It sounds counter-intuitive, but a new study indicates that when obese children and teens lose weight, they increase their risk of eating disorders, reported Philly News on September 9. What makes this particularly dangerous: Parents and doctors often do not recognize the symptoms of eating disorders until too late.
Because 80 percent of teens in this country are overweight, parents and health providers encourage their weight loss. But the Mayo Clinic researchers who conducted the study said that when the kids and teens develop eating disorders, no one notices because they're so focused on encouraging them to lose weight. In fact, obesity among children has become so problematic that five percent of the nation's children now fall into a new category: Severe obesity (learn more by clicking here).
Initially, parents, friends and even doctors "think it's a good thing that these teens have lost so much weight," said lead researcher Leslie Sim, an assistant professor of psychology and an eating disorders expert at the Mayo Clinic Children's Center in Rochester, Minn. "We started to see kids coming into our clinic with severe eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, where you lose a lot of weight and restrict your eating, and these kids actually started out as obese," she said.
However, as the children and teens lost the weight, they continued past their goal. "They lost way too much weight and became preoccupied with their eating," Sim said. "Every thought and behavior really surrounded eating." One possible reason for the preoccupation: Feedback from adults that they respect, such as educators and parents. Some schools, for example, are now sending out "fat letters" to notify parents that their children are overweight (learn more by clicking here).
Dr. Mehmet Oz of "The Dr. Oz Show" offered his thoughts on the study in an interview with Fox News on September 10. He emphasizes that achieving a balance is critical to prevent healthy diets from shifting to unhealthy obsessions. And he also discussed the fact that a healthy lifestyle involves both the mind and body: By encouraging children to feel good about themselves, parents can minimize the risk of eating disorders.
Although looking good is great, the focus for parents and health care providers when it comes to kids needs to be on helping them eat right and exercise. Consequently, recognizing signs of eating disorders is essential. Symptoms include binge eating followed by heading to the bathroom (a sign of bulimia) or restricted food intake (a sign of anorexia).
And above all, says Dr. Oz, provide your children and teens with ways to acquire self-esteem through the development of skills and talents rather than appearance. Bottom line: Show that you care and love them.