What Teachers Need to Know About Eating Disorders

Stacey Roshan
5 min readFeb 27, 2024

Excerpt from article published on McGraw Hill’s Inspired Ideas

At just 12 years old, I developed anorexia. Almost three decades later, its impact still lingers. No single cause led to my eating disorder. Eating disorders manifest uniquely and present themselves in various ways depending on the individual and the underlying factors driving their disorder. Even personally, my anorexia has evolved and morphed over the years.

My eating disorder has always revolved around control. When the external world feels like too much, anorexia promises stability. It gives me the illusion of being able to manipulate the external world by strictly regulating my food intake and scale weight. For me, it’s not body dysmorphia but an addiction to controlling numbers. The competitive urge to consistently reduce, especially when feeling stress, became addictive.

I don’t dare try to explain the complexities of my eating disorder in this short post. Yet, in a world of uncertainty, my eating disorder makes things feel manageable. It tricks me into feeling laser-like focus, enabling me to push past the point of exhaustion. The illusion of control gives me a deceptive calm — a crutch to navigate life when things feel hard to manage. Paradoxically, something that, in reality, takes so much life away can feel so empowering when you’re in its grips.

It is Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and this article aims to increase understanding by offering glimpses into my personal story. One of the prime motivations for my book, Tech with the Heart, was to share my journey — how the student I was impacted the teacher I became. My decision to become a math teacher stemmed from a desire to spread my love for the subject and empower students to find confidence in a subject that is often feared. But I also became a teacher because school played a role in triggering my eating disorder. I truly believe that my experiences in school greatly contributed to my tendency to seek solace in restrictive behaviors.

In the classroom, I constantly strived to excel and impress. I felt pressure to be the best, and though I did exceptionally well in school, I was never quick to respond. I needed time to process and comprehend the material. I needed to study very hard. These things made me feel like I wasn’t measuring up to my peers. I felt less than in a classroom where the first person to raise their hand received constant praise for participation.

As I evolved as a teacher, I discovered that integrating technology tools could be a valuable part of my solution. Embracing these tools leveled the playing field, offering students diverse ways to engage. They could read the question independently or listen to my oral explanation; they could take time to write out notes individually or discuss concepts with a peer; and for those who thrive with more traditional participation methods, whole-class discussions allowed them to contribute orally. In this way, I could help all students find their voice and show them that there isn’t just one way to share their thoughts, thereby challenging the notion that the fastest person to respond is the smartest.

I bring this up because, as a student, I was struggling desperately inside. I never showed this pain on the surface, though. I was genuinely a happy child. I believe there’s often a misconception that mental health issues are always linked to unhappiness. For me, there was a difference between internal strife and my overall happiness. I have always felt cheerful and optimistic about life; I genuinely love life. And yet, I have starved myself to the point of severely compromising my well-being.

The calm that anorexia gave me wasn’t to mask unhappiness. Instead, it felt like a crutch to help me tune out the rest of the world and quiet my nagging thoughts. My perfectionism can be a lot to deal with, and anorexia made everything feel more manageable. Abiding by its rules gave me a euphoric high, which I associated with being able to work and study harder.

Despite having wonderful adults in my life growing up, my eating disorder went unnoticed by most. When I initially lost weight at 12, some people suspected all was not well. My parents recognized the signs of anorexia early on and took me to a specialist right away. However, I was never okay. I knew how to stay well enough to keep the attention off of me, but there were a lot of small signs that nobody picked up on. Of course, I was very secretive of the fact that I was still struggling. I didn’t want to be a burden on anybody, and I also didn’t want to be found out. In reality, I think I secretly yearned for someone to notice and help me. Even though I was happy, I remained trapped in anorexia’s grip.

As a teacher, I have had a special interest in those students who seem to have it all together. They’re often the kids who fly under the radar. Many kids are struggling internally but maintain a facade of being just fine — they’re good students, fit in socially, and avoid getting into trouble. Beneath the surface, however, there are subtle signs that I recognize, both in myself and in my students. Some of these can be harmless, but they can also be signs of something more — like excessively neat handwriting, the compulsion to perfect homework assignments before submission, kids who are hyper-fixated on understanding every little detail, or an individual who takes organization and tidiness to an extreme. As a teacher, my role is not to diagnose the root cause of the problem, but I can observe and support. I can let an expert adult know when I notice certain behaviors. I can let a student know I’m always there to listen. Having someone recognize subtle signs and simply offering to be there can make a massive difference. I wish I had understood that I didn’t need to tackle all my problems alone and that telling somebody what I was feeling was a sign of strength, not a burden on others.

Continue reading on McGraw Hill’s Inspired Ideas



Stacey Roshan

Educator | Keynote speaker | Consultant | Author: Tech with Heart | #EdTech Enthusiast | NAIS Teacher of the Future | linktr.ee/StaceyRoshan