Eating Disorders amongst Adolescent Girls

Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Addiction, Adolescent Girls, Body Image, Eating Disorders, Mental Illness |

Eating Disorders Amongst Adolescent Girls

“I was in the hospital with feeding tubes in me. I had just had a heart attack. My only thought was ‘If I die, at least I’ll die skinny.’ I was twelve.”

Those are the words from a friend of mine who has been dealing with an eating disorder since she was a very young girl.

I ask her if she remembers how it started.

“I was 11 in the summer visiting my grandmother and there really wasn’t a specific event or anything.  I just looked in magazines and was into fashion, celebrities, etc. and thought ‘I want to look like that.’ Then I just started eating less, and healthy stuff, then started counting calories, exercising, becoming obsessed with it. It was fun for me to go to the grocery store and spend hours looking at the calories in stuff.”

Katie (names have been changed), now 25 and a healthy weight, still attends therapy for eating disorders.  In her words “Eating disorders are the hardest [to treat] because you have to eat food to live and you can’t escape it.” She contrasts it to drug and alcohol addiction, where you can totally cut out the addictive substance.  But, she says, like alcoholism and drug addiction, treatment for eating disorders is a “lifelong process.”

Eating Disorders Amongst Adolescent Girls: A growing problem

Eating disorders amongst adolescent girls is on the rise. Shockingly, four out of five 10-year-olds say that they’re afraid of being fat. Forty-two percent of girls in first through third grade wish they were thinner. And, half of girls aged 9 or 10 claim that they feel better about themselves when they’re dieting.

Eating disorder experts Eating disorders amongst adolescent girls start as young as 5 and 6 years old. They may be getting their obsession from parents who are preoccupied with their own body images, and media images of skinny pop stars.

By the time they reach high school, one in ten students has an eating disorder. And eating disorders amongst adolescent girls make up the majority of eating disorders in general. Ninety percent of all people who have eating disorders are women between the ages of 12 and 25.

Eating Disorders amongst Adolescent Girls: The Barbie Factor

While many eating disorders amongst adolescent girls begin while watching a parent worry about weight and calories, some of the unhealthy compulsions come from media and marketing campaign. Starting with their very first toy doll, girls are exposed to highly unrealistic images of female bodies. In the 1960’s Mattel released “Slumber Party Barbie.” This toy came equipped with a scale permanently stuck on 110 pounds and a small book called “How to Lose Weight.” The only words written in the book were “DON’T EAT.”

Fifty years later, Barbie is still an unrealistic image for a women’s body. The Barbie doll would be 5’9″ tall and weigh 110 lbs. — about 35 lbs. below a healthy weight for a woman of that height, if she was life-size.



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