Your Body and Health Issues

9, 10, 11, 12

Students explore the concept of healthy body image through an exploration of media messages.  They create commercials that celebrate different bodies’ shapes and sizes. Students learn about obesity and design a comic strip or graphic poster to educate others about healthy eating, exercise, and sleep. Students work in small groups to explore food-related health issues, including genetically modified food, pollution, pesticides, hormones, and outbreaks of food-borne diseases such as salmonella and e coli.  

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree 55-Minute Class Sessions, plus time to survey the community and to present their posters to the class

Learners will:

  • define body image and explore how the media impacts that.
  • list the cultural and environmental factors that promote obesity.
  • create healthy-eating and exercise posters or graphic comics.
  • research and report on food-related health issues.
  • Internet access (Dovecampaign: and Fiji Eating Behaviors:
  • popular magazines with images of people and fashion
  • art materials (poster paper, glue, scissors, markers)
  • sticky notes
  • student copies of Create-Your-Own Healthy Food Ad Campaign (Handout 1)
  • student copies of Lifestyle Logs (Lesson One, Handout 5)
  • full-page printout of The Heart Truth logo
  • (optional) copy of a movie with a theme of over consumption, such as Wall-E, Fast Food Nation, or Supersize Me student
  • student copies of Food Critic: Comparative (Lesson One, Handout 4)
  • copy of Service Project Suggestions (Lesson One, Handout 7)
  • wrappers from “healthy” snack bars and “regular” candy bars for comparison. Look for products with a range of protein, calcium, and salt content.
  • a variety of food packages, such as cereal boxes, peanut butter (if no student is allergic), and yogurt containers
  • newspaper articles (See Bibliographical References)
  • student copies of article“Group Seeks Food Label That Highlights Harmful Nutrients” by William Neuman, New York Times, October 14, 2010) (See Biographical References)
  • student copies of article “City’s Efforts Fail to Dent Child Obesity,”by Anemona Hartocollis, New York Times, September 4, 2010 (See Biographical References)
  • copy of K-W-L Chart (Handout 2)
  • anecdote:a short narrative account or story about an interesting or amusing incident; He told a funny anecdote about the first time he tasted broccoli.
  • attitude: a feeling or emotion toward something that shows in behavior; Their attitude toward vegetables was less than enthusiastic.
  • campaign:a series of steps, operations, or actions planned to achieve a goal; The campaign to introduce a new 100% fruit juice included YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter spots.
  • concise: brief, to the point, and without extra detail; Their concise account of what the school needs gave the principal all the information she needed to make changes.
  • crisis: an unstable condition in a political, social, or economic situation that needs immediate and decisive action or change; Obesity has reached crisis level in the U.S. and other developed nations.
  • data: factual information that can be organized and analyzed for making decisions; The data collected in our surveys will help us identify a focus for our service project.
  • effective:able to produce the desired outcome; Adding a tasty sauce is an effective way to get kids to eat vegetables.
  • epidemic:characterized by widespread growth; Obesity has become an epidemic among the country’s schoolchildren.
  • ideal: the very best, most appropriate, or perfect; In an ideal community, there would be no poverty or obesity.
  • impact: an effect or influence on someone or something; The impact of global warming on climate change can be seen everywhere.
  • imply:to express indirectly; When I said that I was tired, I meant to imply that I wanted a ride.
  • participation taking part in an event, occasion, discussion, game, or other activity; The enthusiastic participation of the whole class made the game lots of fun.
  • prescription:a written direction for treatment or corrective action; Health officials believe that learning about healthy eating habits is a prescription for combating obesity.
  • preservatives:additions to protect against decay or keep food from spoiling; Drying, salting, smoking, and pickling are ancient preservative methods.prevalent: something that is commonly or widely practiced or accepted; It is unfortunate that fast food places are so prevalent in poor neighborhoods.
  • promote: to advance or raise up to a more important or responsible rank; to advocate for a cause; School menus should promote tasty green, yellow, and red vegetables.
Home Connection 

Have each student take one or more copies of their survey home to interview adult family members and neighbors.


Students maintain journals, reflecting in writing after each session:

Journal Question(s) 5: If you were in charge of deciding what commercials can or cannot be shown after school and weekend mornings during children’s programming blocks, what would you okay? Why? What would you ban? Why?

Journal Question(s) 6: How would your neighborhood be different if there were NO fast food restaurants? How would this change your eating habits? What difference would it make to the community?  

Journal Questions 7: What did you learn about yourself while participating in the survey? What was fun? What was challenging? Who was the most interesting person you interviewed? What made them interesting?

New Articles:

Behavior: Losing Fat, as Easily as Closing Your Eyes

“New York Asks to Bar Use of Food Stamps to Buy Sodas”
Even Benefits Don’t Tempt Us to Vegetables
Group Seeks Food Label That Highlights Harmful Nutrients
City’s Efforts Fail to Dent Child Obesity
Internet: Dove campaign
British Journal of Psychiatry article: Fiji Eating Behaviors


  1. Session One:

    Anticipatory Set: (Estimated Time: 15 minutes) Introduce today’s theme: body image. The facilitator writes body image on the board and says, “What is a body image?” Discuss.

  2. Tell students that body image is the idea we have about how our bodies look. Have students (and the facilitator) write a paragraph that describes how they feel about their own bodies. Remind students to include positive and negative aspects of their own body image. Call on volunteers (only willing students) to share a positive feeling. If students are reluctant to volunteer, begin by sharing part of your own paragraph about how you feel about your body.

  3. Ask students to think about their body image. Have they ever felt fator skinny; short or tall; ugly or beautiful? Ask: What influences the way you look? (peers, media, TV, Internet, magazines) (NOTE: be sensitive to the students in your class and their body images when asking these questions.)

  4. Ask, “Would you describe your own body image as healthy?” (Answers will vary.) Discuss what a healthy body image is.

  5. Tell students to reread their journal definitions and rate the positive to negative balance as a percentage. Have them write the date above their definitions. Say, “At the end of the BHC unit, we will revisit and revise your definitions.” Tell the students that their journals will remain private; no one will read them unless they share the entries.

  6. Reporting: Have students share their research from the previous session. Focus Activity One (Estimated Time: 35 minutes)

  7. Move students into three differentiated groups. Group One explores print media’s message about body image. Group two views Dove’s “Evolution” video Group Three reads the British Journal of Psychiatry report on eating behaviors and attitudes following prolonged exposure to television among ethnic Fijian adolescent girls Then each group creates a poster to summarize their findings about the impact of media on body image.

  8. Group one: This group creates a poster that raises awareness about the effect of magazine images on body image. Give them an assortment of fashion, sports, and lifestyle magazines and sticky notes. Have students find and cut out photos and ads that imply a standard of beauty. They use sticky notes to write thought or speech balloons for the models, celebrities, and athletes. They make a collage of images and text to communicate a message about positive body image.

  9. Group two: This group views Dove’s “Evolution” film to see, in detail, how models’ images are created through an “evolution” of their physical appearance. This group creates a poster sharing the message learned from this film. Have students think about the followingquestions as they work on their posters. Do models really look like they do in advertisements? Why doadvertisements want us tosee a false image of people?How isthe message in the "Evolution" video the same as or different from other advertisements?

  10. Group three: (for students who need an academic challenge): Give students copies of the article “Eating Behaviors and Attitudes Following Prolonged Exposure to Television Among Ethnic Fijian Adolescent Girls” from The British Journal of Psychiatry (2002). This group creates a poster sharing the main points of the article. Have students think about the following questions as they work on their posters: What was the ideal body type in Fiji before 1994? How did it change beginning in 1995? What caused a change in the definition of beauty? (Up to 1994, the most beautiful women on this tropical island were big and round. Slender women were not considered attractive. Suddenly, in 1995, women starting dieting and 74% of teenage girls dieted, saying they felt, “too big or too fat.” Why? In 1995, cable TV, mostly from the U.S. became available in Fiji.)

  11. Have groups present their posters to the class.

  12. Then ask students to raise their hand if they think they are too tall or too short. Ask how they can change their height (they can’t). Then tell students that despite the media and what they think is the ideal weight or body type, every one of them is still growing. Some bodies grow rounder before growing taller; some grow taller before filling out. Explain that they can’t do anything to change the height they will be. In the same way, they can’t change the shape their bodies will become. Some will be broader, rounder, slimmer, taller, fuller, or thinner. The best body size and shape for each of them is programmed in their genes. What they CAN do is make their bodies, whatever size and shape, as fit as possible by eating healthy foods and exercising.

  13. Distribute Lifestyle Logs for students to complete.

  14. Reporting: Pick a diet … any diet. Research a popular diet and report to the class on what it is, how it works, success rates, failures and relationship to the food guide recommendations. Diets may include Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkins, Zone, Jenny Craig, Gray Sheet (, or another. Suggested reading: Kids Come in All Sizes by Kathy Kater, “Why Diets Don’t Work,”(see Bibliographical References) Focus Activity Two (Estimated Time: 25 minutes)

  15. Companies spend billions of dollars each year marketing unhealthy foods to kids. Discuss: How do these messages influence us? Why do they make us want to eat healthy or unhealthy foods? Is it because a famous athlete or celebrity promotes the product, or because “free” prize is included with purchase? How do some companies try to make unhealthy foods popular with young people? (Answers may include by using billboards, advertising during certain TV shows, repeating clever slogans, and using celebrities to promote food.)

  16. Ask students why these messages make them want to eat healthy or unhealthy foods. What are the attributes of a good slogan? A good slogan should:

    • make the audience desire the product.
    • be delivered in a clever or witty way that grabs attention.
    • be difficult to forget.
  17. In small groups of 3 or 4, have students create an ad complete with their own slogan, song, or character to promote a healthy food for a poster/newsletter campaign. (See Handout 1: Healthy Food Ad Campaign.) Remind students to consider their target audience.

  18. Invite each group to share its ad campaign with the class. The print products can be displayed in table tents or display cases in the cafeteria to encourage students, faculty, and other members of the school community to choose healthy foods.

  19. Taste Testers Have the assigned student group share its food samples with the class. Distribute (Lesson One, Handout 4) Food Critic: Comparative forms for students to complete. Discuss student analysis of the foods. Session Two: Anticipatory Set: (Estimated Time: 10-15 minutes) Recap what students have learned about their own health needs (healthy food and exercise) and the health needs ofthe school and neighborhood communities (healthy food in the cafeteria, safe and clean places to play).

  20. Display logos that students are familiar with such as Nike’s swish and McDonald’s arches, Susan G Komen for the Cure Pink Ribbon, and The Heart Truth. Ask the students why companies and organizations create logos. What is the purpose of a logo? (It creates immediate product/brand recognition.) Ask students what they think The Heart Truth logo represents (heart disease risks for women).

  21. Have students work with the previous logo groups to create their own symbols for healthy living. Have them prepare to explain the symbols and component parts and what they represent.

  22. Each group shares its logo with the rest of the class and displays it on the board.

  23. After all the logos are displayed in front of the whole group, ask the following reflection questions:

    • What do all your symbols have in common?
    • How are the symbols different? How are they alike?
    • Which symbols best represent healthy living?
  24. Reporting: Have students share their research from the previous session. Focus Activity One (Estimated Time: 35 minutes)

  25. Tell students that the most common, long-lasting health problem among children in America is obesity. Define obesity as a condition characterized by an excessive storage of fat in the body. Tell students that being obese in childhood dramatically increases the probability of adult obesity.

  26. Distribute the following New York Times articles about obesity to students randomly(they don't all read the same articles): “Fixing a World That Fosters Fat” by Natasha Singer (August 20, 2010), “New York Asks to Bar Use of Food Stamps to Buy Sodas” by Anemona Hartocollis (October 6, 2010), “Even Benefits Don’t Tempt Us to Vegetables”by Jane E. Brody (October 4, 2010), and “Eat an Apple (Doctor’s Orders),” also by Natasha Singer, (August 12, 2010)

  27. After reading, discuss the articles:

    • What is obesity?
    • How is obesity a community healthissue rather than just an individual issue?
    • What cultural and environmental factors contribute to the rising obesity rates? (Commercials for unhealthy foods, cheap fast-food restaurants, government subsidization of corn, soybean, and milk industries)
    • How might a tax on soda or not being able to use food stamps to buy soda help prevent obesity? Is this too much interference from the government? Why or why not? (By making it more expensive to drink unhealthy beverages.)
    • How do you think "prescription produce" might work in your neighborhood?
    • What could the government do to help make healthy fruits and vegetables less expensive? (Support local farms, subsidize stores and businesses that provide healthy foods in high-obesity areas.)
    • What vegetables do you eat at home?
    • What could families, schools, and restaurants do to make vegetables more appealing?
  28. Brainstorm ways students can prevent obesity. (Examples include eating healthy food and avoiding fast food and too much snacking, exercising, and teaching our families and friends about healthy habits.)

  29. Then have students work in pairs to design a poster using a comic or graphic novel format that promotes healthy habits. (If necessary, show students comic strips and graphic novel/comic book pages to use as format models.)

  30. After the comics are done, ask students to share their posters and graphic comics with the class. Discuss how their comic strip seeks to promote healthy eating habits. Then display posters in their school cafeteria to show other students how they too can fight obesity.

  31. Distribute copies of Lifestyle Log (Lesson One, Handout 5) for students to complete before the next session.

  32. Reporting: List these diet-related diseases on the board: obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, diverticulitis, high blood pressure, and kidney stones. Have students pick one for their report. Alternately, write the diseases on index cards, mix up, and randomly distribute. Focus Activity Two (Estimated time 30 minutes)

  33. Brainstorm a list of any community’s health needs. What do communities need in order for people to eat well? What do they need so that people are able to exercise regularly? (Available healthy food choices in stores and restaurants, clean and safe parks, gyms and playgrounds for exercise.) Write students’ ideas on the board or chart paper.

  34. Brainstorm another list of needs: What do schools need and need to do for students to be healthy? (Schools need to serve healthy lunches and snacks; vending machines need healthy choices--no soda, more water and low-fat milk; schools need to schedule time for kids to exercise every day in well-equipped gyms and playgrounds). Write students’ ideas on the board or chart paper.

  35. Make a third list of what families need to be healthy (neighborhood stores with healthy choices of affordable, fresh produce; healthier food and more sit-down family meals; less time spent watching television and on the computer; more exercise time). Write students’ ideas on the board or chart paper.

  36. After reviewing what students know to be the health needs of the community, school, and families, have them prepare to gather data from people in the community. Have students work ingroups of 3 to 5 to develop a survey/interview form to ask people in the community what they feel is most needed. Tell students to list survey questions about food, nutrition, and exercise. Sample questions:

    • Can you name the five food groups that make up a healthy diet?
    • Where do you buy fresh fruits and vegetables?
    • On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being poor and 5 excellent, how would you rate the produce in the markets in the community?
    • What form of exercise do you do regularly?
    • How often do you exercise?
    • Where do you exercise in the neighborhood?
    • On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being poor and 5 excellent, how would you rate the places to exercise in community?
  37. Have each group read aloud their list of questions to the whole class. Write each question on the board (except duplicates). Work together to refine the questions so that they are clear and concise. List final questions on chart paper. Note what each question is about. For example, this question--Can you name the 5 food groups that make up a healthy diet? -- is about nutrition information. If many of the people surveyed can’t answer it correctly, then the community needs to be better informed about nutrition.

  38. Once questions are finalized, brainstorm other information that should be collected in the survey/interview, such as gender and age range.

  39. Make a copy of the final questions and duplicate 10-12 for each student or pair of students. Give students clipboards for their surveys. Then have students role-play asking and answering questions and conducting interviews in preparation for taking the survey in the community during the next session.

  40. Brainstorm ways to identify their data gathering project when they do go out, such as school/program T-shirts, buttons (Community Service Project Participant), signs on the bottom of clipboards, etc.

  41. Distribute Lifestyle Log for students to complete before the next session.

  42. Taste Testers: Have the assigned student group share its food samples with the class. Distribute Food Critic: Comparative forms for students to complete.

    Session Three:

    Anticipatory Set: (Estimated Time: 20 minutes) Facilitator displays a variety of snack bars (or wrappers), identifying each, if necessary. Without letting students read the labels, ask them to guess which one has the most protein. Repeat for calcium and salt. Then have volunteers read the labels to identify these nutrition facts. Have a student make a simple table on the chalkboard comparing nutrition facts by product as other students read the data from the Nutrition Facts and Ingredients list (see sample table below). Have students compare the nutritional value of the bars. Which has the most preservatives? The most calories? Is the “healthy” bar really a lot healthier than the candy bar? Repeat with other food packaging. (Alternative:assign for examinationa different nutrient to each group of 4-5 students. Then have the groups all report their findings to the whole class.)

    Product Name Protein Fat Calcium Salt Calories Preservatives (list type)

  43. Ask the following reflection questions:

    • What is the point of this activity? (It is important to read labels. “Healthy” can just be a marketing buzz word.)
    • What surprised you? (Answers will vary.)
    • Would this activity make a good game for a health awareness fair? (If students agree, have them begin to collect packaging.
  44. Distribute the article “Group Seeks Food Label That Highlights Harmful Nutrients” by William Neuman, New York Times, October 14, 2010. After students read the article, discuss:

    • Do you agree with the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations? (Answers will vary.)
    • Should all potentially harmful products have warning labels, as cigarettes do? (Answers will vary.)
    • How are foods with high trans and/or saturated fats like cigarettes? How are they different? (Cigarettes have no healthful properties. Foods, even with high fat content, may have healthful properties, such as added fiber, protein, and vitamins.)
    • We’ve just examined food labels on a variety of products. Is it difficult to find the fat, sodium, and calorie content? What responsibilities do you think should be on the consumer? What responsibilities should be on food manufacturers? (Answers will vary.)
  45. Reporting: Have students share their research from the previous session. Focus Activity One (Estimated Time: 35 minutes, plus time for research and presentations)

  46. Distribute copies of article “City’s Efforts Fail to Dent Child Obesity,”by Anemona Hartocollis, New York Times, September 4, 2010 (see Resources). Give students a few minutes to read the article and then discuss:

    • What changes have the New York City schools made in light of the data? (replaced whole milk with 1% milk, banned sugar-sweetened beverages in vending machines, restricted bake sales to once a month; added exercises to be done during classroom breaks, started monitoring body mass index.)
    • Do you think these changes will help? Why or why not? (Answers will vary.)
    • What else can schools do? (Answers will vary.)
  47. The nation is in a health crisis. Have students find out more (research and report) about food-related issues, practices,and diseases. Each group of three or four students is assigned or chooses from the following list of food issues:

    1. Anorexia:an eating disorder characterized by a fear of gaining weight and refusal to maintain a healthy body weight
    2. Bulimia:an eating disorder characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by inappropriate methods of weight control (purging), such as: vomiting, fasting, enemas, excessive use of laxatives and diuretics, or compulsive exercising
    3. GMO: plants for human and/or animal consumption that have been modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content.
    4. Famine: extreme scarcity of food over a large geographical area, often caused by climate (drought) or war (affecting production and/or distribution.)
    5. Growth hormones: Certain hormones cause young animals to gain weight faster, making them ready for slaughter sooner. In dairy cows, these hormones increase milk production.
    6. Food allergies: The immune system mistakenly believes that an eaten food is harmful to the body, and reacts with allergic symptoms.
    7. Kosher/Halal:Foods Jews and Muslins are permitted to eat according to the Torah and Koran.
    8. Organic foods: foods grown using processes that promote sustainability of natural resources
    9. Locavores: people who eat foods from local food producers
    10. Pesticides: substances intended for destroying or repelling pests
    11. E. coli: bacterial germ found in the intestine of warm-blooded animals, mostly harmless, but some forms cause serious food poisoning in humans
    12. Raw Foodism: lifestyle of eating raw, unprocessed, usually organic foods
    13. Salmonella: bacteria that when consumed causes diarrheal illness, transferred through food contaminated by animal feces
    14. Veganism: lifestyle that seeks to avoid using animal products of any kind (including eating dairy and eggs and wearing leather, fur, wool, or down)
    15. Vegetarianism: lifestyle that avoids consuming flesh foods, such as meat, poultry or fish.
  48. Options for assigning topics: (1) Have students select a topic of interest and join with others with some interest; (2) Group students randomly and have the group select a topic; (3) Write the names of the topics on index cards and place in a bag. Count off to divide students randomly into groups. Have a representative from each group select a card to determine their group’s topic.

  49. Give each group a K-W-L Chart (Handout 2). They review their chosen topic using the graphic organizer (K-what we know, W-what we want to know, L-what we learned). Have students list what they know or think they know in the K row. Then have them list what they want to know in the W row in the form of questions to be answered. There should be one or two questions for each group member to research.

  50. Give groups time to research their questions using online and library resources. Have students record what they learned under the L heading.

  51. Then have each group create a presentation of their topic to share with the class. Suggested presentation options: poster, graphic comic, play/skit, song/rap, podcast, PSA, TV news report, or puppet show.

  52. Session Three:

  53. Have groups present their topics to the class and, if appropriate, the school community.

  54. Reporting: Have students select a question about a topic other than the one they worked on to find out more about for their reporting assignments. Focus Activity Two (Estimated time 10 minutes prep plus survey time)

  55. Review the survey question students developed in Session Two, Activity Two.

  56. Distribute survey copies, clipboards, and extra pencils. Make sure each student has the identifying information determined in previous session (T-shirts, buttons, signs for the clipboard). Discuss procedures and safety measures for surveying members of the community. Discuss what they have seen other survey takers doing. How do they act? (polite and friendly) What do they ask? (e.g., Do you have a minute for Greenpeace?)

  57. Have students work with partners to conduct the survey in different locations in the community. Have other adults available to oversee the students as they collect data (for safety). Set a time limit and minimum number of surveys for each pair to conduct (for example, 30 minutes, 5 or more surveys).

  58. [Note: For students not comfortable approaching strangers, set up a table near the school. They may place a large sign inviting passersby to take a community health survey.]

  59. After the survey, have students sit in a circle. Have each pair tell one anecdote about their experience conducting the survey. What was challenging? Did it get easier? Did they speak to more women or men? Were any of the answers they heard surprising?

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Explain charitable giving in economic terms related to tax structure.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Give examples of how civil society sector giving by individuals and corporations can impact communities.
      3. Benchmark HS.9 Analyze a major social issue as a "commons problem" and suggest ways the civil society sector could help to resolve it.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.