An alarming new trend has come to light following the release of an article in the October issue of Pediatrics. According to researchers from the Mayo Clinic, teens who have a history of obesity of being overweight are at a higher risk of developing eating disorders as they undergo treatment for their weight problems.
The study looked at two cases where teens were brought to their doctors by concerned parents. Though the teens’ symptoms matched those of eating disorders, the doctors were hesitant to diagnose the teens with disordered eating. Instead, both were originally diagnosed with much rarer conditions. The study further states that this may have happened due to the fact that the teens were at healthy Body Mass Indices (BMI).
Your BMI is one important factor in determining overall health and healthy weight, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Someone, like the teens mentioned in the study, can be at a “healthy” BMI and still be suffering from disordered eating. Instead of only looking at BMI to determine health, eating and exercising habits should be examined, as well as rate of weight loss. Treatment for eating disorders is most effective when the disorder is caught early, so proper diagnosis at the first signs of disordered eating is of the utmost importance.
In both cases discussed in the study, the teens rapidly lost weight through extreme calorie restriction and exercise. Because they were obese, their efforts at weight loss were applauded and seen as something healthy. Unfortunately, substantial numbers of teens who seek treatment for eating disorders were formerly obese. At the Mayo Clinic eating disorder clinic alone, 45 percent of patients seen in the last year were teens who had a history of obesity.
It is thought that the pressure these teens feel to lose weight combined with the cultural emphasis on dieting and being thin is partly responsible for the trend. There is no doubt that child and teen obesity are major problems that need to be addressed and solved. However, teens and children who fall in the normal, overweight or obese range can have or develop eating disorders, though the symptoms may be less noticeable.