Eating Disorders

Teenagers often have trouble recognizing their true body status. Girls believe that a small amount of fat on their bodies means they are overweight. Many teen girls are dieting whether they need to or not. Their major source of diets are teen magazines and new books that offer "sure" methods to lose weight quickly.

Distorted body images and extrememsel-consciousness about physique are common among teenagers, even though normal heights and weights cover a wide range. The irony is they are probably more normal than they think. It is important to begin teaching teenagers to accept their bodies within a realistic framework.

There are three main eating disorders. Each involves complex issues dealing with the mind and body.

Teaching about anorexia, bulimia, obesity, and dieting requires sensitivity because these are complex conditions. None of these conditions should be glamorized or presented or discussed in such a way that teens might want to try it. Teens should, however, be aware of the signs and dangers of these conditions for themselves, and to spot them in friends or other family members.

The importance of knowing basic information about anorexia, bulimia, obesity, and dieting stems from the following fact.

It is not within the scope of this project to discuss the complex treatment of eating disorders; however, the following charts may be helpful. It is not intended to be handed out to teens.

Characteristics of Eating Disorders - Obesity
Primary Causes for Teen Obesity
  • Not enough physical activity.
  • Overeating.
  • Family eating patterns (habits).
  • Genetic tendencies
  • Metabolic rate.
  • Peer pressure and media influence to eat high-calorie foods.
  • 1 in 5 American teens are obese.
  • Research indicates that if an obese teen is not slim by the end of adolescence, the chances are 28:1 that he/she will not be of normal weight as an adult.
Health Implications

As an adolescent: social and emotional isolation and rejection.

As an adult: obesity is a risk factor for:

  • hypertension (high blood pressure),
  • diabetes
  • coronary heart disease, and
  • possibly some cancers.

Obese adolescents should not follow drastic reductin diets. Rather, teens should:

  • increase physical activity, and
  • decrease their weight gain by adjusting activity and eating habits.

For a printer-friendly version of this chart, click on the icon to download.
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Characteristics of Eating Disorders
  Anorexia Nervosa Bulimia
  • Intense fear of being fat.
  • Distorted selt-image.
  • Extreme weight loss: 15 to 20% of total body weight.
  • Refusal to maintain normal weight.
  • Preoccupation with food, diet, and body fat or weight.
  • Heightened sensitivity to cold temperature.
  • Developing downy hair covering (females).
  • Loss of menstrual period.
  • Delayed puberty in both sexes.
  • Repeated eating binges.
  • Binge eating often doen in secret.
  • Vomiting or use of laxatives to eliminate food.
  • Depressed feeling after binging.
  • Preoccupation with food, diet, and body fat or weight.
  • May be closer to normal weight than in anorexia.
  • Weight "yo-yo's" because of alternating fasts and binges.
  • May have dental decay; enamel worn away from stomach acids produced during vomiting.
  • Knows eating pattern is not normal, but cannot change without help.
  • Approximately 1 out of 100 females has anorexia.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 experiences some anorexia-like symptoms.
  • Anorexia occurs about 10 times more often in girls than in boys.
  • Because of the secretive nature of bulimia, it is difficult to know hoe prevalent it is; estimated to be 1 in 20.
  • Occurs more often in females than in males.
  • May be a common practice among athletes concerned with maintaining a low weight, as in gymnastics, ballet, and wrestling.
Warning Signs
  • 5 to 10% weight loss with no known illness.
  • Overconcern with perfection, order, and weight.
  • Need to control at least one aspect (weight) of his/her life.
  • May vomit or take laxatives to avoid using calories.
  • Bad breath.
  • Excessive concern with food and weight.
  • Need to control at least one aspect (weight) of his/her life.
Health Implications
  • Psychological - inability to deal with problems.
  • Hormonal imbalances.
  • Gynecological problems.
  • Death for 10 to 25% of hospitalized cases.
  • Nutritional deficiencies.
  • Serious dental decay.
  • Heart irregularities.
  • Dehydration/possible death.

For a printer-friendly version of this chart, clik on the icon to download.
Note: Must have Acrobat Reader.


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