Body Image with Teens and Eating Disorders

 In Health, Kids

Fussy eaterEating disorders are serious they affect millions of teens as well as older people in the US, and in fact millions all over the world. 90% of the people affected by eating disorders are teens; both adolescent and young adult. That is a pretty serious percentage of young people who could potentially suffer life threatening effects. We are looking at approximately one in one hundred young women in the USA alone!

Society teaches the young that looks matter immensely. This is further fueled by media images and the fact that fad diets are constantly advertised as supposedly the only way to achieve an ideal figure. However, there is one thing we have to remember and take seriously, and that is, diets are not eating disorders; this is a completely different thing entirely. Eating disorders are not only the obsession to be thin, although in an almost morbidly obese society, it might certainly appear to be this way.

While the media and dieting market have been blamed for conditions such as anorexia nervosa, and bulimia; once again 10 million people in the word suffer from some sort of eating disorder. Children in Scotland are the second most obese in the world, America taking first place. This sort of tells us that eating disorders are in fact a societal problem. Not everyone with an eating disorder suffers from anorexia or bulimia – what about compulsive overeating?

How many young teens get dragged off to the doctor for suspected compulsive overeating when they are overweight? We’ll wager not very many – and yet we all know that obesity is also cause for serious life-threatening illnesses. We may end up with generations of unnecessarily short life-spans. It is for this very reason that we are not going to talk about anorexia or bulimia, but only about eating disorders.

A big percentage of American culture regarding weight and image falls into two separate and yet equally unhealthy distinct categories:

  • Overeating couch potato
  • Fad dieting exercise freak

Children do not receive consistent examples of moderate regular exercise and healthy normal eating patterns. They either see frenetic fitness and diet nuts or the complete opposite. It is difficult enough for children to relate to role models, but even more so in these categories.

Because body image in the USA has become so massively important, a recent study conducted by a popular TV news show, sent two sets of men and women out to look for jobs. In each case one of the pair had a better appearance and in each case, looks were down-played or accented-up by make up. They each dressed equally well and were as well-spoken and qualified. In every single instance the more attractive man or woman was invited for a repeat interview or offered the job on the spot. If this does not tell us something about the lessons our children are learning about image – what ever will? Size and looks discrimination is what children are learning and this is the fuel which feeds eating disorders.

We need to instill in children and teens a sense of moderation; we need to go for walks as families because it is both good for us and fun. Not set 11 year olds up with gym contracts. Children should receive bicycles and skateboards for Christmas instead of Nintendos, and be encouraged to play out of doors. They should also be allowed to eat good home cooked healthy food, all in moderation.

Feeding 10 year olds a celery stick stuffed with cottage cheese, or half a dozen doughnuts for a snack, are both equally as evil; when all either of them really needs is a couple of oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies, a glass of milk, and a helping of healthy self-image.

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