National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: archived interview with Gina Woodard

Holden Foreman, web editor

Today marks the conclusion of 2017’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, so TKC is releasing an interview with Gina Woodard, health teacher, regarding eating disorders in high school. The interview was originally published in TKC Volume 98, Issue 11 May 9, 2016.

Q: What is your experience dealing with eating disorders?

A: With eating disorders, it’s not just one type of kid anymore. We used to have a narrow focus of who might be at risk. It’s not just your type A, perfectionist overachievers. Like anything, it can be taken to the extreme. Disordered eating is common. It doesn’t mean you have this full blown, you-need-to-be-hospitalized eating disorder. It might just be, ‘you need to talk to someone a little bit and reestablish a healthy relationship with food.’ It’s okay. It’s fine. Let’s deal with it sooner rather than later. If we can catch it more on the front end it’s easier to treat. There’s a long-term effect if it’s not dealt with and caught.

Q: What do you think causes eating disorders in teens?

A: Eating disorders aren’t really about eating and food. It’s about control a lot of the time, and high school and college can feel very chaotic and out of control. I don’t think people start out like, ‘I’m gonna have an eating disorder. I’ll start Monday. It’s just this good-intention mentality that snowballs, and all of the sudden you’re like ‘crap, I don’t know how to get back to the other side of that line I’ve crossed, so as a coach and a teacher you just want kids to know if you feel like you’re approaching that line it’s okay to have a conversation with somebody. We want you to be healthy, and that comes first. Period. I think when you’re young it’s hard to do that. It’s not a competition of who ate less ever.

Q: What advice would you give to someone with a potential eating disorder?

A: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think when young people look at situations, they’re very black and white, like all or nothing. I’m never going to have soda. I’m never going to eat fast food. I’m always going to be healthy. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Some of the bravest kids we have in the school admit problems that got out of hand. They realized they were in over their heads, so they asked for help, and they got it, and now they’re good. You can exchange an eating disorder for an addiction or depression and whatever it is, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The fact that we have so many great resources both here at the high school and our community, holy cow, don’t wait for it to get out of hand. Don’t wait until you go to college and it potentially gets worse. Kids shouldn’t have to fear getting well.

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) hotline: 630-577-1330