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Anorexia Can Affect Teen Boys

Anorexia is not just for girls! Boys can be overweight too. Eating disorders are on the increase amongst teens. Your teenager has to deal with a lot of pressures at high school and wanting to be part of a group is just one of them. Fitting in is too often based upon how you look, the way you dress and whether your peers see you as “cool”. Images in the media do little to change the well held opinion that thin is beautiful and fat is ugly.

The definitions of fat vary from culture to culture; many African countries revere curves and a plump body as a sign of health and wealth, whilst in Western civilizations the trend towards size zero reflects an obsession with thinness bordering on the extreme. If all teenagers’ icons and idols are thin and the advertising of all their favorite products depicts skinny models using them, what are teenagers supposed to think? At the same time, obesity in the West is increasing and at one end of the spectrum are children eating themselves fat to overcome misery, whilst at the other end they are starving themselves to reach an unrealistic ideal shape.

Teenagers are the faster growing age group as far as eating disorders are concerned and the health implications are significant. As a parent part of our role is to believe our children to be beautiful and love them whatever they look like. Eating disorders arise from a distorted view of self; the teenager literally sees a totally different image in the mirror to that of anyone looking at them.

How can you help your teenager with their eating disorder? Take a long hard look at your own relationship with food; are you as guilty of being unnaturally thin or close to obese? Food is not the enemy but it can take a long time to re-educate lifetime eating habits. A good approach is for the whole family to commit to healthy eating, and enlist outside help. Sometimes teenagers respond well to wilderness camps, where their whole self-image undergoes an overhaul, with counseling, fresh air and distance between them and their bad habits. It can work for parents too, either on a residential or outpatient basis. Whatever the disorder, there are a lot of organizations that can help and research shows you are more likely to succeed with support. The teenager with an eating disorder is still the beautiful child you love; they just have to learn to believe that.

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