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Anorexia, Bulima Nervosa, is your teenager at risk?

In a world dominated by images of perfect bodies, with perfect tans and perfect white teeth; it is hardly surprising that the average teenager feels that they fall somewhat short of perfection. Heck most adults feel that, they are not immune to the media messages surrounding them either! If you study the magazine racks in any convenience store and just read the headlines, it makes for an overwhelming message to any teenager doing the same; "get thin, be successful, you are a loser if you are fat!!"

There are publications and manufacturers who try to present a more realistic picture of health and beauty, and some fashion houses make a big deal out of using "plus-size" models. Take a look at that word, plus, as in more than normal? In the USA they do at least have smaller numbers attached to their women's measurements than the UK, e.g. the UK size 10 is a size 8 in the USA, but this does not get away from the fact that models are generally three to four sizes smaller than the general population. In fact, plus size models are round about the average size of the population, so are in fact, normal!

Adults are able to rationalize marketing messages and idealized images; teenagers are a lot more easily influenced by the media, and a lot less self confident. Parents need to be careful about how they talk to teenagers about their size and weight. It is better to focus on discussions about health rather than size and image. Teenagers who suffer from a poor self image and are struggling to fit in with a group at school are more likely to develop anorexia than those with confidence and a good set of friends.

It would seem obvious to say that a teenager who is losing weight may be anorexic, but this is not always the case. A teenager can be anorexic for a very long time before their parent's notice, as when they developed the condition, they may have been quite plump. The parents may have congratulated a teenager for losing weight and not realized that the teenager has continued past their desirable weight and is still trying to get thinner.

Teenagers with bulima are even harder to spot as they appear to be eating healthily; the fact that they make themselves purposely sick after eating will not be seen by the family and they may believe that their teenager simply does not gain weight easily. Teenagers with eating disorders often say that being sick or limiting their food is the only time they feel in control. Their body image is distorted; they do not see the skinny person in the mirror, nor believe the scales, and they need professional help quickly. Anorexia and bulima are life threatening illnesses, parents are often the last to realize and rarely do sufferers get better on their own.

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