Student slams middle school for health assignment

A Wisconsin high school student has criticized her former middle school for an 8th-grade health assignment that she said can lead to low morale, WMTV reports. 

Evelyn Becker, a high school sophomore at Oregon High School, created a petition calling for Oregon Middle School, her alma mater, to ditch a class assignment called “Super Tracker Nutritional Goals.”

The project reportedly requires students to download MyFitnessPal — a smartphone app that tracks one’s caloric intake — and measure their calories and “other nutritional values” for a week. The students are then expected to write a paper “about what they should change their diet to meet the limits that the app provides.”

Becker, who completed the assignment two years ago, told WMTV that the homework influenced her perception of her own diet.

“It’s very like, ‘There’s something wrong with your eating,’ instead of, ‘This is what healthy eating looks like,'” she said. 

The project caused her to become fixated on her own calories, leading to a food-related, obsessive-compulsive disorder and disordered eating, she added. 

“A lot of the times I felt like was undeserving of food, and so the numbers were a way for me to track how much I deserved for the day,” she said. 

In petitioning to remove the assignment from the middle school’s curriculum, Becker pointed out that it dismisses students whose families do not have access to healthier food or even a smartphone. As of Jan. 7, her appeal has received more than 800 signatures.

In a statement to the Capital Times, Oregon School District superintendent Brian Busler said that the assignment had already been completed for the school year, noting that the district would instead review it for the following year. 

“As we prepare for the 2020-21 school year, we will look at the entire curriculum to make sure that it’s all aligned and still moving in the direction that we would like it to move,” he said. “The project was designed to help students be mindful of their habits regarding nutrition, exercise, sleep and how these relate to their overall wellness.”

In a separate interview with the Capital Times, Baker said she would like the assignment to focus less on a student’s personal diet and suggested that it be framed more “as a math problem rather than a person problem.”

“Just giving examples of, ‘Here’s what a healthy diet would look like,’ maybe having some sample diets they could go through,” she said. “If you don’t have access to three meals a day, you don’t have access to proper nutrition, or you don’t have a phone — it just makes it harder, especially when you have to do the change assignment afterward. Thirteen-year-olds are not in control of their food.”

According to a study cited by the National Eating Disorders Association, “dieting was the most important predictor of a developing eating disorder” among 14- and 15-year-olds. 

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