Lesson plan fail: Discovery Education teaching wrong messages about eating disorders

Discovery Education's module on "Overcoming Eating Disorders."

I almost don't know where to start. After a lot of sighing, I'll give it a shot.

On the facts:

  • Obesity is not an eating disorder. (Weight status is not a mental illness.)
  • Anorexia is an eating disorder but it is the least common and no more dangerous than the others, which are simply absent here.
  • Neither obesity nor anorexia are caused by poor body image, whatever that means, or treated by better body image.
  • Body dysmorphia, a psychiatric symptom, is not a failure to appreciate one's body
  • "Obesity" is not a failure to see how large you are
  • "Overcoming" an eating disorder, if present, is not achieved in this exercise. Actual treatment is something for families and professionals to address
  • Oh, dear, there are so many errors here I could go on all day
  • I shudder to consider what must be on the video

But let's get back to the tragic context here: TEACHERS giving inaccurate information to children. Adults leading children in exercises not only of inappropriate private issues but with grossly inaccurate information.

My heart weeps at the thought of children in a classroom looking at one another's bodies under the probing of a trusted teacher and inviting others to look at theirs, if they are "comfortable."

I am enraged at the idea of children "critiquing" each other's self-images.

And then GRADING them on the experience.

This isn't teaching. This isn't responsible. This isn't even in the range of appropriate discussion with students. Eating disorders are not a choice, or a matter of not liking themselves enough that you can "teach" them out of. There is abundant evidence that eating disorders should not even be discussed with students except by their families and physicians: unlike suicide and drug use, discussion of eating disorders can promote disordered eating and pressure to diet and hide symptoms.

I understand that Discovery has been contacted about this content. It is not just out of date it was NEVER correct. I have archived the content on that page in hopes that it will change (my suggestion would be to delete the topic entirely) and become an artifact of poor grasp of a really important issue. Let's watch.

And, if so moved, speak: 

UPDATE 1:10pm Feb 21:

Your voice matters, my friends. Please let me know if you see the content is down?

1:25pm update:
See comment below from Discovery. An enormous thanks to @DiscoverEd for the timely, thoughtful response.


  1. I agree that this is screwed up, and displays a lack of understanding of obesity. Obesity is not a single problem but a group of problems, and personality issues can be one part. Any one person can have any number of problems, and just try to sort those out in yourself. Who knows how we are should think, believe, feel. act, and how to adjust us to that?

  2. Hey Laura. I'm the Dir of Online Community over at DiscoveryEd. I greatly appreciate your bringing this to our attention. We were contacted previously about a related topic, but your post is the first to report this specific article. We are taking your advice and removing it from the site. In addition, we will be commencing with an audit to discern whether there are other articles of this nature that will need to be reviewed or removed.

    Thank you for your diligence, we do take such matters very seriously. If you have any questions or encounter anything else you feel should be considered for revision or removal, please feel free to contact me directly at steve_dembo@discovery.com


    1. Steve,

      You have my genuine gratitude and respect for responding so quickly and clearly. It means a great deal to me, and the folks who brought this to my attention will be overjoyed that their voice was heard.

      Thank you for taking this seriously. Really.

  3. an excellent response - that's great.

    I hope that, although their processes are, of necessity, slower, the UK exam boards will react in a similar considered and helpful way to the concerns expressed by parents in this discussion http://www.aroundthedinnertable.org/post/is-this-enough-info-to-raise-awareness-at-sixth-form-college-6733361?highlight=german

  4. Jeez, like many feminists, I've done enough body image activism that they would expect to have seen some improvement in my AN by now. Only eating accomplishes that, though.


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