America’s War Against Obesity Leads to Higher Risk of Eating Disorders

Researchers have found that the push for teens to fight obesity is clouding the fact that the risk of eating disorders is being ignored due to weight history.

Eating disorders in teens have not been identified as early as they should have. Identification of an ED is sometimes ignored for up to two years. This is easy to understand since many people do not focus strictly on the health of a person.

“For some reason we are just not thinking that these kids are at risk. We say, ‘Oh boy, you need to lose weight, and that’s hard for you because you’re obese,’ ” says Leslie Sim, clinical director of the eating disorders program at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and lead author of a case study report in October’s Pediatrics, published online today.

In the report, Sim and colleagues review two cases in which teens with a history of obesity developed severe, restrictive eating patterns in the process of losing weight. But indications of an eating disorder went unidentified and untreated by medical providers for as long as two years despite regular check-ups.

All of this makes sense if people had typical ED symptoms on their mind. For example, when someone starts a strict diet which was explained by a doctor or fitness coach, it is easy for the patient to obsess over what they can eat which could lead to restrictive eating patterns.

Two teens involved in the study included a 14-year-old boy and an 18-year-old woman. Some issues include lack of concentration, irritability, menstrual cycles, stress fractures and dizziness.

Both teens “set out to diet, and were both very diligent, eating fewer than 1,500 calories a day, running and doing other intense activities to lose weight in a very driven way,” says Sim. Each lost a “massive amount of weight very quickly. They were not binging, not throwing up. It was simply from having a very low-(calorie) intake.”

With a rate of 6 percent of teens having an identified ED, it can be seen that something needs to change. People are so focused on being thin and equating thinness with health. This focus must shift to healthiness.

Media, doctors and families must learn how to send messages focusing on health rather than how thinness is beauty and we all must strive for it or face obesity, which seems to be the ultimate shame in the USA.

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