How to teach about obesity/fitness/health without creating body issues

Discussion in 'General Education' started by lucybelle, Oct 9, 2012.

  1. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Oct 9, 2012

    We're studying bone and muscle systems right now and I did a little thing on different athletes and the different muscles they use. I also did a little bit on nutrition and obesity. (5th grade class) I have two chubby kids in my class, not fat, just chubby kids and I could tell one was getting uncomfortable during the class. I made sure to mention that just because you're skinny doesn't mean you're healthy and just because you're bigger doesn't mean you're unhealthy. Also told them how when I was in university on my swim team I was always classified as "overweight" because I had a lot of heavy muscle, but I most certainly was not overweight.

    I'd like to do another lesson on nutrition, exercise and health because I think it's super important for these kids to know. But the last thing I want to do is make anyone feel bad about themselves. Any ideas on how to approach this delicately?
     
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  3. MikeTeachesMath

    MikeTeachesMath Devotee

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    Oct 9, 2012

    There's really no way to cover it without making them feel awkward. I was really overweight my first two years of high school and any time it was brought up in health or biology, I'd get uncomfortable. Even when we discussed fats/lipids in bio, I'd get self-conscious.

    When you bring it up, they probably feel like you're talking directly about them because they're the only overweight kids in the class. Even though the class was just paying attention to the lesson, I felt like the moment the teacher said "overweight" or "obese," all eyes were on me.

    It really depends on how much self-esteem those kids have. I had basically none from being bullied and having undiagnosed mental health issues.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    This, 100%. It matches my own experience completely.
     
  5. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    These are the same exact lessons I'm going to teach in about 2 weeks (while subbing).
    I would emphasize that healthy doesn't always mean a certain look. Health can be measured by resting heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. Yes, body fat also comes into account, but it only means unhealthy if it is in the overweight or obese range, but by that time blood pressure and most of the above would change as well.
    I could loose about 15 lbs, so I would tell them myself that I'm going to the gym regularly, do cardio, lift weights, eat VERY healthy, etc. If they compared me with someone thinner they might she's healthier, but it's not true if she eats fast food / junk food, soda, no exercise, smokes, etc. So looks can be deceiving.
     
  6. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    Oct 9, 2012

    There's a really good book that was available from Teaching Tolerance I think. It's about women in sports. It includes large photos that you show the class to discuss. One of the photos is of a female power lifter who is very large and looks obese. There are also elderly women, disabled women, and lots of fit women. It's a good discussion starter. I think the program has to do with Title Nine but I'm not sure of the name of it. We have it at my school.

    I've used those photos to discuss the issue.
     
  7. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Thanks for the input. Ive never been overweight so I dont know what its like to be bullied for that. My good friend has told me how awful she felt about herself because she was overweight in school. Thats why I wanted to be really delicate about the situation.

    I like the idea of using different pictures of different women athletes. I could print out the pictures and we could talk about it. I dont want to skip the whole thing because I think its soooo super important for kids to learn about. I mean the reason Ive always been healthy is because my mom taught me when I was young to exercise and eat correctly.
     
  8. MikeTeachesMath

    MikeTeachesMath Devotee

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    I don't know. Obviously the rest of the class has parents that care about nutrition. You're most likely not going to get any information through to the two overweight students; they're just going to shut down. I guarantee they'll be more concerned with looking around to make sure nobody's looking at them, than with your lesson. I would look down at my notebook and doodle the entire time and wait for it to be over.
     
  9. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Oct 10, 2012

    It really depends on the child. Not all overweight kids have body issues, and some who are not overweight have body issues. It's a fine line.

    I was always taller than the rest of my class, even though I was one of the youngest in my class. Until I was in my early 30's, I was hovering within 10 pounds of the top of the ideal weight for my height.

    I've never had a body image issue. I'm very comfortable in my own skin. I have a good friend who has always had body image issues. She was a size 3 for most of her adult life. She was never happy with her body. Too skinny, boobs too small, butt too wide, etc. She's now a size 18. Too fat, boobs too big, butt too wide, hips too fat, etc.

    I would never assume that it's the heavy kids who have the body image problems.
     
  10. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    So you think I should skip the whole lesson? Im not trying to be mean Im just curious. If you think it will hurt more kids than it will help then I wont do the lesson.

    I guess I could do a food based lesson, and not talk about people at all. How to read a nutrition label, what things are good for you, etc. But then that wouldnt have much of anything to do with muscles-bones.
     
  11. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    I don't see how denial ever helps anything. Seems like that would be a perfect place to teach about body image as well.
     
  12. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Oct 10, 2012

    I just dont want to get too far off the actual topic at hand. Im doing body systems and I thought it would be good to talk about how to take care of your body. But if I do that, plus nutrition, plus body image, were talking lots of classes. The truth is, I can teach whatever I want. We have no high stakes tests and no cirriculum, so if I want to do a 5 class unit on all that I definitely could.

    I do think its important... Ill think about it.
     
  13. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    Oct 10, 2012

    I don't know that you'll be able to change any student's life and make them suddenly start eating better/exercising more/have a healthy body image. But you can provide information that might eventually help them to change.

    Things my science students always find interesting:
    - Our muscle and bones (and skin and hair and everything else) is made of the food that we eat. Healthier food = healthier body.
    - Energy drinks don't actually give our bodies energy. They just trick our brains into not feeling how tired we are.
    - Our bodies need some carbs to function. Same with cholesterol and fat. Everything in moderation is a much better diet plan than completely cutting some things out.
    - Ask them where the weight goes when someone loses weight. Most (all?) of them will be shocked to learn that we breathe most of it out as CO2. (We do pee out the water weight, but most of the weight from the fat that we "burn" gets exhaled.)
     
  14. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    Oct 10, 2012

    My focus would be on a healthy lifestyle. That includes eating a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and lipids because they all contribute to a high-functioning body. Balance in all things.
     

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