Teens’ fear of fat fuels eating disorders

Sydney Morning Herald July 20, 2007
PANIC over childhood obesity has contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of teenage girls starving themselves, vomiting, abusing laxatives and smoking in an effort to shed weight, the author of a national study released today said. The study of 8950 children and adolescents showed an almost doubling of girls aged 12 to 18 engaging in “eating-disordered behaviour” because they believed they were overweight, said Jenny O’Dea, associate professor of nutrition and health education at the University of Sydney. Youth Cultures of Eating showed 18 per cent of girls surveyed in 2006 had starved themselves for at least two days, up from from 9.9 per cent in 2000.The study, funded by the Australian Research Council, also showed 11 per cent used vomiting for weight loss, up from 3.4 per cent. Eight per cent smoked to suppress appetite, up from 2.4 per cent. The report noted that obesity declined among wealthy teenage girls, from 4.6 per cent in 2000 to 3.9 per cent in 2006. The number of obese children, boys and girls, was “levelling off”, Dr O’Dea said, with a rise from 5.1 per cent in 2000 to 6.4 per cent in 2006. She said the heavy focus on childhood obesity and media attention on “skinny celebrities” such as Paris Hilton were to blame for the increase in eating-disordered behaviour.