Teen Advisors address eating

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 17, 2000

disorders on CHMS visit


Staff Writer

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Dec. 16, 2000 10 P

Some middle school girls learned some life-saving lessons on Friday.

Charles Henderson Middle School students were visited by Teen Advisors who addressed the growing problem of eating disorders.

Holly Graham is one of the Teen Advisors who spoke from personal experience.

She has had a friend who suffered from an eating disorder.

"Because she had the problem, I suffered with her," Graham said.

"Nobody knows why it happens. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever go through," she said, adding it’s easier to talk about the problem early and preventing it from getting worse.

The major symptom of an eating disorder is denial and Graham said the best thing a friend can do is assure the sufferer that he or she is valuable and loved.

"The problem gets so serious and so big, a professional doctor has to handle it," Graham said.

Most eating disorder problems show up in middle school-aged students.

As a way to get their point across about eating disorders, the Teen Advisors had students volunteer for an exercise where different messages were thrown out and the link was pulled from left to right.

"It’s the world telling you ‘you have to be thin,’" Graham said.

After taking a true/false quiz and participating in the "mixed messages" exercise, the students heard from someone who really understands what an eating disorder is.

Amy has struggled with bulimia for four years.

"I was always so self conscious about my weight," said the Troy State University student who now tells her story to prevent others from going through the same experience.

"I thought the guys wouldn’t like me if I wasn’t skinny."

She soon discovered it wasn’t what is on the outside that matters.

"Please do not determine your self worth on what you look like on the outside," Amy told the middle school girls. "God did not intend for us to look the same way."

During the morning activities, the students learned females are not alone in experiencing eating disorders. They were told of two male TSU students who had an eating disorder.

The 58 Teen Advisors are sponsored by the Charles Henderson Child Health Center and Edge Regional Medical Center with the Abstinence in Motion grant awarded through the Abstinence Education Division of the Alabama Department of Public Health.

During the year, they have presented topics on making the right friends, drugs and alcohol and eating disorders. In the future, topics will also include stress management, conflict resolution and abstinence until marriage.

Terry Watkins, project director of the AIM grant, said the Teen Advisors are "a positive peer group" for the students.

The high school students are selected on the following: grades, recommendations and willingness to impact others based on the mistakes some have already made.

"Many of these high school students have had some tough times and, now, wish to change and influence other younger students to make the right decisions," Watkins said.