The Runaway Eating Epidemic: Girls Overweight
Girls at either end of the weight spectrum have a hard time feeling good about themselves. While the number of teens who are anorexic remains a chilling commentary on our times, and horror stories about the damage bulimia and the consequences of unrealistic body image expectations fill the news, it is the statistics on adolescent obesity that have physicians most alarmed. A recent study by the National Longitudinal Study for Adolescent Health revealed that in the five years between 1996 and 2001, about two million teens joined the ranks of the clinically obese! Although overweight teenage girls generally know more about nutrition than teens did three decades ago, they are eating significantly more fat and expending a lot less energy. Preventing teenage obesity is a complex job. The mix of super size portions, fast, cheap junk food, and intense peer pressure has led to a serious loss of self-esteem, depression, and a host of premature health problems. Add to this, the awful prejudice against overweight teens, and the situation becomes even more dire. While you might know that watching too much television instead of going to the gym, drinking soda and juice instead of water, and eating too many carbohydrates and too much sugar are the practical causes of this epidemic, did you know that:
Pediatricians say obesity has become the most prevalent chronic health problem among American children. Only three percent of parents of severely obese children considered their child overweight. In the last twenty years, the number of overweight teens has nearly tripled and now one out of every four children in North America is seriously overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. If one parent is obese, the child's risk is about three times as high as normal and if both parents are heavy, the risk is more than ten times as great. A study asked children to assign attractiveness to pictures of children with various disabilities. These preschoolers rated the obese child less attractive than the child in a wheelchair, a child with a facial deformity and a child with a missing limb! Overweight adolescents have an 80% chance of becoming overweight adults. A recent study in the Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology says that teenage girls who diet, who used appetite suppressants or laxatives, vomited, or participated in binge eating are at greater risk of obesity than teenage girls who don't diet! The girls didn't reduce calorie intake or exercise enough to achieve results even though they thought they did. Anger, anxiety, ethnicity, or level of parental education were not found to have any relation to binge eating. Depression and low self-esteem were the main culprits. Eighty-one percent of ten-year-old girls are afraid of being fat. Although many young women cut out milk, cheese, and yogurt for fear of fat, how much dairy a teenage girl consumes is not associated with an increase of body fat. A study found that adolescent girls were more afraid of gaining weight than getting cancer, nuclear war, or losing their parents!
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