Resources for Schools
Further information for teachers/youth workers
The film has been developed with the ideal audience range of 10 to 16 in mind. This is a very wide age range; we believe the film is suitable for this age range, but follow up discussions and work would need to be age adjusted.
We suggest that for younger age groups, the focus could be upon body image and feelings about body image, together with the second section on eating and lifestyle. Older groups could have a discussion more specifically on eating disorders. However, we have developed a broad set of resources to enable teachers to judge what would suit their pupils best.
The film starts with the young people talking about feeling ‘fat’ or being called ‘fat’
Aim of this session: to help younger groups discuss what is body image and influences over how we feel about our own body image
We know that children and young people are increasingly conscious of their bodies and how they compare with others. In the past, girls were more likely to be critical of their own bodies than boys. Now, studies show that boys are becoming more like girls in that they too are likely to be critical of their own bodies.
Suggested practical exercises:
- Pupils to write down whether they feel happy with their body shape. Answers anonymously in a box. Options: yes, no, don’t know. Show answers on chart on the board and discuss results. Could also ask them to write down gender and see whether any differences between boys and girls
- Show pupils photos of celebrities with different body shapes. Whose body shape do they think looks best and why? Follow up discussion: do they think that celebrities, sportspeople, magazines, media have an influence over how they think of body image and their own body image?
What is healthy eating?
Aim of this session: children and young people can get confused with ‘health eating’ messages, seeing others on diets and the role of exercise. They will quickly recognise that over-eating and eating too much of certain foods is harmful. But they may not recognise that eating too little can also be harmful.
Activity: describe these three characters, their typical food patterns and lifestyle. Ask pupils to discuss who is ‘healthy’, leading to discussions about what is ‘healthy’.
Zoe: she is not eating enough. Eating a diet based on fruit and vegetables is not healthy – you need to have a good, balanced mixture of food to give you enough energy for school and all activities during the day. Her sister’s diet may be affecting her – it sounds like her feelings are changing the way she feels about food and influencing her appetite.
Sophie: she is perfectly healthy. It is normal for girls at this age to change shape and this can involve carrying a bit more weight, especially in the tummy and hip areas. Pizza and chocolate are not ‘bad’ food. No food is bad – it is only bad if you eat far too much of it and don’t have a mixed, balanced diet. Having pizza with your family or chocolate at the end of the week are lovely treats – enjoy them!
Robert: like many sporty young people as they reach secondary school, Robert’s activity levels have gone up. He ought to be eating more, because he needs more food to fuel him through all this activity. But he is actually eating less and doing more. Two things are signs that he could be at risk of an eating problem – he is feeling worried about keeping up with others in his football team and he has started to lie about having eaten.
This material is more focused on developing awareness of what eating disorders are and how to get help. This could be more relevant to the older age groups with the overall age range.
What is an eating disorder?
Food plays a big part in our lives and sometimes and the way we eat can be affected by our feelings. For example, we might eat chocolate to cheer ourselves up after a bad day at school, or not feel like eating because we feel nervous about an exam. This is normal. But having an eating disorder means you have difficult feelings and emotions that completely dominate the way you eat in a harmful and dangerous way. This can happen in different ways with different types of eating disorders:
This is when someone restricts what they eat to lose weight. It often starts with a diet but having anorexia means someone cannot stop trying to lose weight. They want to lose more and more weight and to do this, they eat less and less. They might hide what they are doing, by wearing baggy clothes and going to clubs rather than the dinner hall. Even though they are losing weight and becoming very thin, they think they are ‘fat’.
This is when someone is caught in a cycle of trying to lose weight, then having a binge, which means eating a large amount of food in one go then feeling guilty about it and trying to make up for it by doing a lot of exercise or making yourself sick. People with bulimia often feel very ashamed of it and keep it a secret. Because of the cycle of binging then trying to make up for the extra food, they are often a normal weight, but having bulimia can cause many serious health problems.
How you do know if you have an eating disorder?
It can be hard to know when you have an eating disorder. Many people try to lose a bit of weight at some point. But these are some warning signs that you may be in danger of having an eating disorder:
- Do you think about food all the time? Know exactly what you have eaten and how many calories? Does it feel like it is dominating your life?
- Do you feel like you are fat but other people say you are thin?
- Do you ever lie about what you have eaten?
- Have you lost more than a stone in the last three months?
How can I get help or help a friend?
If you think you might have an eating disorder, it is really important that you speak to someone. Of course, this won’t be an easy conversation. But it is really vital that you pluck up the courage to speak to someone because the longer you live with an eating disorder, the harder it is to treat.
Try speaking to your parents. They may have noticed something is wrong and are worried about you, but aren’t sure what the problem is or what to say. One young person who was treated at Newbridge House explained it like this: “Mum – I wanted to lose weight, so I went on a diet and I did lose weight. Now I can’t stop.”
There are also professionals who can help you. You could speak to your school nurse, a teacher or your GP. All these people can give you advise and make contact with specialist services to treat eating disorders.
If you think your friend might have an eating disorder, you may feel that you want to help them, but you feel talking to an adult might be breaking trust and make them angry. It is very difficult, but it is very important that they get help if they have an eating disorder. One young person in our film describes how her friends knew something was wrong when she lost a lot of weight. Her friends didn’t know what to say to her, but they did speak to the school nurse. She says she is so grateful that her friends did this because that is how she got help and became better.