It is no secret that the media tends to glamorize the female body. Teenage girls especially seem to be mindful of their body image- it’s a source of acceptance and self confidence. Recent studies have examined young girls’ eating and diet habits.
Eating disorders are cropping up earlier than most people think. One in 10 teenage girls have “extreme levels of fear” about weight gain. Eleven percent of 13-year-old girls have intense anxiety about gaining weight. Boys, on the other hand, only account to 4.7% with the same issue.
Researchers from the University College London Institute of Child Health and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have looked into this issue extensively. They state that two thirds of girls suffer anxiety about gaining weight, compared to just four in 10 boys (not to say that’s not an issue either).
The authors say that eating disorders affect children’s mental health as well as their social, personal, and family life. "We have found that behaviors typical of an eating disorder are more common in early adolescence than previously thought, and not just in girls but also in boys, and that they are associated with a range of social and psychological problems in the child," said lead author Dr Nadia Micali, a National Institute for Health Research clinician scientist. "Most importantly, we found a connection with certain behaviors and higher weight two years later, which has important public health implications for the prevention of obesity. "We are far from being able to identify boys and girls who have unhealthy weight control behaviors and binge-eating early, but this is crucial to prevent full-blown eating disorders and other negative social and emotional problems."
Helen Gillespie, a woman who suffers from anorexia, has spoken out about her disease. Gillespie, age 30, has never moved out of her parents house, never dated steadily, or even developed breasts. "Doctors tell me I've got the bones of an 70-year-old woman. They're so weak that I broke my wrist after a fall when I was 14. If I don't improve, I'll continue to age prematurely," she said. When she was 15 years old, she weighed just 65 pounds. She spent four months in the hospital, but as soon as she was released she would just go home and starve herself until she could be readmitted. This cycle continued for the next twenty years.
"I've missed out on my education and my rights of passage like relationships, socializing, friends, work. I'm sharing my story because I want to warn others that anorexia can take your childhood away. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in Never-Never Land, and I'm never going to find my way home.”