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How can I be a role model?


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I am a girl guide leader and am worried about one of my girls who shows signs of depression and disorded eating type of thinking. I cannot say if she has an eating disorder because I don't know what she eats.

Here's how I found out...

We are doing an assignment that involves making a newsletter and they are all assigned columns like a regular newspaper. This one girl got food and she asks me what can she do? "I hate food. It's all fattening".  Being that it was the end of the meeting I couldn't go into it, but all I could say was "that is not something you should be worrying about"

I feel like such a loser, like I could have said or done something different.

We will definately be doing fitness and nutrition in upcoming meetings, but is there something more I can do. Should I take her aside and talk to her? Should I talk to her parents?

And the icing on the cake... how can I stop someone from developing an eating disorder and spout the wonders of proper nutrition if I don't follow them myself?

I cannot use my story as an example because I am afraid that if any of the higher-ups find out about any of my MIs they wouldn't let me be a guide leader.

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Wow, clearly eating disordered thinking.  I mean 10 year olds (or whatever) don't normally think about "fattening" foods....or at least I don't think being an anorexic teenager.

I wonder what would be the best way to get in touch with her...she probably will get threatened.  My school counselor approached me when I was in 5th grade and I completely rejected him.  It's got to be in the most sincere way possible.  I really think being a woman willl help and even more so if you say you have some mental "issues" that she can relate to.  Good Luck on this.  We need to save all the young ones we can on this.  Here's to more realistic role models and emphasis on being satisfied with one's own body.....  Girls today are so taxed with this crap, I wish I could help them not fall into the trap that I did... ;)

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Wow, clearly eating disordered thinking.  I mean 10 year olds (or whatever) don't normally think about "fattening" foods....or at least I don't think being an anorexic teenager.

I wonder what would be the best way to get in touch with her...she probably will get threatened.  My school counselor approached me when I was in 5th grade and I completely rejected him.  It's got to be in the most sincere way possible.  I really think being a woman willl help...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

i think that it is definately worth asking about.  approaching her as a mentor and friend.... u can try easing into conversation with her and not just starting with anything that might scare her away.... or even see what happens when you get to nutrition.

And the icing on the cake... how can I stop someone from developing an eating disorder and spout the wonders of proper nutrition if I don't follow them myself?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

oh, the age old question.... i've asked myself this so many times.... there is what you said about the ED; how can i stop someone from self injuring if i have for years?  how can i tell someone not to smoke when i do?  they are all the same thing.  and as hypocritical as it might seem, i think that it is possible.  I have helped friends stop/stay away from cutting, helped them through depression, EDs, you name it, etc.  and yet those, and other issues, are ones that i still struggle with.  it might be the experience.... i have lived through so much of the horribleness that i do not want to see others do through it.  other people i can help.... the one person i cant help is myself.  so, please, dont let that one fact bother you....

~Ophelia

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This is just my opinion based on my own and other loved ones experiences, but I think that a lot of eating disorders stem from feeling that there is something wrong, out of control or unworthy about yourself, and thus denial is a way of maintaining control, purifying and making yourself worthy. It's complex for every person, and to some extent I think all women and men have complexes about food and weight. Remember that girls are exposed to and encouraged to be involved in teen culture, and mimic adults, and you only have to sit in front of the TV or flick through a magazine to be told that you're fat and food is bad. Plus puberty is starting sooner, and that is often when girls struggle to cope with the changes in their environment and bodies and yearn for control. I think that pre teen anorexia is on the rise from stats that I have seen.

A remark like that may be flippant, a throwaway comment because she was having a bad day. It would be interesting to see what her attitude to food is, but like you say, that might be a tough conersation to start. Having a word with her parents may just cause panic, and make her less likely to trust you in future, until you see her refuse food with that reasoning, I am not sure you can really report her. What you might be best doing is tell another leader your worries, review the way you all present diet and body issues, maybe do some work on self esteem and body image, and be a role model.

I dont think you have to eat a certain way to be a role model, we all struggle and fall down. What matters is that you are caring for yourself, and can pass that skill on. Showing that you think this child matters, listening to her thoughts and dreams, being an ear for her problems, hanging out with her no matter how dorky she feels, all these will have more of an impact than you know.

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For whatever it's worth, my roommate, as a non-ED Girl Guide leader, said she would take the following approach.  First, she'd try to promote discussion of body image, nutrition, and realistic goals in the group at large (explaining eating disorders, for example, then asking "what would you do if your friend...?").  Then, if she were convinced the girl definitely had an ED, she would tell the girl's parents.  In her experience, the only people she's known who've recovered from their EDs had major parental support -- and parental pushing, getting them into treatment before they wanted to admit a problem.  If she felt the parents would use the information inappropriately or not do anything about it, she'd report the family to child services. 

From my vantage point, I have problems with this sort of cut-and-dried approach.  Granting that my roommate was reacting to a hypothetical situation and not something specific in which she knew the girl involved, I don't like the idea of going straight to the parents.  Sure, we're talking about pre-pubescents, but how many of us would react to parental concern-turned-to-control by getting better, and how many of us would resist and get much worse?  We all know ways in which to go undercover.  But talking to her from a place of compassion without revealing your own struggle... *sigh*  Real life is terribly messy. 

Sorry.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here's an update...

Last week we talked about advertising and body image and the girls made signs with positive statements about body image or femininity or the like. I'm going to take pictures this week of them with their positive signs.

I started them on, and sent them home with food group and exercise logs for the week.

I hope that they will remember to bring them back today.

So soon we shall see what this girl eats, I hope.

Ameth

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