PSHE KS3 / GCSE: Dealing with an eating disorder - Jack's Story

Narrated in first person, this film explores what it is like to battle with an eating disorder.

Jack’s testimony is open and honest, and creates an intimate portrait into how it can feel to be coping with an eating disorder like anorexia and the root causes behind it.

For Jack, he understands these as a combination of being bullied at school and the tensions and upheaval at home as his parents went through a prolonged divorce - something he felt he was to blame for.

These experiences were emotionally draining and unsettling, and he sought weight and food control as a way to improve himself, his image, and regain some stability.

He explains how wanting to simply lose weight through diet and exercise soon spiraled out of control, to a point where he felt totally lost to the illness.

From extreme calorie restriction and compulsively exercising, Jack pushed himself to the point where he didn’t have the energy to walk home from school or to stay up past 6pm.

Jack’s story touches on the reasons behind developing an eating disorder, the symptoms, both mental and physical effects of it, as well as the impact on his parents in seeing him in such a fragile state.

Jack's recovery began with an appointment with his GP which lead to a referral to CAMHS - which is Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

For him, the referral was poignant as he saw the weakened and fragile state of other young people with anorexia at a hospital appointment.

Along with the formal help from CAMHS, Jack also speaks passionately about his own drive which was crucial in his own personal recovery.

It provides key information about where to seek help when you are feeling particularly bad.

This animation will be particularly useful for teachers in discussion about understanding others, how to deal with bullying and self-image, and how damaging mental health problems can be on your physical health.

Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, we strongly advise teacher viewing before watching with your pupils.

Teacher Notes

Key Stage 3

You could start by exploring pupils’ relationship with food, so they understand we all have different relationships with food, which are usually more than just eating for energy and nutrition.

Do they like food? Do they enjoy the process of eating? Do they enjoy feeling full, feeling hungry?

What does food give them: nutrition / social time with friends / emotional comfort / enjoyment / reward or treats etc.

Can they see the link between food and their emotional connection to it?

Can they start to see that sometimes food and eating is used to meet needs other than nutritional needs e.g. if you feel empty and emotionally insecure you might eat certain foods to give you a feeling that makes up for feeling insecure.

It is important to discuss how important a healthy relationship with food is and what that might look like (not using it to compensate for emotional needs for example).

Ask pupils if they have heard of anorexia and eating disorders before and know what they are.

This could be an opportunity to discuss other eating disorders which affect people, from binge eating disorder (BED) bulimia, and other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED).

This could be used to help pupils understand how to get help.

Key Stage 4

Might be suitable to begin to draw the links of low self-esteem, isolation, depression to how and why that might manifest in an eating disorder (sometimes this is trying to achieve a type of body people see in the media, or a way to gain control if there are things around them out of control, or a way to allow themselves to be temporarily out of control e.g. binge eating if everything around them is tightly controlled, or a way to draw attention to themselves, a cry for help, or a way to punish themselves).

These reasons are not prescriptive, but there may be the space in class to start exploring the complexity of eating disorders - as there is not a common ‘one size fits all’ cause.

It is essential to emphasise that there are many causes of eating disorders and that we need to stay aware of our relationship with food and know there are many ways to manage difficult feelings like anxiety, loneliness, depression etc. without allowing food to have a part in this process.

We need healthy bodies to support us when we are dealing with emotional issues.

This could be used to help pupils understand how to get help.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching PSHE at KS3 and GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Modern Studies at National 4 and 5 in Scotland.

More from My Troubled Mind

Addiction - Chloe's Story
The effect of being bullied -  Ryan's Story
Anxiety -  Aneeka and Sam's Story
Self-harm - India's Story
Depression -  Eleanor’s story