Healthy Choices: a Program for At-Risk Girls at the Academy At Sisters
“The program goes well beyond just teaching girls to count calories,” commented Connie Peters, an instructor at the Academy at Sisters who created the program. “The Healthy Choices Program focuses on everything from body image, to sports and exercise, to better nutrition.”
According to Dr. Julie Schneider, Psychologist at the Academy at Sisters, these lifestyle changes are a part of the girls’ therapy and can enhance their progress. “Rather than focusing just on problems and pathology, we work to build on the girls’ resilience, i.e. the things that can help them have more fundamentally positive sense of self and reduce their vulnerability to pathology. This includes their sense of overall wellness. Certainly making healthy behavioral choices and becoming more emotionally healthy is part of that, but making healthy lifestyle choices is a basic and important part of it as well. Diet, exercise, sleep, and leisure are fundamental. We all know how off-balance we can feel if any of these basic needs is not being met, and that sense of off-balance affects mood, motivation, attitude, behavior, etc. If our girls can learn to better balance the fundamentals, they are more likely to feel happier and healthier in general, and they are therefore more likely to want to develop healthier habits in other areas.”
Dr. Elizabeth Daniels, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Oregon State University, kicked off the program with a discussion at the Academy at Sisters on the impact of the media on body image. Daniels warned the students that 80% of all women have a negative image of their body. Daniels said, “On average, a teenager is interacting with or watching media for 7.5 hours in a day so no doubt that media has a huge impact on how we feel about our bodies.” Daniels went on to show the girls that even the mega super models are all digitally altered to be skinnier.
Next steps in the Healthy Choices program involve the students building an organic garden. Peters said, “We just visited a local organic farm so the students are really excited about growing their own food. It’s great when they start to understand where their food comes from and the impact of all the chemicals they dump into their systems on a daily basis. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, our students will be harvesting tomatoes, lettuce, and spinach by early this summer.”
Another component is exercise. The Academy at Sisters is located in beautiful Bend, Oregon an area constantly rated as one of the top places to live for sports enthusiast. Students participate in skiing, cross country skiing, hiking, cycling and mountain biking, all great ways to encourage a healthy life style. Some of local favorites that the students frequent constantly include hiking at Smith Rock State Park and Tumalo Falls.
The Academy at Sisters is a therapeutic boarding school for at-risk girls between the ages of 13-18. We are located in Central Oregon. For more information about our programs, visit us at www.academyatsisters.org.