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Letter to Newcomers
June 13, 2024
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Advice for Freshmen
June 12, 2024
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Advice to Freshmen
June 12, 2024

The MyFitnessPal Unit Needs to be Changed


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The first thing asks for when you make an account is your age. You must be at least 18 years old to use it. Even MyFitnessPal agrees that kids shouldn’t be using it, and we have to lie to start using the website at all. That’s a terrible message for children but the least of my concerns regarding this project.

For those who haven’t done it yet or don’t know what it is, the nutrition unit in Health 2 has you make a MyFitnessPal account. You are required to track everything you eat for three days. The website will give you strict numbers calculated by BMI, which is known for being inequitable and inaccurate. You are told in bold red writing everything you’re doing wrong. Your lunch has too much sodium, although you don’t have a choice but to get one from the school. The website yelled at me for eating too much sugar, for eating a pear, raisins, and a granola bar. If you continue to eat like this, you will gain 0.3 pounds in five weeks. Eating under the recommended value is shown in green writing. The message is clear: Too much is bad, and not enough is good. Studies have shown that these practices increase stress about food and encourage behaviors leading to perfectionism and eating disorders, and this is in adults. Requiring teenagers to use MyFitnessPal is unethical and should be abolished.

Dieting websites promote habits associated with eating disorders. Nitpicking every calorie and macronutrient is unhealthy, yet we are encouraged to do so within this project. In another study, over 50% of teenagers reported having anxiety about their bodies, and 4% of teenagers have eating disorders, with girls being hit the hardest. Sure, the project won’t affect some people, but more students are experiencing eating disorders and similar habits than teachers realize. By forcing all students to use MyFitnessPal, they are required to meticulously track everything. If students are on the edge, this project will push them over. The seeds of self-hatred are nourished, and the diet perfectionism promoted through MyFitnessPal will increase. While studies using MyFitnessPal specifically have only been done on adults (because forcing teenagers to use it is unethical!), the vast majority reported an increase in behaviors associated with eating disorders. For teenagers, especially girls, the risk increases tenfold.

The project is also inequitable. Not every student has the privilege of the choice to eat healthily. About 53% of FGHS’ student body needs a school lunch every day. Not all parents cook, and not all families have the materials or time to cook in the first place. The BMI is notoriously biased against Latinos and people of color, which a large portion of our school consists of. What these students get out of this tracking is shame. It’s not right to shame students for circumstances outside of their control.

The nutrition unit’s project intends to teach students about food and nutrients, which is a noble goal. However, it needs to be implemented differently. An alternative would be to provide students with a sample to analyze. We did this in class, albeit a shorter version, so it is more than possible. The rest of the unit is learning about how nutrients work, which people need to know. The problem isn’t learning about food, or even for students to think about how they eat. Requiring students to use MyFitnessPal not only introduces them to perfectionistic behaviors but forces us to practice them.

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About the Contributor
Ava Rapport, Editor
Ava Rapport is an editor of the Advocate and a junior at FGHS. She loves reading and writing and is an energetic, determined learner.

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