Eating displayed and discussed in new production
Health experts are staging a unique theatrical collaboration aimed at dispelling myths about eating disorders and fad dieting in teenagers.
Upcoming productions of ‘What is the Matter with Mary Jane?’ will give high school students the chance to ask a team of leading researchers about negative body image, obesity and eating disorders.
The play is part of workshops that also feature interactive elements, so students can take message from the production and flesh them out in conversation with experts.
"The workshops will be a great learning tool and a new concept in teaching," said Professor Stephen Touyz from the School of Psychology, whose talk will focus on how to combat eating disorder thinking.
"Instead of showing someone a video, you're presenting them a story told in a real live production, which makes the impact a lot stronger. Immediately afterwards, we'll be there to stimulate discussion and answer any lingering questions the play might raise for students."
Interactive forums like these workshops are critical for opening an early dialogue with young people facing eating disorders, which still tend to be glamourised in the media and popular culture, said Professor Touyz.
“There's a desperate need for us to identify anorexia nervosa early, as if it develops into adulthood it's an extremely difficult disorder to treat - sadly many people never recover from it,” he said.
“It's important we put the performance into context to ensure young audiences know what treatment opportunities are available, what preventative measures they can take, and where the research is headed in the field.”
Eating disorders affect nearly one million Australians - around 9 per cent of the population - with young people most at risk. Incidence of eating disorders has increased worldwide over the past 30 years, and is estimated to cost Australia more than $69 billion annually.
Associate Professor Amanda Salis from the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders will draw on her own adolescent struggles with binge eating in a session on strategies for healthy weight management.
“I'll give a personal account of how I 'dieted myself fat' when I was a teenager, and explain the science around why dieting can backfire in some people if it's done without supervision,” she said.
“When you diet, your body fights back: you get hungry, your metabolism slows down, and your body will try to resist the weight loss. Understanding the dieting process can help some people from falling into the trap of giving up or feeling like a failure.”