Should we have nutrition advice in our schools?

 

I talk about this in the book and include a section on basic nutrition – that’s how important I think this is! Largely because I lacked this rather simple education when I was younger and instead my head became filled with ridiculous harmful advice peddled by diet companies and magazines. In light of the recent funding which is being pumped into the NHS to help tackle Eating Disorders, I wanted to see if anybody else agrees with me when I say I feel that some of the money should go into prevention as well as treatment.

Perhaps the budget is so tight that it cannot afford for any portion of it to be siphoned off for preventative causes like nutrition advice, but in an ideal world where we had plenty of money to spare I’m certain that at least a quarter of it should be invested into better education and preventative measures to bring the number of actual cases down before they get to a critical point in an already strung-out NHS, not to mention a massively under pressure mental health structure.

The NHS has been investing in preventative medicine and preventative education for some time; campaigns and adverts in newspapers or on television you see such as Stop Smoking, Dry January and Change 4 Life are examples of this. They’re usually educative or encouraging people to make positive choices in their lives which should mean that the NHS has to spend less later because people are generally healthier than they would have been had they not been given that advice.

With the NHS budget under massive strain, I think it would be intelligent and financially sensible to look to schools to administer education to young people at grassroots level, when so many of them are developing important ideas about themselves, about life and about food.

A lot of Eating Disorders tend to manifest themselves in these early years of our lives and that was especially true in my case. When I speak to others who are going through an Eating Disorder or who have poor body image many also talk of being bullied at school for being fat or ugly or not fitting in, and as a consequence turning to fad diets to improve the way they looked and developing an Eating Disorder further down the line.

I’m certainly not saying that diets and the media are wholly responsible for Eating Disorders. They’re complex mental illnesses with their roots in many facets of our lives and personalities. Many sufferers know that what they think and feel about food isn’t fact but they of course are compelled to continue anyway. I know this more than anyone.

However cases seem to be emerging at younger and younger ages. These children cannot have a proper understanding of food and how it works in our bodies; and any education they do have tends to be confusing and incorrect because it comes from their exposure to the diet industry, who as you know I think are a pretty irresponsible bunch.

I’m not saying that education of this kind would stop all cases, but certainly a few might be halted by a better understanding of our bodies, coupled with advice on self-confidence and self-care.

What do you think? Should we look at introducing nutrition education into schools at Secondary level to help them to understand their bodies and make more informed choices?

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George Osborne pledges £150m to battle Eating Disorders – so where do you think the money should be spent?

This month’s budget announcement contained some interesting news for me, and for anybody who has or has had an Eating Disorder in this country.

After years of what can only be described as a poor and unacceptable standard of ‘care’ for people with Eating Disorders, (despite it still having the highest kill rate of all mental illnesses, as it did 10 years ago when I was poorly) the government is finally stepping up and investing money which will hopefully make a difference to a lot of people’s lives. It’s much-welcomed and much needed support granted to those in need when the country and NHS as a whole is already being squeezed; but I’m so glad that it the need has been identified and now recognised.

£150 million sounds like a substantial of money to you or me, but to the NHS it’s still probably not enough to tackle the issue and now those responsible for spending the money will be collating evidence and looking at how best the money is spent.

I know from a personal perspective since I received next to no support, and the little care I did receive was shockingly bad, that the first steps have to begin at the very start of an Eating Disorder, when sufferers are being turned away from their GP continually for various reasons, sadly some of which include not being taken seriously, some of which involve few resources and centres open for GPs to refer people to, and even then, waiting times are unacceptably long for an illness which we know can rapidly deteriorate over a very short period time if left.

This means that, like me, many are only admitted to hospital when they are physically very ill, at a very late stage where you really are walking the line between life and death. Not only that, but that person’s mental state is incredibly poor. Not being taken seriously by healthcare professionals only serves to compact negative thoughts about yourself and that will also make therapy more complex.

Therefore I’m hoping that we will hear about money going into a fast referral system, more specialist hospital places for those with Eating Disorders, but additionally increased awareness for healthcare professionals. I suffered stigma from those who were supposed to be helping me; borne out of ignorance of mental health and a lack of understanding of Eating Disorders. If this can be tackled, along with the more serious urgency needed when treating Eating Disorders, I believe a difference, however small, really can be made. A little care and kindness goes a long, long way.

What do you think? I’m keen to hear your thoughts on this.

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