On Sep. 9 USA Today shares findings from a new study that show that obese teens are at high risk of eating disorders once they begin shedding the weight despite regular physician check ups because of their previous weight issues.
The research shows that these teens that have decided to lose the weight that makes them overweight or obese are at significant risk of eating disorders but doctors often overlook the symptoms because of their past weight problems. Teens are lauded for eating better, and encouraged to continue exercising, however, the developed restrictive eating patterns brought on by dieting are over looked because a teen can still be overweight while shedding the pounds.
In the report shared by Leslie Sim, the clinical director of the eating disorders program at the Mayo Clinic, she shared two specific reports of a male and female teen that both developed restrictive eating patterns while losing weight. They both went untreated and undiagnosed for over two years despite regular check ups because of their previous weight issues. One teen had developed menstrual problems, stress fractures in her bones because of her increased physical activity and less than 1,500 calorie a day diet. The other teen became bloated, cold resistant, and suffered concentration and irritability problems. Doctors attributed both teen's problems to more rare issues such as gastrointestinal conditions and polycystic ovary syndrome. Neither teen was binging or throwing up but they lost a lot of weight quickly.
While this is just the case of two people, Sim says that the study was only done in Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic so the numbers can easily be recognized nationally. It is estimated by the CDC that 30% of teens have an eating disorder, and of those at least 6% are going unrecognized which is a particularly concerning problem because the best way to treat an eating disorder is to detect it early.
Lynne Grefe, the president of the National Eating Disorder's Association says;
"Our field has been saying that the more we're pushing the anti-obesity message, the more we're pushing kids into eating disorders by focusing on size or weight instead of health and wellness. The exact relationship between pediatric obesity and eating disorders is not well-understood. More studies are needed to determine the risk profile for disordered eating in obese children seeking treatment. The problem here is that when a child is obese and starts to lose weight, we think it's a really great thing and we applaud it and reinforce it and say it's so wonderful and now you're healthy. Meanwhile, some kids are very unhealthy, with many physical and psychological problems as a result of their behaviors. They are just not being identified because of their weight history."
It seems as if we are simply shifting from one extreme to another. A mind shift of healthy body image over just size and weight needs to happen so we can actually help those suffering from childhood obesity instead of just causing more problems that have just as harmful affects.