Parent seminar focuses on body image

May 19, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Parents can learn more about the signs, symptoms and dangers of eating disorders at a special seminar May 21 at Beaver Lake Middle School.The goal of the seminar is to reduce stigma associated with body image and to recognize the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that shape eating disorders. 

“I think it is important for parents to be aware that it can happen in middle school and beyond, also, to understand the underlying problems and issues associated with these disorders and what influences these children to become concerned about their body image and eating habits in the first place,” said Alison Cathro, a PTSA member at Beaver Lake who helped organize the seminar.

The session is hosted by Erin Gist, a mental health clinician with Sound Mental Health, and sponsored by the district’s PTSA council. 

Gist is a former Pine Lake and Beaver Lake middle school student and a graduate of Issaquah High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in community health at Central Washington University and her master’s degree in counseling psychology from Argosy University.

She is a regular speaker at local schools with Sound Mental Health’s school-based services program. She speaks to Beaver Lake eighth-graders in their health classes, but her session is so informative, Cathro and other PTSA volunteers thought parents should be able to hear it as well.

“The first thing that comes to mind is parents never think it is going to happen to you,” Gist said. “My parents never would have guessed that their child would die of anorexia.”

Erin’s sister, Kristin Briels, died of anorexia in 1999 while she was attending Skyline High School. Kristin was 13 was she was diagnosed, Gist said. 

During the session, she will also discuss how media influences our perception of body image, and image and eating disorders that affect girls and boys. 

“Having an open dialogue is important,” she said. “Just talking about media and its influences and discussing what are the ‘in’ styles for clothes, what friends are thinking and doing, or how do kids feel in their body — do they feel good or bad?”

Having that open dialogue can help you identify problems early, she said. 

She will also speak about ways parents can act as positive role models by having a healthy self-esteem and speaking about their image with respect and appreciation.

“They will walk away more educated, knowing the signs and symptoms of anorexia and bulimia, and where to turn if they think their teen may be in danger of having an eating disorder,” she said. 

“There are resources in our community and ways of preventing and supporting children, as well as ways of getting medical help, if it is necessary,” Cathro said. 

The session is open to parents and mature students throughout the district and is free. Funding for the seminar was provided by the district’s PTSA.  

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment on this story at 

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