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Overcoming Eating Disorders image
Overcoming Eating Disorders
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: Health Duration: Two class periods

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Students will
  • Discuss two common eating disorders-obesity and anorexia.
  • Explore the relationship between these eating disorders and body image.
  • Encourage students to consider their own body image.
  • Overcoming Eating Disorders videoand VCR, orDVDand DVD player
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Newsprint and markers
  1. Begin the lesson by asking students if they can identify any eating disorders by name and else they know about them.

  2. Write down students' comments on a sheet of newsprint . Then focus the conversation on two specific eating disorders obesity and anorexia.

  3. As a class, develop a definition of each disorder. Below are common definitions of each.

    • Obesity: an excess of body fat; obese individuals weigh at least 30 percent more than their ideal body weight
    • anorexia: an obsessive desire to be thin; anorexics may eat little or nothing and become extremely thin, yet still perceive themselves as being overweight.
  4. Discuss with the class how people with obesity or anorexia feel about themselves. Do these individuals feel good about themselves? What role do students think that food plays in their lives?

  5. Show parts of segments 1 and 2 of the videoOvercoming Eating Disorders. Then ask students the following questions:

    • Why does Brad still think he looks overweight, even after losing weight and having reconstructive surgery?
    • Why does Bridget see herself as having a "big body," even when she weighs only 106 pounds?
  6. Point out that both Brad and Bridget have an unhealthy body image of themselves. Discuss what body image is how each of us sees ourselves. A person with a healthy body image has an accurate idea of what he or she looks like and can put into perspective negative aspects of his or her body. A person with an unhealthy body image has an inaccurate body image and sees only the worst parts of his or her body.

  7. During the next class period, ask students to draw a picture of what they see in the mirror. Suggest that they include clothing, jewelry, and other distinguishing characteristics. Then have students write a couple of sentences describing what they think they look like.

  8. If students feel comfortable, they can pair up with a friend and swap drawings. The students can critique each other's drawing and briefly discuss the kind of body image portrayed. If students do not want to share their drawings, reassure them that it is fine. Suggest that they bring their drawings home and think about this activity and what they learned.

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:Students were highly engaged in class discussions; contributed thoughtful insights to the conversation; took the activity seriously and created a drawing that had meaning to them.
  • Two points:Students were somewhat engaged in class discussions; contributed some ideas to the conversation; took the activity somewhat seriously and created a drawing that had some meaning to them.
  • One point:Students were not engaged in class discussions; contributed little to the conversation; did not take the activity seriously and did not complete a drawing.

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Definition:An eating disorder characterized by intense fear of gaining weight, which leads people to eat as little as possible, to the point where their health is jeopardized.
Context:People with anorexia are at risk for some serious diseases, including osteoporosis, kidney problems, and cardiac arrest.

body image
Definition:The way an individual perceives his or her physical appearance
Context:Bridget had such a negative body image that she thought she was fat when she was emaciated and could find nothing attractive about her body.

Definition:An excessive amount of body fat due to serious overeating; people with obesity weigh more than 30 percent above their ideal body weight or a Body Mass Index of more than 30
Context:Obesity affects more than 60 million Americans, putting them at increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Definition:A feeling of confidence and respect for oneself
Context:Even after Brad lost 127 pounds and had a mid-body lift, he was still struggling with self-esteem issues.

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National Academy of Sciences
The National Science Education Standards provide guidelines for teaching science as well as a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate for students in grades K-12. To view the standards, visit this Web site:

This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives: Personal and community health

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit

This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Health Understands essential concepts about nutrition and diet
  • Health Knows how to maintain and promote personal health

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Marilyn Fenichel, education writer and editor

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