The eating disorder epidemic affecting kids younger and younger is because the lesson they are being taught is that food is wrong! They are told there are “better” foods out there. They are told the food they are currently eating is not what they “should” eat. 

Truth is, all food is good. All food gives you energy and life. No food is “better” than another. People should not be told they are eating the “wrong” food, when all food is good. Teaching kids to avoid food will only hurt them in the long run. Avoiding certain foods will usually lead to food idealization, where a certain food is seen as much better than it is, just because it has been avoided so long. 

Picture someone who loves potato chips. If their teacher tells them that potato chips are “unhealthy,” that person will go through a cycle. First they will feel guilt over eating that. Then they will attempt to get rid of that food from their diet. Without knowing proper food balance, they will attempt to eliminate that from their pallet completely. After going a while without eating potato chips, they might run into a bag at a party. Overcome with the craving for what they have been avoiding, they will then binge on that food. Binging is when a person consumes too much food too fast, to the point where they feel sick. Following that, they will gain weight and feel guilty, beginning the cycle all over again. 

If proper food balance were simply taught to this person, they would have never avoided potato chips in the first place. While it is true that there are “healthy” foods, drawing that line limits foods severely. This school health class lacks explaining balance. Going too far to either side of the food scale is not good. Limiting your diet is dangerous. Being left unaware of health risks that come with unhealthy foods is dangerous. This health class must teach balance, not the idea that some foods are wrong and some foods are right. 

They should, instead, be explaining how to understand diet culture. They should teach kids how to love their bodies, no matter the shape. They should teach kids to love food because it nourishes you. They should teach kids calories do not matter. All food is good food. 

Published by Ginnie Paris

Ginnie is an LGBTQ+ high school student who is an advocate for the community and climate crisis awareness.

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