Finding the Line Between Promoting Health and Preventing Disordered Eating: Part 1

By Caitlyn Lazorka

Finding the Line Between Promoting Health & Preventing Disordered Eating

This is the first of a two-part series where I explore the line between promoting health and preventing disordered eating, particularly amongst youth. In part 1, I will discuss why this line is important to find and what my plan is to find it. In part 2, I will share my findings and suggest practical ways that educators and families can promote healthy eating patterns while also preventing disordered eating. 

Part 1

The Big Question

Throughout all of my rotations, I keep coming back to the same question: How can I provide nutrition education, especially to children, while also preventing disordered eating? I have become particularly in-tune with sensitizing nutrition information and identifying potentially harmful nutrition education because of my position working at a residential eating disorder facility. The line between promoting health and preventing disordered eating is important to identify when working with children, whose ears and brains are particularly sensitive to this information.

The Problem

In undergrad, I learned about motivational interviewing, medical nutrition therapy, community nutrition, foodservice nutrition, sports nutrition, disease prevention, disease management, weight loss techniques, research techniques, the science behind muscle-building, and how to measure the effectiveness of nutrition interventions. What I did not learn, however, is how to prevent disordered eating. It sounds like such a small idea or skill, but in reality it is critical and, in my opinion, it is not discussed enough. The onset of eating disorders is usually during adolescence, which increases the importance of smart and safe nutrition education. Due to my experiences working at a residential eating disorder facility, I am determined to advance quality nutrition education that both prevents restrictive eating and promotes a healthy attitude toward food and diet. 

My Plan

I decided to answer this question while taking on a research project during one of my rotations at a community site that provides nutrition education to elementary school children. When looking over potential course material for nutrition education classes, I saw a commonly used technique of having children give a thumbs up or thumbs down for various foods. While the intentions of this game are positive – to promote healthy foods and educate on what foods are not health-promoting – I wondered if there is a better way to deliver this information.

My goal of the research project was to identify best practices when teaching children about nutrition, which, to me, means providing positive messages about foods and eating behaviors. After discussing my research observations with my preceptor, she was equally as interested in finding the line between promoting health and preventing disordered eating. Check back to see part 2 of “Finding the Line Between Promoting Health and Preventing Disordered Eating” to read about my findings. 

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