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Coping Skills and Disordered Eating

Teacher Guide by Patrick Healey

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Eating Disorder Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Eating Disorders Include:

Preventing someone from suffering from an eating disorder is difficult. These activities will help students recognize media’s influence on our body image and expectations, as well as critical warning signs and red flags of an eating disorder. The habits and destructive behaviors of someone suffering from an eating disorder is usually kept hidden in plain sight from the people around them. Engage students with these activities while bringing awareness to a dangerous mental health issue.

Eating Disorders Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Disordered Eating Vocabulary


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When covering important topics, it is essential for all students to understand common terminology so that everyone is on the same page with content. When students define words in their own terms using visuals it helps students get their perspectives across and retain information better. It is very possible to create visuals without depicting the act of purging itself. Creating educational scenes rather than inappropriate triggering scenes is important for maintaining a safe environment for all students.

Have the students choose five of the terms below. Usually students will pick the most popular three (anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating) because they are familiar with these terms and it may be easier for them to visualize. Asking them to pick five will force them to learn through discovery.

Eating Disorder Vocabulary

Anorexia

Disordered body image leading to extremely restrictive food intake



Bulimia

Disordered body image and high anxiety that leads to individuals purging their food intake because of guilt, shame, or distress. Purging, use of laxatives, or extreme exercising are some examples.


Binge Eating

Reoccurring over-consumption of food in a short period of time, usually leading to unhealthy methods of ridding the body of recent food intake


Body Dysmorphia

Obsession with a perceived imperfection; usually the imperfection does not exist or is exaggerated


Diabulimia

currently not considered an eating disorder

Diabetic patients attempt to control weight by abusing their insulin levels


Orthorexia

Unhealthy fixation with only eating healthy foods


Pica

Consumption of things that are not usually considered food, like hair, fingernails, or fabric, in an attempt to fill stomach without consuming calories


Body Image

Mental image of the body. Someone with poor body image may be more susceptible to extreme behaviors in order to change their appearance.


Self Esteem

Attitudes you have about yourself, positive or negative. Someone with low self esteem may be easily influenced by media messages and social expectations.


Coping

Behavior that reduces anxiety or stress in an attempt to gain comfort


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of eating disorder terminology by creating visualizations.


  1. Choose five of the vocabulary words discussed and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Come up with your own definition and type it in the description box.
  3. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Coping Strategies


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Having an eating disorder is not a choice. An eating disorder is a coping mechanism used when someone is experiencing a loss of control over different aspects of their life. When people do not have control of aspects in their life, they will reach for anything to regain that feeling of control again. They can’t control school assignments, parental expectations, or their schedule. One thing they can control is their weight. This feel of getting control over something may be their way of coping with the other stressors. Teaching healthy coping skills will help relieve the pressure to control.

Ask students to brainstorm things that stress them out. Students are usually quick to vent about how tough school is or parents can be, but you won’t usually hear the deeper underlying issues. Next ask them to think about different ways they can relieve stress in a healthier manner. Listening to music, socializing, prioritizing their time, relaxing, or physical activity are answers you may hear. This activity is going to ask students to create an uncontrollable stressor. The lack of control is an important aspect of this activity. Their next step in resolving their anxiety is the most important one. By having students show how an eating disorder may only temporarily relieve stress, while causing several other problems is a goal of this activity. They will visualize healthier strategies as well.

Unfortunately some teens will contemplate using an eating disorder as a coping strategy throughout their lives. Visualizing how it won’t help may prevent this from happening. For some students they may never think about restricting their diet or purging their food. These same students may have trouble visualizing the disorder because of how foreign this concept can be. This activity will help them as well. It is important to stress that creating disturbing scenes may be a trigger to themselves or others.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of how people suffering from an eating disorder negatively adapt to stress.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Come up with three everyday stressors. They must be out of the control of the main character.
  3. Create a visual of those stressors in the first cell of each row, including a title of the theme (row) and label (column).
  4. Create a visual of someone using an eating disorder as a way to cope with that stress in the second cell of each row while labeling it ‘Unhealthy Cope’. Make sure to use school appropriate content.
  5. Next create a healthy coping strategy in the third column with ‘Healthy Coping’ as a label.
  6. Finally include a brief description under each cell explaining what is happening for the stressor, why the unhealthy coping is dangerous, and elaborate on the healthy coping.
  7. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Warning Signs of Eating Disorders


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Disordered eating is something that is usually kept a secret. There are little warning signs that you may be able to pick up on when someone is suffering when it comes to weight control. Some of them may be:


  • Preoccupation with weight, calories, fat content
  • Denial of hunger
  • Isolation when eating
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Baggy clothing to hide weight loss
  • Comments about weight
  • Excessive exercise
  • Food rituals
  • Avoiding eating entirely
  • Use of bathroom directly after eating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Brittle nails and thinning hair
  • Frequent sickness and poor healing of wounds

Recognizing and diagnosing an eating disorder should be left to professionals. Some of these warning signs may be a cry for help and should not be ignored. Having students create visuals of the most important warning signs will help them identify them in real life. Eating disorders do not discriminate based on gender, so making sure students do not make atypical storyboards is important. Because each eating disorder and each person suffering is unique, deciding which warning signs to cover is up to the teacher. The example storyboard has chosen random signs listed above. Provide a nearly blank template for students to fill in. By giving them the warning signs you want to cover, you’ll reinforce the important ones. It is important to stress to your students that creating disturbing scenes may be a trigger to themselves or others.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Depict different warning signs of someone suffering from an eating disorder.


  1. Open the storyboard provided for you.
  2. In the Examples column, identify and provide your own definition of the warning signs in two or more sentences.
  3. In the warning signs cells, create visuals of these signs with school-appropriate content.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Abilities Over Appearances


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Students may dwell too much on what they should improve, how they should look, or how they should dress. Teenagers are vulnerable to media influence. Unfortunately, media is filled with methods of tearing body image down. Students who are already experiencing distorted body images are heavily influenced. If teens can focus on who they are and what they like about themselves, they may not be so susceptible to going to extremes to change it. This activity will ask students to focus on what their abilities are other than appearances in a simple three cell storyboard.

After the students have completed their work. Hang several of the best examples of student work on the board or wall in the call. Having an overpowering number of positive images will help create a more body friend environment. Students rarely see a wall of positivity. Different examples coming from peers may also mean more as opposed to come from a teacher.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create visuals of what your body abilities are to show emphasis on body abilities rather than apperanches.


  1. Create a three cell storyboard with titles and descriptions.
  2. In each cell create a visual of three different abilities you have.
  3. Briefly describe what you're doing in each cell and title each cell with ‘ability’.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Media Strategies


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Increased screen time has been on a continuing upward trend among students. With all of the different options for people to use for online access there is also a lot of time for companies to target consumers. The bodies displayed in many of the advertisements are unrealistic or edited to be unachievable. This sets the standards of beauty to be unobtainable in a healthy way. Having the ability to see the different ways companies may target teens is an important life skill. Usually these messages are ones that make the viewers feel that something is wrong and buying a certain product will solve the problem, especially from beauty companies and the clothing industry.

The beauty industry spends a lot of money producing and advertising their products. They make sure every aspect of how they sell their product is thoughtful and purposeful. They do this by using several different techniques that may not be so obvious to the consumer. When students are bombarded with these carefully constructed media messages, they are defenseless to read between the lines. After discussing the information below in class, have the students create three different scenes using two different strategies in each.


Presentation of a Problem

This technique is the beauty industry's bread and butter. They will mention a social norm that most people experience, state it as an issue, and state their product will help. Making the consumer feel poorly about themselves is the objective of these companies. The next step is for the consumers to correct the problem. Which is buying their product. We feel better when are correcting a problem, even when there was never a problem in the first place.


Approval

Advertisements may have several teens using the product to show that this is what other people buy and you should too.

“everyone has this”, “kid approved”, “you’re missing out”


Celebrities to Advertise

Companies may use influential people to sell a product. Consumers may already resonate and trust what these individuals say or do. This gains easy customers for companies.


"Photoshopping"

When individual pictures are edited to emulate a unobtainable body frame to sell a product. The beauty industry is a main perpetrator of this tactic to sell the message, "our product will help you look like this".


Time-sensitive Deals

Even if you will not use two or never intended to buy more, companies are trying to make an exclusive offer to you with minimal loss for them.

“buy now and get the second half off”


Repetition

The ad states or shows information or messages again and again that you’ll replay in your mind.


Charm

Companies may use cartoons or animals to represent them and this makes the consumer relate to a living thing and not just a business. We are more prone to purchase something if we can empathize with it.

Example: Tony the Tiger

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of media strategies by creating your own ads!


  1. Click "Use this Template".
  2. Create three advertisements for imaginary products.
  3. Choose two or more strategies discussed in class to be depicted in each of your cells.
  4. Use school appropriate scenes, content, and text to convey those strategies.
  5. In the description box, explain which strategies this ad uses and how they are used.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Disordered Eating Teacher Background

Suffering from an eating disorder like bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating, can be a life or death situation. Emotional lows, struggles, and dangerous behaviors are often hidden from the people closest to those around them. Being able to point out small cries for help can mean an immeasurable difference to the individual in need. Using Storyboard That to create visuals will allow students to recognize red flags in the classroom and apply that to real-life situations. The images also bring a bit of lightness to a very heavy discussion. This will allow the students to be more comfortable tackling sensitive content.

It’s important to understand that disordered eating is not a choice people make. It is a safety blanket or coping mechanism for individuals who are viewing themselves in a disordered way or experiencing anxiety and need something to control. Anyone being affected by disordered eating is not alone. There are resources for students, staff, and parents. NEDA, National Eating Disorder Association, provides contact people, information, and resources. Calling a hotline (800-931-2237), texting (NEDA to 741741), or going on a chat on their website are just some ways to get help from NEDA.


Essential Questions for Disordered Eating

  1. What is an eating disorder?
  2. What are the warning signs of an eating disorder?
  3. How does the media negatively affect our body image?

Additional Disordered Eating Lesson Plan Ideas

  1. Not Typical - Create a storyboard of different people experiencing different emotions about their bodies. Break the stereotype that only women suffer from body image issues.
  2. Body Affirmations - Create positive body appreciation cells in
  3. Practice reaching out for help by creating storyboard scenarios.

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