So many school leaders and educators ask me about eating disorder programs that are available for students themselves -- that are safe enough for students to lead. I thought I would help clarify why we DO NOT recommend that students actually lead eating disorder educational programming in schools.
Because eating disorders are highly complex and the most challenging of the psychiatric illnesses, we recommend that actual eating disorder programs are always led and carried out by trained professionals. Preferably those who are CEDS (Certified Eating Disorders Specialists) and licensed clinicians.
Though kids are certainly passionate about the topic of eating disorders, we know that it is not always safe for them to actually engage in this highly specialized topic. One of the main reasons we say this is because over the course of 7 years developing eating disorders trainings in schools and in universities nationwide, we know that so few school leaders and school clinicians are actually trained in the field of eating disorders. We are still collaborating with the AED and iaedp organizations to ensure they are properly trained.
Therefore, it is much more productive to actually have the kids themselves focus on the protective factors that are shared between eating disorders and other mental illnesses. Protective factors like mindfulness, stress-management, healthy coping, healthy body image, and media literacy.
We have created a one-stop resource for educators -- a .pdf with more than 20 links that click through to programs or activities that are more student-friendly. You will see that they aren't eating disorder educational programs, per se, instead they focus on one or more of the many inter-related protective factors.
Ideally, students participating in these exercises should be mentored by counselors and licensed clinicians who specialize in eating disorders.
These mentors and leaders can also incorporate trainings using existing evidence-based programs. A few samples are below:
-- The Body Project, by Eric Stice, et.al. (for high school students)
-- The Body Positive, by Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott (for high school students)
-- Healthy Bodies, by Kathy Kater (for elementary school students)