Schools & Education
BodyMatters offers a variety of services to educate and work with both schools and the community about body image and eating issues. Experience has shown it is best to work collaboratively with schools & take a “whole school approach” to change school culture. Parents & educators are vital resources for this to occur. BodyMatters also offers a similar service for tertiary institutions, community groups and workplaces who are impacted by eating and body image and require specialised education and support to manage these issues. Examples of presentations that we have previously delivered are listed below. We can customise these or work with you to create something that meets your specific needs. Testimonials of our services are available here. You can listen to Sarah McMahon speak about managing eating disorders in schools in this webinar to a range of school staff, kindly reproduced with the permission of the NSW Association of Independent Schools.
School Workshops and Presentations
Our workshops are delivered by our team who specialise in eating disorders, body image and unhealthy weight loss behaviours. Our workshops are typically customised to suit each school’s unique needs. When possible, we like to use evidence based practice for interventions in schools. Presentations we have delivered in the past include “Deconstructing Fatphobia”, “Learning Mindful Eating”, “Ditch the Diet”, “What is Heath” and “Snapchat Dysmorphia: Beyond social media, filters and photoshop”.
The Body Project
At Body Matters, we deliver The Body Project a small group intervention that is delivered over four, one our sessions. This intervention was developed by Dr Eric Stice, Stanford University and has overwhelming efficacy as an powerful, engaging and evidence based program that promotes sustained body acceptance and prevents eating disorders. Specifically:
- Empirically supported, dissonance- based body acceptance/ eating disorder prevention program
- Delivered via four x one hour small group sessions (approximately eight students)
- Has been shown to significantly reduce body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms and future onset of eating disorders after two to four year follow ups compared to control conditions and alternative interventions in numerous Random Control Trials from multiple investigative teams
- It is the only prevention program to reduce future onset of eating disorders in multiple trials and to affect objective biological outcomes (eg reducing brain reward region response to the thin ideal, positive implicit attitudes towards the thin ideal and intentional bias for the thin ideal)
In this intervention participants engage in verbal written and behavioral exercises in which they collectively explore costs of pursuing the thin appearance ideal.
Parent and Carer Training
Many parents tell us that they feel they are walking a tightrope when it comes to fostering health in their children: teach kids to love their bodies and they may develop obesity, or teach them to be cautious about food and exercise and they may develop an eating disorder. We help parents navigate the confusing health messages so that they can foster health in a safe way for their child. It starts with exploring their own body image, looking at the science behind health and weight claims and deconstructing harmful cultural messages about girls and women. Awareness of early intervention and strategies on how to boost resiliency in their children will be explored.
Educators are in a privileged position to help young people reach their potential- and their academic potential is only a fraction of the influence that educators have. Many educators tell us they themselves feel they work in a toxic environment that encourages a dieting culture. It is difficult to promote body love and acceptance when that is not what you experience yourself. It is also difficult to focus on curriculum based education when your students are not well enough to be learning. Our educator training informs teachers about all aspects of eating disorders ranging from prevention and early intervention to management in the classroom.
Every school has students who struggle with body image, unhealthy weight loss behaviours, and eating disorders. Typical problems include students competing to see who can eat the least number of calories at lunch time or returning from a hospital admission for anorexia being positioned as ‘weight loss experts’ by their peers. At the same time many schools are concerned about childhood obesity and promote anti-obesity messages that may inflate body image problems. Our psychologists provide intervention to help create a healthy culture in your school that takes a ‘first, do no harm’ approach. Areas of expertise for consultation range from supporting schools who are concerned they have an “eating disorder epidemic”, developing a positive body image culture within the school, to assisting schools manage the chronic cases of eating disorders.
Tertiary Institutions, Community Organisations, & Corporations
BodyMatters offers custom-designed workshops for a variety of tertiary institutions, community organisations, and corporations. We also offer specialist ‘in-house’ intensive training for health professionals who work with those affected by body diversity issues or disordered eating.
Promoting Eating Disorder Prevention in Schools
Creating a healthy and supportive environment within schools is crucial for the prevention of eating disorders among students. Educators and school staff play a key role in this process. Here are a few strategies that can help:
1. School-Wide Education
Implement educational programmes that promote healthy eating, positive body image, and physical activity. These programmes should also aim to educate students about the dangers of dieting, the myth of the ‘perfect’ body, and the realities of eating disorders. It’s important to ensure that these programmes are interactive and age-appropriate and that they encourage positive behaviours rather than focusing solely on the risks.
2. Cultivate a Positive School Environment
Create an environment that promotes acceptance and respect for all body sizes and shapes. This can be done by having strict policies against weight-based bullying or teasing, and by ensuring that school materials (like textbooks and health class resources) are free of weight bias.
3. Train School Staff
Educate school staff and educators about eating disorders, their warning signs, and how to handle these sensitive issues. This will enable them to identify potential problems early and refer students to the appropriate services if necessary.
4. Encourage Open Communication
Foster an atmosphere where students feel comfortable talking about their feelings, concerns, or questions related to body image, food, and weight. This could involve setting up support groups or providing opportunities for students to speak with a school counsellor or psychologist.
5. Engage Parents
Parental involvement is key in the prevention of eating disorders. Schools can organise workshops or informational sessions to educate parents about the signs of eating disorders and how to promote a healthy body image at home.
6. Prioritise Mental Health
Eating disorders are not just about food and weight; they’re often tied to issues like depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Schools should prioritise mental health by offering resources, such as counselling services, and promoting activities that boost self-esteem and reduce stress.
In research about teachers from Australia, the main hurdles that stopped them from introducing ways to prevent eating disorders at schools were:
1. Having too much work (75%)
2. Not knowing enough about the topic (75%)
3. Not having the right tools or materials (73%)
4. Not having enough funding (52%)
Source: Butterfly Foundation
Millions of kids across Australia feel uncomfortable about their body
1. 90% of young people have body image concerns
2. 75% wish they were thinner
Source: Butterfly Foundation
Contact us today to discuss how we can help your school or organisation.