Tuesday, April 08, 2008

What are we doing to our teens?

Most teens I talk to, feel they are fat, even though they are not.

Several teens I know personally, started smoking to control their weight.

Somehow we are _not_ getting across the message that smoking has been _proven_ health threatening and are concentrating on giving folks the message that obesity is _extremely_ health threatening even though there is virtually NO scientific evidence that obesity alone is health threatening at all.

How much of a problem are eating disorders among teens and pre-teens? If you look at youtube.com, there are huge numbers of videos which advertise themselves as "thinspiration". These videos either show slim young women squeezing what small amount of fat they have on their bodies in disgust or else, are slide shows of super slim fashion models and actresses. Often the songs which accompany the videos give mixed messages. One song begs "SOS me - rescue me" while another song states that no one notices that her body is falling apart.

One young woman who is 21 years old, and said her latest dieting effort began with her wanting to "get her body back" after having her son, started uploading videos in August 2007. Her first video made while she was smoking a cigarette, had her talking a lot about how she cared for her skin. But in the end of the video, she admitted that she had a problem with eating and also showed us a piece of tape covering a scar she made on herself when she was 16 ("S" for sinner, she said) and how she covered it all the time now. "Smoking is bad" she admitted but then added that she smoked a lot during her 'fasts'.

Another video made in early late 2007 by the same woman, was all text. It told how she had been in a mental hospital because of a suicide attempt. How from the age of 16 and on, she had tried all kinds of drugs in a desperate attempt to lose weight. And how she was going to rehab and get well now (but not take any prescription drugs). "I want to get my son back" she wrote, "he's 3 years old!". Another video showed a visit with a bright eyed 3 year old boy, her son. The video was entitled "I miss my son".

Sadly her rehab didn't work- a recent video talked about her 40 day fast which would end April 11, 2008. Two body shots showed that she had lost quite a bit of weight since she uploaded her first video - she looks like the typical anorexic in those shots. But this fast is not about her eating disorder, she tells us - it's to "gain control". She is allowing herself 1 glass of juice a day and the rest, non calorie drinks like coffee, tea and water. She is continuing this for 40 days, during which she will exercise and get control and save up the money (if she can get a job) to get a pole and start pole dancing. "Weight doesn't matter" she keeps saying adding how she discarded her scale.

One of the comments to this video states:

binges are bad! i was doing well, eating at the most, 300 calories a day, but, then i tried to fast and the binge monster came to me and i ate until i exploded although some people say it wasn't that much food. but all you have to do when you want to binge, is look in the mirror and tell yourself how it will ruin this progress! and then eat an apple or whatever and then wait. tell yourself if you're still hungry in 10 min that you will eat. chances are, you can control your binge better. but you are lucky if you can purge after. it doesn't work for me :(

NOTE: what she suggests in the above quote is a version of what Weight Watchers calls "the 20 minute rule". How much of this comes from our general obsession with dieting and a diet industry which makes a larger profit than even the pharmaceutical companies?

Several feel that anorexia and bulimia are more widespread than we'd like to think. It is usually blamed on fashion models and slim actresses however, most people who are dieting or restricting calories mention health as their first concern. An article in a London newspaper, suggests that there are many internet sites which encourage young women to starve themselves to be very slim:

The UK article suggested that 1 percent of teens have an eating disorder but an estimate from an Australian newspaper stated that 1 in 8 teens has some kind of disordered eating.

What is confusing is that most teens who are restricting (and often over exercising, will not admit it. On the contrary, they say they "eat a lot" while getting slimmer and slimmer. And instead of a cause for concern, slimmer teens are often rewarded with getting more clothing and perks from their family, as well as compliments from their classmates and often, a lack of concern from their medical providers while the fat teen is teased, often not rewarded by the parents and constantly battered by the media as well as medical providers to "lose weight or die". And we wonder why these teens start smoking to "control their weight"? They are following what _we_ are telling them... that _anything_ is more healthy than being overweight!

Ironically, it's the fat teen who is often much more well nourished than those trying to keep what is considered an "ideal weight" (which the CDC has said may be underweight for most people).

And again I ask - will the insanity ever end?

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