Performance to tackle eating disorders

sign says "anorexia"

Eating disorders such as anorexia have led a group of academics to establish a specialist interactive, theatrical program that may help people to tackle a problem which affects 9% of the population, mostly young people.

“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,” says says Professor Stephen Touyz from University of Sydney’s School of Psychology, whose talk will focus on how to combat eating disorder thinking.

“It is 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.”


Health experts from the University of Sydney will perform at the Seymour Centre stage in a theatrical collaboration next August to dispel the myths around eating disorders and fad dieting in teenagers.

High school students will have the chance to ask a team of leading researchers about negative body image, obesity and eating disorders at interactive workshops following the newest production of What is the Matter with Mary Jane?

The play is the autobiographical, one-woman account of creator Sancia Robinson’s 15-year battle with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Co-written by Wendy Harmer, has become a classroom staple since it debuted at the Sydney Theatre Company in 1995.



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, says Touyz.


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 says.


“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.”


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