My husband’s 17-year-old niece goes on crash diets, and the girl’s parents are worried she may be harming her health. As a matter of fact, the girl has friends who also are into crash-dieting, and all of them say they do so as part of their desire to improve their looks.
Who influenced who should not anymore be the concern of my husband’s brother and his wife. What’s more pressing is that they should make their teenage daughter realize it is important that her food consumption corresponds with her body’s needs. They should likewise explain to her that a balanced low-calorie diet – with daily intake of carbohydrates, protein, iron, and fiber – will help her maintain the body weight that suits her best.
Cases of crash-dieting involve teenage girls far more frequently than boys. Those who are into crash-dieting may be affected by an illness called anorexia nervosa. This condition is known to be both a physical and a psychological disorder. Anorexic teenage girls who do crash-dieting for long periods face the risk of losing as much as a third of their body weight. Because of an intense fear of becoming obese, they end up losing body curves and looking older instead.
In addition to losing body weight, teenage girls who carry crash-dieting too far are also liable to experience the other symptoms of anorexia nervosa, such as loss of regular menstrual periods, withdrawal, depression, hostility, and frenetic exercising. And, again, since anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder, a person affected with it often sees a fat body when she faces the mirror, even when what’s true is the exact opposite of this.
In some instances, anorexic teenage girls go on food binges, and then overdose on laxatives to force themselves to vomit. It is difficult to treat anorexia nervosa, for besides being a psychological disorder, it can also constitute a medical emergency – its victims are unwittingly starving themselves to death. Indeed, many anorexia nervosa patients have died due to severe dehydration and imbalances in blood chemistry caused by their body’s being deprived of nourishment.
Parents who may have a daughter who shows signs of being affected with anorexia nervosa should immediately contact their physician, who will most likely recommend hospitalization and prescribe appropriate medications. The physician may also put the parents in touch with a therapist who deals with this condition. Intensive psychotherapy and behavior modification have proved helpful for many patients of anorexia nervosa.
1. “Eating Disorders,” on ThinkQuest (online) – http://library.thinkquest.org/3354/Resource_Center/Virtual_Library/Eating_Disorders/eating.htm
2. “Body Image, HYG 5238-00,” by Bridgette Sloan, Extension Associate, Consumer and Textile Sciences, on The Ohio State University FactSheet (online) – http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5238.html