The Myths and Truths of the High School Cafeteria: Teenage Eating Disorders

My Personal Connection and Purpose:

The purpose of my catalyst conference is to create awareness and destigmatize eating disorders in teenagers. High school is a grueling place and I witness first hand what happens and the amount of stress that students are put under. There is an extreme lack of education on the subject of eating disorders and as a result, causes this debate of the truths and myths of them. My goal is to help educate teenagers and their parents, and hopefully, that means knowing when someone starts to develop an eating disorder and ways in which you can be there for someone who struggles with one. Locally, I plan to work with a club at my school, MHA (Mental Health Alliance) and work to create workshops to educate students in my school and break down the stigmas surrounding eating disorders. Hopefully, through my findings and tips, you will be able to learn something new as well!

So what is Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder?

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that mainly deals with weight loss. Generally, this means that people with anorexia are restricting the amount of food that they are consuming and the types of food. Interestingly, our society generally associates anorexia with the image of being skinny, however, it has been proven that anorexia and obesity are common to be seen together. Anorexia can be a life-threatening mental illness if left untreated.

Bulimia Nervosa is linked to a cycle of binge eating and then purging. Typically purging is either self-induced vomiting, laxatives, enemas, or an excessive amount of exercise to try and reverse all of the calories that a person has just consumed.

Binge eating takes the form of large consumptions of food at one time. This usually leaves the person in discomfort and also showing signs of guilt due to the binging. It is usually characterized by the person losing control and not being aware of when they are binging. 

Additional Statistics:

  • Up to four percent of all females in the U.S. will experience bulimia, and generally people will develop bulimia in high school. 
  • 15 percent of women from the ages 14 to 24 are struggling with an eating disorder
  • According to a study done by the APA (American Psychological Association) 26 percent of teenagers said that they have binged at least once a month due to stress from school. 

Signs and Symptoms:

Anorexia Nervosa:

  • Significant weight loss
  • Sometimes dressing in larger clothing
  • Infatuation with food, weight, and the idea of being “fat”
  • Exercise Often
  • Denies feeling hungry

Bulimia Nervosa: 

  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after a meal 
  • Drinking excessive amounts of water or other beverages with a low-calorie count
  • Sometimes having a fear of eating in public or eating in front of others

Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Feels like they are not in control when they eat
  • Guilt or disgust following meals
  • Presenting signs of low self-esteem
  • Distancing from family and friends tends to eat on their own

My Call to Action

I think one of the biggest problems that our society struggles with in terms of eating disorders is that lack of education. There are so many stigmas and stereotypes associated with eating disorders. My hopes in doing this project were to call attention to the truths of eating disorders and hopefully allow others with the necessary resources they need. If you know someone who is struggling with an eating disorder hopefully these signs and symptoms can help you to spot it and help them get the necessary help they need. As for me, moving forward, I plan to work with a club at my school and hopefully present on this topic to educate the kids in my school. I want to help de-stigmatize eating disorders and make it a topic of conversation at my school, not something that people shy away from. I challenge you all to have those difficult conversations, and if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder don’t hesitate to seek for help.

I hope that you can take some of the knowledge you have acquired today and take it back to your own community to help de-stigmatize eating disorders. Below is a link to a website that details how to talk to someone with an eating disorder, warning signs, basic information on each of the disorders, the myths behind eating disorders, what not to say to someone with an eating disorder, and possible treatment options! I think this is a great resource to start with and it offers a ton of easy information to digest!

Quiz on Eating Disorders


This quiz is intended to see how much information you have retained, in the hopes of breaking down the stigmas and false information surrounding eating disorders!

Work Cited

“Eating Disorders.” Amita Health,

“Is Your Teen at Risk for Developing an Eating Disorder?”,

“Teen Eating Disorders: Tips to Protect Your Teen.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 15 May 2018,

“What Are Eating Disorders?” National Eating Disorders Association, 7 Aug. 2018,

Writers, Staff. “How to Detect & Treat Eating Disorders Among Students .”,, 28 Nov. 2018,

Share this project
  1. April 25, 2019 by William Le Clercq

    Lizzie this is a fantastic project, all of your information is presented in an elegant way that is easy to read and visually appealing. I wonder if more people knew about eating disorders the way people in our abnormal psychology class now do that the stigma surrounding them would go away or would it remain?

    • April 28, 2019 by Lizzie Nash

      HI William! Thank you so much. I think that the more people are educated on eating disorders, the sooner the stigmas will start to dissipate. I would hope that education is the first step in the right direction towards a healthier and sigma free society! In addition to education, though, we need to be able to implement what we are learning and show change through our knowledge

  2. April 27, 2019 by Tess Blake

    Hi Lizzie! I love your project – thank you for addressing such a serious & prevalent issue. I am wondering what your thoughts are on what we as young women can do to support other young women who are struggling with disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, and how can we help them learn to love themselves?

    • April 28, 2019 by Lizzie Nash

      Hi Tess! Thank you so much for commenting! I think one of the main things that we can do is to eliminate the stigmas that are floating around on social media. If we are constantly seeing images of unrealistic body types or other unattainable beauty standards we are going to set ourselves up for comparison with something that we will never be able to achieve. I think we as women need to stop putting each other down for the gain of our own personal fulfillment and come together. We need to teach one another to embrace and love our differences.

  3. April 28, 2019 by Manasi Garg

    Hi Lizzie this is great!
    I love the way you presented all the information! My only question is how should you start a conversation with someone you think needs help but keeps denying it?

    • April 28, 2019 by Lizzie Nash

      Hi Manasi! Great question! Here is a list of things to think about when approaching someone who you think has an eating disorder. All of the following information is quoted from one of my sources. I will put the link below for more helpful tips including what people should not say to someone who they think is suffering from an eating disorder.

      Avoid approaching them when food is present, they will more than likely already be stressed. Your first approach should be at a non-mealtime situation.
      Assure them that they are not alone and that you love them and want to help in any way that you can.
      Encourage them to seek help.
      Do not comment on their weight or appearance.
      Do not blame the individual and do not get angry with them.
      Be patient, expect to be rebuffed, stay calm and focused.
      Do not take on the role of a therapist – but do encourage them to seek one out, and keep checking in on the progress of this if they agree to do so.

  4. April 28, 2019 by Caroline.Cummins

    Lizzie, great job!! I think in our day and age, eating disorders are more and more prevalent in peoples lives but less and less talked about. I think you focusing on this and letting us know how to help out in our own lives is something that many of us can take advantage of and use from now on. I know I will.

    • April 28, 2019 by Lizzie Nash

      Thank you so much, Caroline! I really hope that you learned something new today! Hopefully, you can take some of these tips and implement them into your own community!

  5. April 30, 2019 by Olivia Reichl

    Hi Liz, great job! Your presentation is beautiful and you really helped to educate on the signs and symptoms of eating disorders. Thank you so much for sharing this page and for helping to educate on a topic that like you said is hardly talked about at schools. I also really like how you plan to get more engaged at our school because I definitely think we could use some awareness here!

  6. May 02, 2019 by Ira.Kadet

    I completely agree with you with your call to action. While my school teaches students about eating disorders, most, including me, still are widely unaware of the issue, especially because it’s hard to spot. A better education would really help to solve this issue.

  7. May 04, 2019 by Jeffrey

    Hi Lizzie, great project. I really liked the colors you used to organize your project, it was very soothing. I also really liked your quiz. I reminded me what was the most important take aways from your project. Overall a great project!

  8. May 10, 2019 by Alyssa.Chang

    Hi! This is a great project! This is defiantly something that should be talked more often; I think in many cases teenagers who are struggling with eating disorders do not feel comfortable to speak out. Your presentation helped me learn so much more. Well done!

  9. May 12, 2019 by Rin Zoot

    I never knew that eating disorders were such a prevalent problem in the world, and your statistics really help enlighten me on this basis. I had no idea that 1 in 10 students had eating disorders! I also really like that you added a quiz at the end as an interaction piece.

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