Visitor Columnist: Breaking Down the Weight loss program Tradition Disaster | opinion

While the cold winter weather begins to thaw and we dare to count down the days to summer, the “Beach Body” season is celebrating its annual comeback.

Diet culture lurks around every corner. Grocery checkout magazines promise three pounds of weight loss per week when you drink their kale and spinach smoothie. Suddenly everyone on Tik Tok is a self-certified personal trainer and nutritionist.

While the “beach body” trend is only a fraction of our harmful food culture, this time of year is a perfect opportunity to address the larger ongoing problem. Food culture is an inescapable facet of our daily life and it is up to the American school system to begin resolving the crisis.

In 2013, during a Family Consumer Science class, my sixth grade classmates and I were asked to complete a calorie counting project. Two years later, we were instructed to calculate our individual body mass index, even though the National Association of Eating Disorders strongly discourages schools from teaching this practice. During my school days there were pictures of meals with the heading “Eat this, not that” at every turn. It was impossible to avoid the toxic message of diet culture.

While these measures may seem insignificant, the continued emphasis on numbers and limitations is only to add fuel to the flame of diet culture. My school district is not alone with this mistake. Schools across the country are unwittingly participating in promoting this problem.

In addition, the way we are exposed to societal expectations of “health” has changed dramatically over the past decade. With the proliferation of social media platforms, teens are no longer restricted to a diet culture that only exists on supermodel billboards or weight loss commercials.

Despite the fact that most popular social media platforms require their users to be at least thirteen, younger users can easily lie about their age in order to bypass this rule. Consequently, a study by Influence Central found that 50% of teens by the age of 12 have some sort of social media account. This early exposure to societal expectations for health and beauty can be extremely harmful. The Mental Health Foundation found that 40% of teens said that social media made them worry about their own body image. The constant promotion of certain body types in the media reinforces the idea that health and fit are one and the same thing in size zero jeans.

Ultimately, the restructuring of health education in schools is the best and most effective place to address the food culture issue.

Although it is the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that students receive 40 to 50 hours of health education per year, they found that the majority of schools in the United States spend eight hours or less on the subject. The CDC offers numerous suggestions on how schools can accomplish this goal, including creating school gardens and displaying what a balanced, non-restrictive meal is like.

It is absurd that counting calories and assessing the daily intake of macronutrients should be major components of an eleven year old student’s health education curriculum. This is only to promote weight loss and contribute to the nutritional culture rather than accomplishing the well-intentioned goal of teaching students how to achieve healthy lifestyles. This is an important lesson that students need to learn. The Global organization for child health found that obesity affects 17% of children and teenagers in the United States. This is a crisis that we all want to resolve, but playing the numbers and scales is not the answer, according to them American Academy of Pediatrics. Instead, the organization suggests encouraging students to make sweeping lifestyle changes rather than focusing on dieting “regardless of weight or body mass index.”

About 28.8 million Americans suffer from eating disorders that often occur between Ages from 12 to 25 yearsaccording to Johns Hopkins Medicine. We cannot afford schools inadvertently shaming students by counting their calories and focusing on their body mass index. Schools need to protect their students from the food culture by educating them about the illusions of social media rather than acting as a trailblazer for the crisis.

Caleigh Trauger is currently a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh as a major in public and professional writing with a minor in law.

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