United Methodist’s program helps girls avoid eating disorders
Oct. 25, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Lisa Hampshire
Mentor Charlotte King gives Anna Jones advice about healthy eating.
By Lisa Hampshire*
DALLAS (UMNS) — Like a typical 10-year-old girl, Anna Jones can’t wait to be a teenager.
She loves sports and playing with her friends, but she dreams of the
day she can drive her own car, and she tries not to worry too much about
how she will look cruising down the street. She has high self-esteem,
partly thanks to her mentor, Charlotte King.
“I think when kids are 10,” Charlotte says, “many of them worry too
much about how they look and if the other kids will like them or make
fun of them.”
In the United States, more than 9 million kids are overweight, but on
the flip side, more than 8 million young women are battling eating
disorders. Mandy Golman, a fitness professor at Southern Methodist
University, attributes that in part to the bombardment of skinny models
on television and in fashion magazines but adds it is an unhealthy
“Girls should be told to love the bodies they are blessed with and to
take care of them,” Golman says, “but reality TV is telling them ?if
you don’t like your body, just change it.”
Helping girls establish good eating habits is essential, according to
Girls In Motion founding sponsor Rick McCall. His 20-year-old daughter,
Elisa, died in 1996 from an eating disorder. She grew up at Highland
Park United Methodist Church in Dallas — the same church that King
attends — next to the Southern Methodist University campus.
Girls In Motion is a mentoring program that counsels girls before they
hit their teens. It is offered through the Elisa Project, founded in
1999 by Rick and Leslie McCall as a way of providing girls and their
loved ones with education and support. The McCalls also established the
Elisa Ruth McCall Memorial Endowment at SMU in memory of their daughter.
|Courtesy of Rick McCall
Elisa McCall died at age 20 from an eating disorder.
Participants are often recruited for Girls In Motion through their
schools and church youth programs. Rick McCall believes his daughter
started her path to bulimia before she hit her teens.
“I would much rather deal with preventive maintenance,” he says. “If
parents would teach their children not only to avoid playing with snakes
and to never smoke cigarettes but add ?to eat healthy and take care of
your body,’ my daughter will not have died in vain.”
Golman says girls’ self-images and bad eating habits are established
well before she sees them on the college campus. King, a senior at SMU,
remembers all too well her early teens.
“I definitely struggled with over-exercising and not eating enough. I
was worried about my looks, and I wanted to fit in with the other
girls,” she recalls.
It is the driving force for her joining Girls In Motion. For the last
year, she has met with Anna every week. They walk around the campus
together and talk about issues of low self-esteem, proper exercise and
healthy eating habits.
“We learn to stay ?in motion’ and stay fit,” Anna says, “and
Charlotte tells me not to worry about what the other girls are doing or
anything but to just be myself because everyone is different.”
Along with their weekly walks, the pair attend nutritional classes, shop and cook together.
On a grocery trip, King helps Anna learn the
five-fruits-and-vegetables-a-day rule, but she also teaches her about
more than produce.
|A UMNS photo by Lisa Hampshire
Girls In Motion participants Anna Jones (left) and Charlotte King take a break after exercising.
“It’s OK to have ice cream in moderation; it’s a great source of calcium,” King tells Anna.
“That’s great, because I love ice cream,” Anna replies.
The ordeal of living with an eating disorder is described in moving
detail in excerpts from Elisa McCall’s journal, which can be found at www.smu.edu/eating_disorders. She tells about her binging, her struggles with weight and self-esteem, and her sense that God is fighting beside her.
Throughout her battle, she tries to keep a positive spirit, writing
in one of her last entries: “I’m doing good at discarding my negative
thoughts & trying to be my best friend instead of fight w/ myself.”
Elisa’s last wish was to help other young women avoid developing
eating disorders. Girls In Motion is her living legacy, and using
college student mentors seems to be a perfect fit.
“We feel like using these great young college women is our best
ammunition to combat all the media messages young girls receive,” Golman
says. “It’s easy for their mothers to say, ?Honey your body is
beautiful,’ but to hear it from a college girl who is young and hip adds
a new dimension.”
*Hampshire is a freelance producer in Frisco, Texas.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or email@example.com.