America’s Children are Dying to Lose Weight
Wasting away, Katie died weighing only 58 pounds. And she was sixteen. That just doesn't seem possible to me when I look at my seven-year-old daughter who weighs in at about 55 pounds. Anorexia is a medical enigma. Although there is little concrete evidence of what actually causes anorexia, most experts agree that there are several contributing risk factors. We believe that awareness of these risk factors can reduce the odds that they will be triggered so we are hopeful that this information will save lives. If you're a parent or a teacher, you need to read on.
Word has it around town that Katie had been told by a high school teacher that "she needed to go on a diet." So she did. Certainly this one comment didn't cause this young lady to spin out of control with dieting but it might have been the straw that broke the camel's back. Negative comments about body type and size from authority figures, teachers, coaches and parents, can have a big impact on an adolescent child's self-esteem and are implicated as possible triggers in studies on anorexia. Never underestimate the power of the spoken word to heal or kill.
Eating disorders (bulimia and anorexia) have historically been considered a girl problem but the pendulum is swinging. Anorexia is being diagnosed more frequently in boys, too. Young boys are becoming more body image conscious than in previous generations. Case in point: my nine-year-old son has come home from school upset on several occasions because kids have called him fat. He is far from fat; in fact, he has cystic fibrosis so we are grateful for any extra padding he has and work very hard to keep his weight as high as possible. His diet is exactly the opposite of what everyone else is eating, filled with high fat, high calorie foods. Jacob understands the importance of complying with his dietary requirements but it can be hard for him to go against the norm.
With the emphasis on childhood obesity and diabetes, children are thankfully becoming more aware of the necessity of good nutrition and weight control. But I wonder if there is a price to be paid by children who are predisposed to eating disorders. With the media, parents, doctors, schools and peers emphasizing being thin and high achieving, it will be unfortunate if the numbers of children diagnosed with anorexia accelerates.
Reprinted with the permission of Parenting Children with Health Issues.
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