Eating disorders rise in the exam season


The change in board exam pattern has had a bad effect on students, parents and teachers.

The multiple-choice question (MCQs) pattern of board exams has led students, parents and teachers to have unhealthy eating habits due to stress.

“This whole new pattern makes me feel so uncertain. When I used to write lengthy answers, there used to be this tiny ray of hope that I would get marks for trying and writing a few sentences. But with this MCQ hit or miss logic, I get stressed and reach out to chips,” said Anagha, a Class 12 student.

The new rules state that Class 10 and 12 will have Term one exams in the MCQ pattern and Term two exams in the subjective answer pattern. The Class 10 MCQ exam will also have assertion and reasoning questions.

Anu Krishna is a mind coach and conscious eating expert. She counsels people of different age groups but mainly focuses on students and their board exams. “The mind and body are part of the same system. When a person is stressed, the brain releases a stress hormone called cortisol which controls a person’s mood and emotions. The reason the brain does this is because the brain does not like dissonance or anything that comes in the way of an ‘ideal’ or ‘happy’ situation,” she said.

Teachers feel stressed about the new pattern too. Sukanya has been a chemistry teacher for almost 20 years and also tutors Class 10 and Class 12 students. “As a teacher, I always invest myself in my students’ performance. How they perform shows how I perform. Taking the stress of so many students does take its toll on me.” Sukanya added that she feels responsible for how her students perform and that the MCQ pattern does not suit subjects like chemistry. “Before, they used to study practice papers from previous years. But now they have nothing to refer to,” she said.

Anu also said that there are different types of foods that people reach out to when they are stressed. “When a person is in a stressful situation, they may crave the crunch, sweet, milky or fizz. All these food textures are related to the emotions of the person. For instance, when you crave a crunch, it means that you feel unappreciated,” she said.

Sukanya said, “Yes, they may be stress eating, but I do too. Some days I am so mentally exhausted that I end up ordering food. Sometimes I just gobble a bag of chips and ice-cream,” she added.

Parents feel worried about how their children will perform and tend to have unhealthy eating habits. “This new pattern is worrying me to no end. I am usually so worried when it comes to board exams. I’ve skipped meals over this new pattern issue. I feel like I am wasting time on food and so sometimes, I skip an entire day’s meal,” said Anusha, whose son is in Class 10. “But after I consistently skip meals, I start to binge a lot. I am so worried about how the results will be after this pattern change,” she said.

Kavitha, an educator, said that no one talks about stress eating issues. “I have seen children’s grades fall because of this new exam pattern. Children who used to score 90 [percent] are suddenly stuck at 35. This must be so stressful for the child, isn’t it?” she said.

She added that the pattern changed very suddenly and people took time to adapt. “But in the race to complete portions, have teachers forgotten to truly educate?”

But teachers also feel the heat of the situation.

Smitha said, “As a teacher, it was so difficult to adapt. I felt I was always under scrutiny. Their performance is my performance. My only way of coping was binging.”