Are You Gonna Eat That?

Help a camper or fellow staff member find professional help. Don’t wait to get help. Eating disorders can be “contagious” in a group setting and camps are not treatment facilities. The sooner someone gets help, the better chance they have of recovering, so you are not helping them by letting them stay at camp when they are symptomatic. By not intervening, you only play into the person’s denial that they don’t have a problem.

Accept

Once you understand the facts and myths about eating disorders and disordered eating, your awareness will be heightened and you can avoid judgmental or mistaken attitudes about food, weight, body shape, and eating disorders. Accept people—and yourself—for who they really are.

Reflect

Honestly examine the relevant aspects of your camp’s culture. What are the prevailing attitudes about exercise, meals, snacks, weight, body type, fashion, and popularity? What is truly valued at your camp? Work to change ideas that a particular diet, weight, or body type will automatically lead to happiness. Challenge false beliefs that thinness and weight loss are great, whereas fat and weight gain are horrible or indicate laziness, worthlessness, or gluttony. Promote healthy eating and exercise.

Discuss

When the opportunity arises with campers or staff, critique media (magazines, movies, television, video games) and popular attitudes that convey unhealthy messages about eating, exercise, and a person’s physical appearance.

Most Week-Ender readers are not directors of treatment programs for youngsters with eating disorders. However, we all have staff and campers who eat. So, we all share a responsibility to keep mealtimes healthy and balanced, both from a nutritional standpoint and an attitudinal standpoint.

Next time someone asks, “Are you gonna eat that?” pretend you heard it the other way. Say, “Oh yeah. It’s quite good. I’m happy to share, if you’d like some. Or, is there something else here at the table that I can pass you?” By not playing into the hands of a dubious camper or colleague, we are helping them shift their thinking about their own eating.

Dr. Christopher Thurber is the school psychologist at Phillips Exeter Academy and the co-founder of ExpertOnlineTraining.com. Learn more by visiting CampSpirit.com.

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  1. Are You Gonna Eat That?
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