Alarming rise of secret diet clubs in Qld primary schools
Secret diet clubs in school playgrounds are leading to children not eating at lunch and recess and the Butterfly Foundation fears the meal skipping could lead to eating disorders.
The eating disorder experts are fielding many calls from parents worried that their children are not eating during the day due to diet clubs, lunch box shaming and body dissatisfaction with reports meal skipping is starting in primary schools.
The foundation is so concerned it is holding in-classroom education sessions in Queensland
schools this month to help educate students, teachers and parents of the dangers of these trends.
"There are students who are feeling anxious about eating in front of their peers. This is concerning for a number of reasons and can highlight a number of issues in a young person but it also places them at risk of developing disordered eating or an eating disorder," Butterfly Foundation national manager prevention services Danni Rowlands said.
"Supporting the development of positive eating behaviours in primary school may help protect against more serious eating issues from developing in adolescents."
Butterfly reports that parents who have had a child with an eating disorder often say that skipping lunch is one of the first behaviours they engaged in.
Eating disorders can impact children as young as five and the average onset is between 12 and 25. Greater body concerns from ages five to seven have been shown to predict dieting by age nine.
Butterfly Foundation also encourages schools to allow children enough time to eat their lunch.
"If children don't have sufficient time to eat at recess and lunch it may encourage them to eat very quickly and/or skip parts or all of their lunch to ensure they don't miss out on playtime," Ms Rowlands said.
"These behaviours can disorder a child's relationship with eating and can impact the way they eat at school and in other environments, such as home, in the shorter and longer term.
"By ensuring children have adequate time to eat the food they have been provided it also encourages more mindful eating and reinforces to the children that lunch and eating demonstrates respect to their body and mind and is important for their physical, social and emotional wellbeing."
Schools play an important role in helping children establish positive eating habits, the experts said
If a parent is concerned about their child, we encourage them to contact The Butterfly National Helpline www.butterfly.org.au
Originally published as Alarming rise of secret diet clubs in Qld primary schools