Extreme dieting methods overwhelm youth

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 9.03.11 AMBy Emily Cheatham | Staff writer

It’s looking at a body in a mirror and feeling physically sick. It’s the gag every time there’s more than a fist size portion of food on a plate. It’s the sweat and soreness overtaking the body, but not stopping because the daily caloric intake must be in the negatives. It’s crying to sleep at night because the intake is over 50 calories. Desperately trying to control the gnawing pain of hunger because everything else in life is such a mess, and that’s when the eating disorder takes its victim.

“With school, work, extra college clas

ses, planning my future, relationships, and everything else under the sun, life was growing more out of control, and all I wanted was a sense of control,” said Lisa, a Kenosha teen whose name has been changed due to the extremely personal nature of the topic.

“This has never been about being skinny, or getting a boy’s attention, only ever about feeling normal. Thinness is normal, control is normal, I’m just a little extreme in my approach,” Lisa said, a small laugh escaping after she spoke.

Lisa is able to laugh about her experiences but the words still hold great weight. She started restricting her food when she was 14 years old, a freshman, after she had started to see it on a website she frequently used. When she began, she was 5”6 and 134 pounds, completely average. Now she weighs about 105 pounds, with a goal weight of 95 pounds, both being extremely unhealthy weights for her stature.

“I started dieting, this time around, shortly before I turned 17, about nine months ago. I go through it in spurts with extremes being the past couple months and then most of freshman year. I’m always worried about being thin enough, each bite of food is followed by ‘Will this bite make me gain a pound?’ which, rationally speaking, I know it won’t but when Ana or Mia plagues your thoughts rationality isn’t really present,” she said.

Ana and Mia are the short names for Anorexia and Bulimia. The term is commonly used in pro-ana or pro-mia sites and is used to refer to an eating disorder as an actual person. An ED is very much a mental disorder, where Ana or Mia consumes a person’s thoughts, letting them know their faults,

what they’re doing wrong, and the extreme measures they must go to to fix their mistakes. But for those suffering, Ana and Mia are their friends, their only true, supportive friends.

“The pro-ana sites are of particular concern as well as the other pro-eating disorder sites. They are truly a support group for people with eating disorders and the ED feeds off of these types of sites.” – Jessica Hoberg, a nurse at Rogers Memorial Hospital

“We all know what we’re doing, and we don’t care. We don’t care because there are thousands of other girls with the same problems to help us, support us, and text us to say, ‘Remember nothing over 100 calories!’” Lisa said.

“I use sites to track my progress, get thinspiration, and talk to other people who can relate. Pro-ana is a huge group where anyone can find support for getting an ED or controlling one they already have,” she said.

Jessica Hoberg, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Rogers Memorial Hospital, a treatment

center for those with eating disorders, and a member of the Academy of Eating Disorders, said she has serious concerns about social media impact on sufferers of eating disorders.

“As the internet evolved over the past 10-15 years I have seen an increase in social media use. The pro-ana sites are of particular concern as well as the other pro-eating disorder sites,” Hoberg said. “They are truly a support group for people with eating disorders and the ED feeds off of these types of sites.”

The Academy of Eating Disorders notes on its website, “The web sites pose a danger in that they promote anorexia nervosa as a lifestyle, provide support, and encouragement in health threatening behaviors, and neglect the serious con- sequences of starvation.”

Lisa’s mother has done her best to help Lisa through her struggles, but an eating disorder isn’t just hard on those participating, but their loved ones too.

“Every woman in this world feels what Lisa feels, that they aren’t good enough. Not a good enough mother, daughter, woman,” she said.

“Society tells her to shut up, that as a girl she whines and complains too much and she needs to just suck it up and deal with it herself. So she is, by starving herself to the unrealistic standards of beauty society also forces on her,” said Lisa’s mother, later admitting that she, too, has suffered through a problem simi- lar to Lisa’s in her youth.

A recent study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that mothers of daughters with disordered eating had a longer dieting history and were more eating-disordered themselves. When children watch their own mother diet, or try to control their weight, they begin to think such behavior is normal because a parent is doing it.

“With school, work, extra college classes, planning my future, relationships, and everything else under the sun, life was growing more out of control, and all I wanted was a sense of control.”– Lisa, a Kenosha teen who currently struggles with an ED

“There are many more causes and it is never ‘just one thing’ that starts an eating disorder,” Hoberg said. Media, family, and other potential factors can all be at play.

Lisa’s mom was completely unaware of Lisa’s problem until a friend of Lisa’s stayed for dinner. When

Lisa excused herself to take a phone call, the friend jokingly said she doesn’t remember the last time she saw Lisa eat.

This problem is not a gender specific problem though. Eating disorders don’t care what gender a person is. If a person eats, they’ll come after her — or him. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associ- ated Disorders, over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives. About 10 to 15 percent of those suffering are men, and the problem is even more common among gay men. Women are being forced to suffer through impossible beauty standards on thinness, but men, as seen in magazines, TVs, and movies, are forced to see their standards of muscles galore.

With America’s rising obesity problem, eating disorders are becoming a huge risk for those who are overweight. Pressure can cause those who are overweight to see something wrong with their size and, to some degree, even encourage unhealthy eating habits to attain a healthy weight.

Recently, a new eating disorder has taken over, called binge eating disorder. An eating disorder does

not have to have anything to do with weight loss, but instead is completely about the control over one’s body. With binge eating dis- order, one loses control and eats far, far more than they should. The problem has become increasingly more prominent as obesity rises in America and has also become more of an issue among men.

As if the disorder was not intense enough, receiving treatment is equally as bad. Only one in 10 suffering ever get help, and of those who do, only 35 percent get professional help. ED’s have the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders, about 20 percent, as most will die from something related, like sui- cide or a heart problem. Lisa received professional help the first time around by her mother’s request, but she said it only fixed problems temporarily. She resorted back to the extreme dieting methods once the pres

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 9.01.30 AMsure of life after high school hit her this year, so she’s trying recovery differently this time.

“I would say I’m starting my recovery. I deleted my food journal, I’m still mentally counting calories but over time that’ll change,” she said. “I’m doing it on my own though. I’ve tried professional help before, but I got in this situa- tion by myself hoping for control and I’m leaving it with control over myself by myself. Recovery has to be wanted, you can’t force someone to get over this, in fact, and that’ll probably make it a million times worse.”

During recovery, Hoberg recommends her patients limit exposure to media and social media sites.

“I tell all of my patients and parents to put blocks on their computers for these types of sites – I also dissuade them from using Facebook. When people are in treatment it is their time to heal and not worry about media,” Hoberg said.