HELP! By Beth Wiediger

Potato-Chips

Just another typical day at work, you know the typical ritual of answering emails, talking to students and teaching, or so I thought.   Ten minutes into my last class of the day, a female student who was seated at her desk turned towards the floor to get the books she had dropped, however she never came back up.  She had passed out in class, right there right then.  So what?  That has happened before to many of us, students pass out for many different reason in many different classes.  But this one student in my class today did not surprise me at all when she passed out.  See, this female student has been dealing with eating disorders for about 7 years and what is even worse is the fact that she is only 17yo.

I had noticed her facial expressions when we talked about certain topics in class, and even when she walked out of class when we were watching a video about anorexia.  I knew that she was struggling with the “horrible” thought of being fat; however I had no idea of how much suffering she was going through.

Why does this bother me so much????  Why does it devastate me so much????

Four days ago, as I was driving my 6yo daughter back home after her indoor soccer practice, she said she was hungry.  I opened my purse and I handed her a small bag of chips because that was the only thing that I had at the time.  She got excited and after a few minutes of eating the chips she handed me the bag and said:

“Here mommy, I am done, I don’t want to eat all of it because I don’t want to be fat”

What????  My baby, my daughter, my 6yo daughter is hungry and doesn’t want to eat because she is afraid of being fat!!!  All of a sudden I felt angry and replied, “Mel you don’t need to worry about that!”  Yes I was angry! I was very angry that my baby was already afraid of being fat, that she was already concerned about not eating too much, that she was already worried about what she looks like, but most of all, I was pissed for the fact that she is only 6 and this worry should not be anywhere close to her head right now!  Soon that anger turned into sadness and fear.

Then very calmly I said, “Mel honey, you just played soccer and you are hungry, it is ok to eat!”  What she said next was even more shocking to me: “but mom when I move my legs it jiggles,” while pointing to her inner thighs, “do your legs jiggle too when you move?”  “Oh yea Mel, my legs jiggle too, everyone’s leg jiggles.”  “But Mel, why are you thinking about that?” I asked.   “I don’t know mommy, I just see people and I don’t want to be fat.”

I didn’t know what else to say, do I make it a big deal and keep asking questions?  Do I talk about it as a matter of fact?  What do I do????  “Mel you need to eat to grow, to have strong muscles, to be able to learn at school, to be able to play sports and not be tired, you need to eat to be healthy.”  And that was the end of the conversation.

So, today I come to work and have my 17yo student pass out in class because of her eating disorder and now I am more than afraid, I am terrified by the idea that my child may be its next victim.

I am writing this post asking for support, advice, ideas, anything to help me figure out what to do now to prevent her from being that 17yo girl.  Can I do something?  Anything?  Can WE do something about it????

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One thought on “HELP! By Beth Wiediger

  1. Beth,

    I appreciate you sharing such a personal and thoughtful post. It sounds like you experienced some really tough moments.

    I sure wish I had all the answers on this one.

    My two cents…

    I imagine you could ask your daughter where she got the message she conveyed to you? Is it from friends at school? Certain commercials? Elsewhere? Of course this “message” about body-image is ever-present in subtle and not so subtle ways and hard to escape in our culture. Knowing the source might make it easier to counter, though.

    Maybe it is just a phase and it will pass or never manifest into something like your student experiences. Sometimes kids are like that?

    Perhaps an alternative message would be good.

    I saw a TedTalk given by Dr. Carolyn Heldeman. In it, she discusses the objectification of women and its ramifications. But, she also mentions some proactive things that I think offer some positive direction. She is very smart.

    Best,

    David Reynolds

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