Monday, August 29, 2011

The Body Shop

A new book aimed at six-to-twelve year olds will hit the shelves in October, and it’s already generating a lot of comment in the press and from nutritionists. The book is entitled Maggie Goes on a Diet, and it tells the story of an overweight and insecure girl who diets and exercises her way to becoming a soccer star. While the author is careful to note that Maggie becomes “normal-sized” rather than paper-thin, the book has been roundly criticized by mental health and eating disorder experts for the message it sends. The author, no doubt, means well; with over half of all American adults either obese or overweight, the health problems associated with being overweight have skyrocketed over the past few decades. The target audience of Maggie Goes on a Diet, however, is worrisome. Educating children about good nutrition and the importance of exercise to keep their bodies healthy is one thing, but to stress dieting and exercise as a weight-loss method to gain acceptance and to become a “star” is quite another.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has announced that eating disorders in children have shown a rapid increase in recent years. It’s not difficult to figure out why – kids are bombarded daily with images of sleekly muscled men and ultra-willowy women who slink around selling products. Most of the celebrities that female students currently admire lament their clothing sizes, which usually top out at either 0 or 00. This culture of extreme thinness is indeed an illness, and eating disorders are considered the most prevalent form of mental illness in the world. The British supermodel Kate Moss, a perennial tabloid darling for her chain-smoking and drug use, has said that she keeps her famous figure waif-like by limiting what she eats. She came under fire last year for declaring that “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” – a sentiment that promptly appeared as a slogan on best-selling tee shirts aimed at pre- and adolescent girls. While the tee shirts were eventually banned in the UK, their success points to a very troubling question: What kind of parent would buy their young girls such a shirt, and why is it so vital to them that their daughters conform to an unrealistic super-thin “ideal”?

Studies have estimated that 8 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, including 1 million males. Schools have recognized that many eating disorders start in intermediate and middle school, and have responded with wellness classes and programs that emphasize proper nutrition and exercise to maintain a healthy body. Physical education classes, too, have been instrumental in educating students to the dangers of eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating, and districts nationwide have been offering healthier lunch options for students. While proper nutrition and exercise information is most often discussed in science, health, and PE classes, discussion on the role of media, society, and peer pressure in relation to body image can be integrated into classes in different subject areas. My picks this week focus on educating students on developing a healthy body image, and Peggy will discuss ways to use these resources and others in the classroom. Throughout the week, we’ll also be featuring several new lessons, tip sheets, and resources on this important topic each day throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so be sure to take a look. It’s information that could have a very big impact on a student’s life.

Healthy Body Image: Teaching Kids to Eat and Love Their Bodies Too!
Subjects: English Language Arts, Health, Social studies
Grade: 4-6
A comprehensive resource manual and lesson guide with scripted-lessons and activities for grades four, five, or six. The guide teaches kids to focus on a healthy lifestyle and preventing disordered eating. This guide was written by Kathy Kater of, which promotes healthy body image attitudes for students and adults.

Gender Stereotypes and Body Image
Subjects: Writing, Health, Social studies
Grade: 6-7
The goal of this lesson is to make students aware of the dangers of gender stereotyping and the media's role in perpetuating gender stereotypes. This lesson was prepared by
Media Awareness Network, a Canadian non-profit organization that offers a wealth of digital and media literacy resources.

Eating Disorder Facts & Myths Lesson Plan
Subjects: Health, Social studies
Grade: 9-12
Students will learn basic information about eating disorders including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Students will learn facts about these disorders and be able to identify common myths associated with the disorders. Students will learn about and discuss the media's influence on adolescent society in the areas of body image and eating disorders. Students will develop leadership skills by having the opportunity to promote awareness in their school community. This lesson was produced by Bright Hub, which provides K-12 educational resources and information for schools.

~Joann's Picks - 8/26/2011~

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