Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Second-hand eating disorders

For most of my career as a professional Jewish educator, I worked in programs whose students either included or were solely made up of young women. One of the unfortunate things that I learned in those settings was that today, high-achieving, middle class adolescent girls are more likely to suffer from eating disorders than any other group, and that Jewish high school and post-high school programs are made up of precisely those students. As one of my colleagues noted, if we had 100 students in the program every year, 10-15 of them were suffering from eating disorders. The only question was whether the faculty and administration would spot them and be able to help them.

Although the staff may not have been aware of the students who were suffering from such disorders, their friends and classmates usually were well aware of the situation - and often suffered along with them in one way or another. In fact, they were often the source of information that made the school realize that there was a problem. The difficulty was making students aware that sharing this information with the school was not "tattle-tailing" on their friend, but was helping them.

I was reminded of this when reading a recent NYTimes article that described the effect of anorexia on the siblings of the sufferer.

All too often we mistake an eating disorder for a diet. Ignoring these issues can be dangerous – not only to the physical well-being of the students, but to the psychological well-being of those around her, as well.

1 comment:

  1. See

    [Rabbi Abraham Twerski] also pointed out a problem that appears to be unique to segments of the Orthodox Jewish community - in particular, those who rely on a shadchan, or third party, to arrange marriages for their children. Noting that some young men specify the dress size of a prospective spouse - and that this is more likely to be a size 2 than a size 12 - he said that some suitors also want to know the dress size of the girls' mothers, to get an idea of how the girls will look when they're older....